science vs. swimsuit competitions

Last month, ABC aired a science and technology program on prime time. It was called FIRST — Science is Rock and Roll, and it was about robotics built by K12 kids. I don’t remember seeing another science special on a major network during prime time. It was a terrific coup for science education in the US. However, it only aired because’s gumption: he bought the airtime from ABC to make the robotics special happen.

Contrast that with the events of last night. The Miss Universe beauty competition appeared on NBC in prime time. A rock star’s resourcefulness wasn’t even required for the beauty competition to air. Reliable sources tell me that there was a swimsuit competition (is it not the year 2011?)

One step forward and one step back. It reminds me of something I saw on twitter last year:

“40 years ago we risked it big to put a man on the moon. 10 years ago we added ‘Hot coffee’ disclaimers on coffee cups.”


4 responses to “science vs. swimsuit competitions

  • prubin73

    With all the wailing and gnashing of teeth about STEM education in this country, it surprises me that networks would need to be pushed to air the robotics competition (especially in August, when the over-the-air networks are struggling to find affordable programming). Props to for making it happen.

    Regarding the swimsuit competition, that’s a logical part of a beauty contest (chance to show off one’s figure). So maybe the question is why the Miss Universe contest still gets that much attention in 2011. (Note, though, that we’re still in the time frame where the over-the-air networks are showing filler.)

    I like the Twitter comment, but it makes me wonder what a time series plot of the ratio of technologists (STEM majors) to lawyers in this country would look like.

  • Laura McLay

    Thanks Paul! I have two comments.

    First, interest in beauty pageants has been decreasing for decades. A few years ago, none of the major networks were interested in airing the Miss America pageant. Now, the Miss America pageant is a nice scholarship program, but I’d like them bring out a blackboard and have contestants work some math problems as the talent portion of the competition. I can’t think of any other scholarships that require a swimsuit competition. (On a side note, I went to college with Erika Harrold, who won a few years ago. I met her years before she ran–she is really sharp!) I think the Miss Universe pageant has so much attention because it’s a Donald Trump production. He’s not as classy as he tries to come across.

    Second, when I was in high school (back when the Miss America was still on a major network in prime time!), there was a movement to do away with the swimsuit competition entirely to make the pageant more relevant. I remember discussing the issue with other girls during a cross country practice. Many many years later, nothing has changed. *sigh*

    Intelligent beauty pageant winners aside, I’m uneasy with beauty pageants gaining in popularity. But with three daughters, can you blame me?

  • Paul Rubin

    I haven’t watched any of these things in years, but I seem to recall the Miss America contest including a talent competition (singing, twirling a baton, whatever). I still think the fundamental flaw is not a swimsuit competition in a beauty contest (unless we start seeing really skimpy suits); it’s using how someone looks in a swimsuit, how well they twirl a baton, etc. to determine an academic scholarship. Maybe they should just give the winner a new car and skip any pretense that this is a stepping stone to an education.

  • Laura McLay

    Paul, you did a much better job articulating what I was trying to say. Thanks!

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