Mary Katharine Ham

“I know I speak for most of the parents when I say we are just mystified by this uproar and I guess it’s because people like to read sensational headlines,” Lori said.

Lori told Access that she and the other parents are angry that media outlets, to whom they have granted interviews, continue to focus on the negative. “Every time they show them, they cut out anything that might put the show in a good light, and it was such an amazing experience for these kids,” she said. “We really are so mystified by it. My daughter has nothing but great things to say about it. They had the time of their lives. I’m perplexed.”

I don’t think I’m crazy to wager that probably more of the parents feel this way than not.

If you flip through the kids’ bios on the “Kid Nation” page, you’ll find they’re from all over the country. They’re thoughtful, they’re interesting, they’re country and city, red state and blue state. I particularly like a 10-year-old girl who cited Jimmy Carter as one of the worst presidents because he “gave away the Panama Canal.” So young, yet so wise.

They don’t act like the children of stage parents just rarin’ to get their kids into any TV production, no matter what the risks. They seem to be the children of intelligent, sensible parents who are capable of reading a contract and thought “Kid Nation” could be a once-in-a-lifetime, rewarding experience.

As for the injuries—stuff happens. Being outdoors, being active, and doing work are inherently risky prospects. A million kids and parents undertake such risks every summer when they take part in the tradition that is summer camp. When I went to camp, I dug my own latrine and cooked over an open fire. I was 10. When my brothers went to camp, they hiked down and back up the Grand Canyon in one day—a hike that has been known to kill those ill-prepared for it. They were 13. Some kids fly fish. Some kids do hours of drills and soccer. Some kids canoe through Minnesota’s 1,000 lakes.

Some kids get poison ivy. Some kids break a leg. Some kids get dehydrated. Tragically, some kids even drown. It happens every summer.

The idea that the kids of “Kid Nation” were truly as unsupervised as the show’s advertising suggests—40 kids. 40 days. No adults.—is ludicrous, but there sure are a lot of people out there who are suddenly utterly credulous of the claims of reality TV producers.

In fact, according to producers and in true reality-show style, the show is not exactly what it purports to be. “Kid Nation” had pediatricians, paramedics, lawyers, child psychologists, and plenty of cameramen on set at all times, according to CBS. Children were evaluated and asked every day whether they wanted to continue on the show. They had the option to leave whenever they wanted.

In the end, the lawyers will work out the legalities. Should the kids have been paid as “actors” or “reality show participants?” Were they doing “work” or attending “camp?” If CBS broke the law, it will pay a price, as it should.

The show, debuting Sept. 19, will give us a better idea of what the kids went through, and America will decide whether it wants to watch.

In our risk-averse culture, some tend to think any kid not helmeted, medicated, and insulated within an inch of his life is risking his life. Most kids will tell you it’s when they’re cut loose and rough-and-tumble that they’re having the times of their lives.

To me, “Kid Nation” looks like it entailed the same risks and hard work of some serious summer camping. To call it “child abuse” is more than a bit…outrageous.

Mary Katharine Ham

Mary Katharine Ham is editor-at-large of, a contributor to Townhall Magazine.

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