What if there were as many beat writers for international development as there are for the New York Yankees? What if the international section had as many dedicated pages and reporters as the sports section in major news papers? What if grocery store check-out racks were filled with magazines about education, health, housing and other issues.
Those are the kind of rhetorical questions I often raise in conversations when asked about my goals and why I report on just about anything that has to do with global poverty. I am not the only person who thinks about the disparity in reporting between the latest celebrity breakups and the millions of people displaced by fighting in Syria.
What might it look like if sports and education flipped in terms of pop culture importance? Thanks to comedic duo Key and Peele, we don’t have to imagine the possibility. A recent sketch transforms ESPN flagship newscast SportsCenter into the education-focused TeachingCenter. Have a look:
The best bit comes at the end. A fake BMW advertisement features a powerful teacher meant to humanize the abilities of the luxury car. It is a common ploy to use celebrities to impart characteristics on the things we buy. Sometimes it is sex, other times it is Matthew McConaughey.
These ploys extend to the charitable sector. It takes benefit concerts and celebrity-led campaigns to bring in the donations. And maybe raise a little awareness, too. That is because it takes the same kind of advertising slight of hand to get people to buy a Lincoln as it does to support the end of poverty. Entire networks (see E! and ESPN) are dedicated to celebrity and sport – fostering the loop of meeting and stimulating demand.
TeachingCenter is a ridiculous proposition unto itself. Education is not a competitive endeavor, it’s a basic right. And in current U.S. culture, the actual importance of something is indirectly proportional to attention it garners. In the meritocracy that is popular culture, Kardashians lord over petty things like education reform.