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Posted at 08:00 AM ET, 08/13/2012

Green alien of variable gender indoctrinating preschoolers


There’s the culprit! (Vicki Smith - ASSOCIATED PRESS)

It is exactly what it sounds like. I’m astounded that FoxNation isn’t up in arms about it yet.

All we know for certain about this nefarious figure is that his name is Choosy (it’s an acronym for Choose Healthy Options Often and Start Young) and he’s here to teach preschoolers good health habits, bearing songs, videos and pamphlets. Also, he (or she — Professor Linda Carson, who runs Choosy Kids LLC, is careful not to correct kids who identify Choosy as female) is green, and his head is football-shaped, after focus groups with a heart-headed alien proved off-putting to young boys who thought he looked like a valentine. I am not making any of this up.

He has, reported the Associated Press, a “limited story line so that children can invent their own.”

“Story line? Who needs a story line? The real story is in a child’s imagination!” This sounds like the thing the story-line consultants say to you with straight faces as you hand them large fistfuls of money. Next they have big plans to come up with a clothing line for emperors.

Well, what’s so bad about this, you ask? So what if a green alien with no back story and an oddly proportioned torso is trying to turn the minds of the young toward healthy eating? Weirder things have happened at sea. If Sgt. McGruff can take a bite out of crime, then surely Choosy deserves the chance to make his mark.

Listen to yourself!

It was dire enough when hatted bears were talking to us about forest fires. But these are our children’s formative years! If we train them to accept green aliens of dubious provenance without full back stories, they won’t have anything to complain about at “Avengers” movies.

Besides, I have a deep and abiding mistrust of mascots. Especially health mascots. Especially aliens. Or is it insects?

“But why are you so down on this, Petri?” you ask. “What did health mascots ever do to you? Were you frightened by one as a small child?”

Well, yes, as a matter of fact.

I have a long and storied history with them. I went to elementary school during the era when they thought they could stop you from littering, start you flossing and get you to be really gung-ho about recycling if they just forced you to memorize enough didactic songs about it, led by mascots.

“Reee-cycle,” we droned, with hand motions. (The hallmark of a really terrible didactic song is that it comes with a set of required hand motions. You never see people in the middle of “Vissi d’arte” or “Hey Jude” busting out with finger circles.) “Reee-cycle, reee-cycle, reee-cycle.”

But it was only when something called Professor Bodywise’s Traveling Menagerie appeared at my elementary school that my distrust of health mascots blossomed. It included such figures as Scumble, a seedy buzzard who offers drugs to the protagonist, and Evel the Weevil, a reckless weevil adventurer who does not wear adequate safety gear. I am not sure who came to the conclusion that third grade was the time to instruct you in the dangers of drugs, alcohol and peer pressure, but since that day I have had, I must confess, a rather confused idea about how peer pressure works. I still think the only way anyone gets access to drugs is by approaching giant vultures.

And that was in third grade. So I can only imagine what the preschoolers exposed to Choosy are going through. Once you get mysterious gender-shifting alien insects mixed up in your eating habits, everything starts to get confusing fast.

Mainly this stems from my deep-seated skepticism that a green furry creature with a football-shaped head’s singing to you is going to make any strides against obesity. But I’ve been wrong before. I once fell asleep in front of “Sesame Street” as a small child, and now I’m in favor of gay marriage.

And Choosy seems to be succeeding, at least in one of the test markets where he has been tried. So maybe it’s worth a shot. Obesity is no laughing matter, especially not when it starts young. And in West Virginia, where the program is about to be rolled out on a larger scale, a horrifying 68 percent of the population is obese.

Heck, if there’s a chance it might work, I would invite an actual gender-shifting green alien down to our schools right now.

By  |  08:00 AM ET, 08/13/2012

 
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