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Extreme Makeover: Home Edition Charity or Corporate Propaganda?

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Capitalism and corporatism have reached new lows on ABC on Sunday nights. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition feeds corporate/capitalistic propaganda to the public, lulling us into thoughtless acceptance of the ridiculous state of our country. Show host, Ty Pennington, excitedly (phony? . . . Shut up, Holden!) and with nifty humor leads viewers through a humorous home remodeling show that is designed to pin us down in obeisance to our corporate gods.

The show typically starts out with one hell of a sad story, a story that moves the stoniest of hearts. A deaf couple has a child who is blind—they struggle to communicate and function. On another episode we have a poor family with a son who recently lost his ability to walk. Their house is a handicapped person’s nightmare. Next week a lovely lady is highlighted. She lives in a piece of crap house with a big family in a poor neighborhood. She is a local Mother Teresa, taking in the needy in her community, feeding and sheltering them. A few weeks ago, a lady nominated a complete stranger to be the subject of the home remodeling. We find out that this stranger had donated bone marrow that saved the life of the nominating lady’s little girl. The stories are beautiful and touching. They are of people facing hefty misfortune who struggle on against the odds. They deserve better.

In come Ty and cohosts, all of whom have expertise in something that I have yet to figure out, and all of whom have great, happy-go-lucky, hokey personalities that play in orchestration with each other as a deadline to complete the extreme home makeover approaches. The home will be completely remodeled–sometimes even completely rebuilt–refurnished and accessorized (we are talking plasma TVs and luxury swimming pools here) in a week. All this is done with a huge team of laborers (I’m wondering if they are union) who work their asses off, while the homeowners are off on a dream vacation on ABC’s card. It’s very entertaining. And they are helping the deserving among us who suffer unjustly.

Well, they are helping a few of them. Not many, actually, when you think of the numbers. If you look at the big picture, they aren’t making much of a difference at all. It’s not like poverty is going down because of ABC and their hit show, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. But we do get to see tremendous difference in the lives of representative individuals–individuals who represent what the hell is wrong with capitalism and corporatism in the first place. And yet ABC, corporate perpetrator of crimes on the poor, comes in like some hero god who saves the unfortunate and needy. They somehow convince us that they are Robin Hood.

It’s a tricky scheme, although when you watch it from a cynical viewpoint (AKA Dirtgrain’s Disease), the Matrix exposes itself. To start with, this show must have the same writers as Walker, Texas Ranger. It, despite the pureness of the real people who get their homes made over, is full of phonies and false sentiments–especially when you are reminded that Corporate Big Brother is behind all of this–ABC is constantly mentioned, and Sears and other sponsors have their products and services advertised throughout the show and during commercials. The cynic quickly comes to see “plasma TV donated by Sears” as “the sick corporation that sucks on your souls has found it in the goodness of its heart to give back to you.” I digress. The phoniness comes through in the scripting.

As we are shown the gripping story of the deserving family at the beginning of the show in docudrama fashion, intermittent shots of the show’s cohosts crying are flashed before our eyes. Are they trying to convince us that corporate America does have a heart? Phooey! Then, while the tears are still wet, Ty gives some inspirational–but clearly transparent–speech to his meeting of cohosts. Something to the effect of, “We’re going to give Johnny the wheelchair accessible hot tub that he needs, courtesy of Sears, Aquafina and Celtic Sea Salt Seasoning.” Right here, in the middle of the “let’s go do extreme good” speech, I realize what a bunch of bastards these cohosts are. They all live in Beverly Hills (or wherever midlevel corporate whores go to roost), but they get to go into some poor neighborhood (they don’t only help poor people, mind you–on one episode, I saw them nearly demolish a perfectly fine, “middle class” home) and think that they are fixing these people’s lives by giving them a new home (which obviously can make their lives easier and maybe more enjoyable–provided they get along with each other–money can’t buy happiness? Love?) and throwing a bunch of expensive accessories at them. That’s all we have to do, America.

Once the family is away on their vacation, the crew sets in on one truly remarkable task–sometimes building an entirely new house in one week. Throughout the rebuilding/remodelling, we get nice little scenes of Ty or some other monkey going to some kid’s room. “Stevie said that it was tough to share a room with his brother, Jimmy. Well, I’m giving him a new room [I swear they say self-aggrandizing crap like this]. What Stevie doesn’t know is that I’m going to turn his new room into a Chucky Cheese.” On an on we get links to this or that family member, his or her predicament, and what the host/crew/corporation is going to do for him or her.

Then it comes time for the family to come back and discover their gift from God. . . er. . . Corporate America. It’s like it is on other house remodeling/makeover shows. The changes are drastic and extravagant. The families are overwhelmed by state-of-the-art, big-money goodies that rain down on them and flood. At this point, I’m pretty sure the families’ reactions are not scripted (although magnificently edited), as at least eighty percent of what they say is “Oh my God.” Oh my God. . . Oh my ABC. . . Oh my Sears. . . Oh my Big Brother great and magnificent corporate benefactor. . .

As the families are saved/reborn/super-indoctrinated/made-grateful-to-the-ones-who-screwed-them-and-their-kind-in-the-first-place, all the phony-assed cohosts are there to beam at what great things they have done (self-aggrandizing) and to throw out some schmaltzy lines and salty tears (I swear I saw the hand of a prop guy holding up a freshly cut onion under a cohost’s eyes on more than one occasion). It all adds up to an extreme emotional assault on the family and on the viewers–what a powerful propaganda tool. ABC doesn’t stop there all the time. On one episode, the crew put an addition onto a house that would serve as almost a separate apartment so that and man, woman and their baby could have room to live in the home of the woman’s parents. ABC set it up so that at the end of the show, after all the “Oh my Gods,” there was one more surprise to top all of the other emotional wrenchings–the man proposed to his wife. Ty led the man through it, laying the surprise on the woman, giving the man the ring, and telling him what to do. Here we have ABC sticking its mechanical arms up these people’s asses and making them perform sacred, personal things like puppets. ABC and Ty gave these people marriage and a life together. And people are saying that marriage is a sacred institution? Yeah, right.

On last Sunday’s show, the deserving family consisted of a single mother who had adopted some kids who have AIDS (HIV). The catch–as if the kids with AIDS wasn’t gripping enough–was that the mother had just discovered that she had cancer. At the end of the show, we got a quick flash of close-ups on the family members, one at a time, each saying, “Thanks, ABC.” The last thanks came from a little girl who had AIDS. What to make of it?

Clearly some good is done for these families. They get improved-to-the-max living conditions (within the confines of their homes–I’m sure ABC, Ty and his rich cohosts don’t actually want these people living next door to them in Beverly Hills or wherever) and a lot of merchandise. It would be sweet for anybody–free crap is great, at least for a while. But I wonder if their problems are solved–as ABC so clearly wants us to think. What would a long-term study of these people’s lives reveal about the impact of the extreme makeovers?

That issue aside, the real creeper is the impact on everyone else. We get corporate America, creator of huge financial disparities between the rich and the poor, instigator of the decline of the middle class, purveyor of low-wage, no-insurance (irony with girls who had AIDS thanking ABC?) Walmart jobs, misleading the public that corporations are helping the poor, that corporations care, and that corporations are doing it out of the goodness of their hearts. They aren’t doing anything about poverty and the divide between the rich and the poor. They don’t have hearts. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is a cash cow. It costs them nothing (when you consider the advertising power of the show). It’s done for money. Corporations have tapped directly into the compassion of their viewing audience, and these corporations are redirecting corporate propaganda back at us. It is pure manipulation of emotions. I get this creepy image of a person smiling and crying and laughing as he or she watches an episode, thinking how great it all is for these people–but in his or her unconscious are the ideas that ABC/Sears/corporations are nurturing, benevolent gods. Yikes.

Thanks ABC.

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About Dirtgrain

  • El Bicho

    I don’t mean to be rude but I’m not sure the point of your post. Am I supposed to be upset or shocked that corporations use television for the benefit of their bottom line? Maybe you are a recent television owner, but this has been going on since the ’40s when television was invented. You wouldn’t get TV shows if it wasn’t for corporations buying ads, and this is another way for them to do it. At least this way they are helping people regardless of their motivation.

    When they just buy ads, they only help the crew that filmed the spot, so why begrudge them? I have yet to hear any of these companies pretend to act selflessly. They are in business to make money after all. I see no mention of any needy families you have helped, so why complain when a corporation does regardless of their motivation?

    Nor do I know anyone who now worships at the altar of ABC/Sears/corporations because of this show. Where are all these lemmings that aren’t as smart as you to see this corporate conspiracy? I can’t wait for your next expose about the link between evil corporations and holidays like Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day.

    Lastly, don’t you find it a tad ironic that while you bemoan the state of commercialism in this country that your post has, in effect, seven commercials at the end of it?

  • Dirtgrain

    El Bicho, You are right. You missed the point of my post. You miss both the subtleties and the obvious.

    El Bicho said: “Am I supposed to be upset or shocked that corporations use television for the benefit of their bottom line?”
    I did not write that you are supposed to be shocked at this obviousness.

    El Bicho said: “You wouldn’t get TV shows if it wasn’t for corporations buying ads, and this is another way for them to do it.”
    You state the obvious, and you again miss the point of the post. See below.

    El Bicho said: “At least this way they are helping people regardless of their motivation.”
    I implied as much in my post. But perhaps they are doing more harm than good. It’s possible that ABC is sending the false and harmful message that the poor and needy are being taken care of and that corporations are the ones taking care of them. They are not attempting to do this–they are attempting to make money. Yes, this is obvious to some. But then what about the girl who had AIDS thanking ABC? If you have any knowledge of persuasive tactics, then you should be able to interpret the message that is being sent and the message that is being received. To me, that last “thanks ABC” was the most horrid thing that I have seen on TV in a long time. It is corruption and arrogance. Do you remember Iago basking in his evil manipulation of Othello? How about Nurse Ratched as she fake-nicely tortured her charges? ABC is Hannibal Lector when he served that guy his own brains. ABC is Mr. Blonde dancing around and singing as he tortured that bound police man in Reservoir Dogs. This corporation smugly taunts us, putting itself in the role of hero god, when it, the other corporations that advertise on the show by “generously and benevolently donating” products, and corporations in general are responsible for so much of what is wrong in this world. This is a disgusting abomination. That they are responsible is not something that you question, and it was an assumption on my part based on arguments I have made in the past. Search corporations on my blog if you are interested (some of it is supposed to be funny, by the way–if you can’t tolerate satire (admittedly bad satire), then go elsewhere).

    El Bicho said: “I have yet to hear any of these companies pretend to act selflessly.”
    Watch the show and you will see them so pretending (one of the points of my original post).

    El Bicho said: “Lastly, don’t you find it a tad ironic that while you bemoan the state of commercialism in this country that your post has, in effect, seven commercials at the end of it?”
    I don’t mean to challenge the concept of advertising in general. It’s not even just that it’s product placement. It is the absurd, 1984-style, complete and blatant twisting of reality that irks me. If Charles Manson murdered all whom you love, denied responsibility and then offered you a charitable donation so that he would look better, would you take it? Would you say, “Thanks Charley Manson”?

    I like books, and I recommend them. I’m not sure where the line is between recommendations and advertisements. The books listed are relevant and would help one understand the nature of the beast, the corporate world. You should read them.

    I don’t see the authors of these books as being anything like the evil that corporations can represent. The publishing industry is another issue, but it’s hard to acquire certain books without dealing with a publishing corporation. As for Amazon, I do like that they connect booksellers from around the country, but they are also getting too big and Big Brothery. So you see, it is not a black and white issue, and I don’t see the advertised/recommended books as hypocrisy. Of course Blogcritics requires at least one Amazon link (I think Eric or someone would ad links one who posts did not provide one). Sometimes you have to work within the system in order to correct it.

    El Bicho said: “I see no mention of any needy families you have helped.”
    What on earth? What are you assuming? What is the insinuation? That I don’t help people? That I am scum? That corporations are better than a despicable wretch like me? How the hell do you assume something like that simply because I haven’t mentioned the help that I have done for others? Lastly, you mistake the arguer for the argument. Assumptions and arguments ad hominem do not become you. Once the piece has been written, the identity and background of the writer has no bearing on the relative truth of the post. Try logic next time, and stick to the text.

    El Bicho said: “Nor do I know anyone who now worships at the altar of ABC/Sears/corporations because of this show.”
    Well, there we have it: scientific proof! I don’t mean to demean your anecdotal evidence. There is value in such evidence, sometimes. But your statement is problematic. Perhaps you assume things about your friends. “Do you worship at the altar of ABC/Sears/corporations?” is not a typical question, even among friends. Though, if you regularly ask it, my compliments go to you. Also problematic is the concept of sampling. It might be that you have really smart and astute friends, which is not necessarily representative of the entire population.

    El Bicho said: “Where are all these lemmings that aren’t as smart as you to see this corporate conspiracy?”
    I don’t know for sure, but you might try Kansas, for starters. There is also this dude in Ann Arbor who drives around in a truck with “Ford” and Ford-related slogans custom-painted all over it. Look around. You’ll find them.

    El Bicho said: “I can’t wait for your next expose about the link between evil corporations and holidays like Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day.”
    Such sarcasm! You know that this link is already established fact, surely. But to counter your sarcasm, I only say excuuuse me for critiquing media on a website called, “Blogcritics.” It might be that this just isn’t the site for you. Note that your criticism would be welcome if it were logical.

    Nice job of trying to be a weenie (at least that is the sense that I got from reading your comment–no offense if this wasn’t your intent), almost–but you just didn’t quite get there because you made no valid points. Try again.

  • Jerry

    The carpetbaggers have recently been to our town.

    Kingston, Wa

  • LanceMan

    Your absolutely right! I’d rather see shows displaying bad moral values than watch a few poor families getting helped out by Corporate America. I can’t stand good luck stories invading my tv set – i’d rather watch some “desperate housewives” get lucky.

  • noname

    i agree with Dirtgrain on this one…the “thank you ABC” part is really sickening., and “thank you Ty”?? eeehh, what on earth has Ty done? He walks around yelling in his megaphone, thats what he does. If these corporations really wanted to act selflessly they wouldn’t mention one single brand throughout the entire show…

  • Simon

    You almost seem surprised that companies have found another way to place lots and lots of product in shows.

    That Extreme Makeover Home Edition watches like one giant Sear’s commercial is not in doubt.

    Personally I find it slightly objectionable for it’s mindless glossing over the hard work done by the workers (the celeb hosts tend to hog the camera).

    But I guess I fail to understand why you are whining so much about it. Companies exist to make money what a revelation shock gasp !!! How evil of them (in your view) for trying to do it in a legal and peaceful way.

    Companies have always existed to make money end of story (And an important reason why living standards have improved so much in the 20th century). Societies have always existed to enforce how the companies can make the money (i.e laws, moral expectations etc).

    So if society doesn’t like watching the hour long Sears commercial, let them stop watching it or pass laws to ban it. Simple. If everyone finds the show as objectionable as you there will be no show. Power to the people.

  • Dirtgrain

    “Companies exist to make money what a revelation shock gasp !!!”

    El Bicho already said that. I’m only pointing out the manipulative tactic that the show is–and how sick and ironic it is. I just want to wake people up to what it is.

    “And an important reason why living standards have improved so much in the 20th century.”

    Whoah, hold on. Living standards, in many ways, have gone down since the 1960’s. Both husband and wife now have to work, more and more hours, just to be more in debt than the average family of the 1960’s. Corporate family values are at play, no doubt.

    “So if society doesn’t like watching the hour long Sears commercial, let them stop watching it or pass laws to ban it. Simple. If everyone finds the show as objectionable as you there will be no show. Power to the people.”

    Am I not a part of society?

  • Nicolette Rivers

    I don’t think anyone watching is unaware of the fact they’re are watching a show with commercial endorsements, or that there is manipulation occurring.

    I’m telling you right now, if someone wants to remodel my house I’ll stand on my mark and kiss some corporate ass! If ABC wants me to stand there and chant, “I’m going to Disneyworld,” I’m there!

    It’s just like when you watch the apprentice and Trump mentions his buildings and golf courses while talkiing about how the wannabes are going to be working with Dove Soap or Pepsi…I don’t think anyone misses the intent.

    The very existance of Home Edition is a screwing over of the little guy. ABC stole the idea, and Ty Pennington, from TLC. All the design/remodeling shows were on the little cable channels. ABC just brought the big budgets and huge corporate sponsors. And that’s life!

    Do I hate corporations? Yes. I hate Walmart, but they are extra pathetic. Walmart Sucks!

    Now if you want to talk about the insidious plot to convince us all that we need plastic surgery and our houses are embarrassing — that’s a topic!

  • Mordante

    Judging by your reading list and your comments it sounds to me like you’ve got an agenda against corporations in general.

    Corporations employ a whole helluva alot of people allowing them to live, eat and raise families. Where would millions upon millions of workers be without these companies supplying jobs? On Collective Farms working in conjunction for the benefit of their comrades and commisar?

    Your computer was made by a corporation…even if it’s a Mac, which is using corporate electricity to run. Those books you linked to were published by corporations…If they are so evil how come you don’t just live in a tent? Wait corporations make tents! It’s a conspiracy! They are everywhere!

  • Matt Scott

    Is there any proof that the Show “Extreme Makeover Home addition”, that ABC runs have hurt any of the families in need. Has anyone lost there property because they can not pay taxes or been able to carry on living there? If the families are happy and life is much easier for them then let the show go on. It’s a big world and it is nice to see them (ABC) help a few families at least…

  • Dirtgrain

    “Corporations employ a whole helluva alot of people allowing them to live, eat and raise families. Where would millions upon millions of workers be without these companies supplying jobs? On Collective Farms working in conjunction for the benefit of their comrades and commisar?”

    Yah, we’d be nowhere without corporations. Thanks Disney and Bechtel and Haliburton and General Dynamics and . . .

    “Those books you linked to were published by corporations”

    Acknowledged and addressed in previous comment.

    “It’s a big world and it is nice to see them (ABC) help a few families at least…”

    Mission accomplished, ABC. Don’t be such a sucker. Thanks, ABC.

  • Mordante

    “Yah, we’d be nowhere without corporations. Thanks Disney and Bechtel and Haliburton and General Dynamics and . . .”

    Nice side step. For one that lectures about posting intelligent arguments you don’t seem to follow your own advice.

    I still say you’ve got an agenda.

    Why don’t you post about the alternative to all this corporate evil? Tell us how those millions upon millions of people I mentioned earlier can earn a living, feed a family and pay a mortgage.

    And out of curiosity what do you do for a living? Who pays your salary. I hope it’s not a corporation…

  • Bob A. Booey

    This sounds like a good discussion, but my head hurts so I’ll read it later and comment.

    That is all.

  • suspicious

    As a watcher of the show, I actually agree with a lot of what Dirtgrain is saying. But, it is “entertainment,” pure and simple, and ABC has really cashed in on a formula that works. At least these are happy stories, stories of hope – whether they are mindless, bubble-gum filled, or possibly insidiously based hour long advertisements. I like seeing the new homes, and the make over. And … that’s the title of the show “Extreme Make Over, Home Edition.”

    If someone tunes in hoping to find some subtext that undermines capitalism, they are on the wrong channel. ABC is part of the Disney parent company. Shiny, shiny, happy, happy, right?

    And Dirtgrain, you seem to be able to rattle off the specifics of many (7? 8?) shows. You seem to be watching, even though you’re complaining. I’d say watch it if you like it, but if its really rubbing you the wrong way, find something else to watch on Sundays.

  • Anny

    I’ve written to the producers asking for those houses they demolish. My intent is to set up crews, now of Katrina victims, to go get those houses to be used again as homes but never got an answer back. I could offer free removal. I guess seeing the demolition has some excitement to it. If you want to read about our work please visit the website.

  • Nick Spano

    I was hoping someone would read this and help out a needy lady who happens to be my sister. She has been cut down in her prime with MS. She can’t afford to do her house over. She went and borrowed some money to get a wheel chair excessable van, now not only she can no longer afford this van, but they turned her down for a wheel chair, because she bought a disable ready van. Now she has to sell the van. Is there anyone out there that can help my sister??

  • Need in Bermuda

    Would Ty be interested in doing a Remodeling Show in Bermuda to help out a Bermudian family of five that have a 14 year old daughter that has been in a wheelchair for 12 years of her life. They own their house but the egress is very poor. THe father who is a youth pastor has to literally lift his daughter up and down a flight of stairs everyday leading outside his home to the car park. The fortunate thing is that they own their own home but cannot afford to remodel it to accommodate their daughter’s need.
    I was wondering if TY would be interested in doing a show in Bermuda and seeking Construction companies in Bermuda to help with this venture.
    We would love to be able to see some good forture like this happen to this great family. THeir names are Pastor Daron and Hyincyth Lowe.

  • Therm

    You know what’s great? If you live outisde of America they can promote the hell out of Sears and ABC and I din’t care because I can’t go there!
    But, why attack this show really?
    Corporate America blah blah blah, at the end of the day, some people who need help, get that help.
    Your negative attitude and looking on the down side doesn’t help, does it? When was the last time you helped out a family and changed their lives forever?
    You may have done some good work, but if you hate this show so much here’s a genius suggestion for you- don’t watch it.

  • Dirtgrain

    Sorry for being critical. That happens too much these days.

    Then again, it’s clear that the corporate propaganda is working on you. Your in a cult or something, brainwashed and unwilling to be critical of you all-powerful corporate benefactors. I already acknowledged that some good is being done, although the longterm improvements in the people’s lives is worthy of investigation. But there is something disgusting about the manipulation that is that show. My goodness, all things they do to make it an emotional roller coaster. They manipulate the people they are helping, carefully leading them up the emotional climax. Maybe it’s a new form of Est.

    Just once, I want to see the family look at the camera and say, “Fuck you, ABC.” “Fuck you and all of your coniving corporate predators who are screwing up the American way of life.”

    Why are people so upset that I criticize this show? Do they really think corporations are functioning right now in a way that is making our lives better? Look around you. Things are falling apart. I know, “the sky is falling, the sky is falling. . .” But it is, relatively.

    We should have a show called, “Extreme Exposure: Corporate Edition.” They could go to all of the sweat shops, see all of the laid off workers, all the ghost town neighborhoods that were abandoned by downsizing/outsourcing corporations, the environmental disasters and pollution, the people who lost their pensions and retirement savings because of Enron or Bernie Ebbers, and so on.

    I don’t watch the show. Not as a form of protest,though. What the hell would that do? Why do you even recommend it? Did I ruin it for you or something? Sorry if I did–welcome to the real world.

    As for helping families, I try to do it every day–I’m a teacher. But no, it pales in comparison to the high fallutin spending that they have on Extreme Makeover. I haven’t gotten anybody a plasma TV, ever. So must it be that ABC, Sears, et. al. are unquestioningly good whereas I am crap? Why the hell don’t people want to question these corporations? Do you love ABC, Sears? Why?

    As I stated earlier, corporations are amoral. They aren’t doing Extreme Makeover for the sake of charity. That’s a big “duh.” Then why get upset when one criticizes the corporations that are behind the show? I don’t get it.

  • http://none ella

    I have only watched “Extreme” a few times. I just wonder what happens AFTER the show, like a month, a year. Yes, you can clean up, repair, replace, but a human cannot change another human. Yes, you can make a life better physically, but if Daddy can’t (won’t) work, he ain’t never gonna. What has happened to the Atlanta place? I have heard it is run down. It is a beautiful home in an ok neighborhood. You throw money at a pig…..

  • Jeanne

    I think it is great what they are doing for others.I do however have a problem with all this money going to one family.I have a family who is in need for just a few things we take for granted.He will be leaving for Iraq,leaving a wife,child and another on the way.Leaving her a junk of a car.Their only way of speaking will be a computer which they don’t have.There are other men and women fighting for our country,leaving their families in the same way.Why can’t you help many young families with just a few wishes and needs.Remember these families are seperated by war to make your life better and they are the ones that are suffering…….

  • stacey

    you have a awsome show….you should not change anything about it…it is great the way it is, the part i like best is that you touch soo many people’s life…in such a good way! it is the best show ever!!!! you have a really nice and very funny team..and they are soo sweet to the poeple, the best part about everything is that you help poeple who need it the most. Keep up the great workk guys

  • Dee

    I watch the show almost everying Sunday an keep hoping the show will find me. No luck yet!!! I’m just getting to be to old maybe. I would be happy and glad to help corporate U.S.A. I have been trying to work from home, but not easy.

  • Mike

    Well, Extreme Makeover (i.e. poor little cripple boy gets a new million dollar house for the family) has grown old in my household.

  • Bill

    You’re a teacher? The day the teachers union and the public school systems stop fleecing America with the “we need more money” mantra, even though scores continue to lag behind most of the westernized world that spend a fraction of what we spend, is the day you can start criticizing corporations. Instead of a blog why don’t you figure out how to improve the school systems of America. The real difference between rich and poor in this country is not caused by the corporations, it is caused by the people who are forced to send their kids to under-performing public schools.
    I guess you would like everyone to be paid a wage which would be dictated by the government. Go to China.

  • Dirtgrain

    Bill, there are so many assumptions, absolutes and generalizations, along with unsupported claims, that I almost looked past the fact that your post addresses none of the points laid out in this thread. Really, you should read some of my other posts, if you want to discuss education.

    On education:
    Education, Globalization and the Big Business Model
    School Vouchers Suck

  • Dirtgrain
  • Dirtgrain
  • Dirtgrain

    More on corporations:
    Psychopathic Corporations and a Splinter in My Mind
    End Corporate Personhood
    Spaceballs and Ice Pirates Were Prophetic

    By the way, the piece linked above, titled, “American Culture Jeopardized by Corporations,” points out that corporately controlled government is a de facto central command style government that we associate with communism in China. So why would I go there, you corporate commie?

  • Bill

    Assumptions and unsupported claims? Try taking a look at the private vs. public school test results. Oh, I forgot, the teachers union doesn’t like testing.
    Here is what UNICEF found in their testing done in 2001:
    “South Korea has the most effective education system in the world’s richest countries, with Japan in second place and the United States and Germany near the bottom, a United Nations study found. Germany and Denmark finished in the bottom half of tests on reading and math, but scored high in a separate evaluation of adult literacy, “again illustrating the danger of treating any one survey with undue reverence,” the study said.

    The United States, however, finished low in each test and in adult literacy.”

    According to The American Institutes for Research:
    The study, “Reassessing U.S. International Mathematics Performance: New Findings from the 2003 TIMSS and PISA,” focused on students in the United States and 11 other industrial countries that participated in all three assessments: Australia, Belgium, Hong Kong, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, and the Russian Federation.

    U.S. students consistently performed below average, ranking 8th or 9th out of twelve at all three grade levels. These findings suggest that U.S. reform proposals to strengthen mathematics instruction in the upper grades should be expanded to include improving U.S. mathematics instruction beginning in the primary grades.

    “The conventional wisdom is that U.S. students perform above average in grades 4 and 8, and then decline sharply in high school,” says Steven Leinwand, principal research analyst at AIR and one of the report’s authors. “But this study proves the conventional wisdom is dead wrong.”

    Unfounded? Please. Is this performance completely at the feet of teachers? NO. Parents play about a 50% role in this, but the teachers union and educators keep up the lie that more money can fix the problem. Meanwhile the children, especially low income children, pay the price. Go ahead and blame corporations for all of our woes, but an under educated populace spells nothing but failure for our country.

  • Dirtgrain

    “Try taking a look at the private vs. public school test results.”

    Okay, Report exposes inconvenient truth on charter schools
    That U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics study compares charter schools and public schools. Public schools scored better.

    As for private schools, Public Schools Perform Near Private Ones in Study:
    “The Education Department reported on Friday that children in public schools generally performed as well or better in reading and mathematics than comparable children in private schools. The exception was in eighth-grade reading, where the private school counterparts fared better.”

    And religious conservative schools got the worst scores of the lot.

    Unfounded, yes. You seem to be mixing up studies comparing US students and students from other countries with your condemnation of public schools. Yet, the research shows that public school students perform as well as private school students. How then can you justify your attacks on public schooling? It makes no sense.

    That said, I acknowledge that US students are not learning as well as students in some other developed countries. Interestingly, it is the conservative agenda that seems to be hurting us the most. If you look at how math is taught in Japan, then you will see that it is quite the opposite of the drill-and-kill approach proposed by many conservatives. If Japan does so well, then shouldn’t we do what they are doing in terms of instruction? Yes.

    “Parents play about a 50% role in this. . .”

    An unfounded assumption.

    “. . . teachers union and educators keep up the lie that more money can fix the problem.”

    Definitely a vague, unfounded, generalized assumption. By the way, is your solution to the problem that we should pay teachers less? I’m just wondering.

    “. . . an under educated populace spells nothing but failure for our country.”

    I agree, and I believe so do many of my colleagues (not exactly an assumption–rather, an observation after having worked with them for so long).

  • Bill

    You left out the following from that article:

    The two new studies put test scores in context by studying the children’s backgrounds and taking into account factors like race, ethnicity, income and parents’ educational backgrounds to make the comparisons more meaningful. The extended study of charter schools has not been released.

    Students in private schools typically score higher than those in public schools, a finding confirmed in the study. The report then dug deeper to compare students of like racial, economic and social backgrounds. When it did that, the private school advantage disappeared in all areas except eighth-grade reading.

    “In the real world, private school kids outperform public school kids,” Mr. McTighe said. “That’s the real world, and the way things actually are.”

    So what the report is really saying is that we wont’t compare children on scores alone, let’s compare them based on race? Foolish. All children can learn and excel regardless of race. Low expectations based on race, that is truly sad.

    I never mentioned teacher pay. To me teacher pay is not the isssue. The issue is the curriculum and the lack of backbone in the system. Insisting that students behave in a certain manner and holding them accountable. Make parents more accountable. The main reason I am given by students for the single biggest learning obstacle they face are due to the distractions of other students.
    I am not anti-teacher, I would like to give them more authority in the classroom. I am highly skeptical of the school boards and administrations of the school districts. They are politically correct buffoons for the most part. All of this, of course, has been helped by our wonderful court system that has levied large judgements against our school systems and emboldened parents and the “not my child attitude”.
    Do you honestly believe that more money alone will help improve education? The historical trends prove that the answer is no.

  • Dirtgrain

    “So what the report is really saying is that we wont’t compare children on scores alone, let’s compare them based on race? Foolish. All children can learn and excel regardless of race. Low expectations based on race, that is truly sad.”

    If you were to swap populations, putting the inner-city, living-in-poverty students in the private schools, without changing anything about the rest of their lives, private schools would have as much trouble trying to teach those kids. That said, you are also overlooking that some private schools have huge budgets, making it absurd to bring up their scores when you are simultaneously attacking public school funding. By the way, you should go to a public school some day, and figure out just what they could do without. My school has been making cuts for years, over the last eight years, not one of our teacher contracts has kept pace with inflation. Our maintenance staff is unable to keep the school clean and maintained. We have bee problems in my school, we have a relatively dirty building, and things are falling apart (some education researchers have found a correlation between environment and learning). We have administrators who are so overloaded with jobs and responsibilities that they cannot effectively work with their teachers. People often claim that bad teachers never get fired. One reason is that administrators have no time to go through the process. I won’t even go into the craziness that is special education. Try going to the areas where public schools are doing really poorly (e.g., The Mississippi Delta region). Teachers down there get paid crap compared to teachers in my area. Read the book, Savage Inequalities, by Jonathan Kozol. We should be ashamed by some of the schools that we have in this country–how little we help them (yes, with funds)–while public schools in rich suburbs get plenty of money (too much, in some cases, no doubt).

    The best predictor of a student’s success is the education level of his or her parents. One key factor in a child’s literacy is the role of his or her parents in the early years: how much did they read to him or her? Do they have books around the house? Do their children see them reading? What are their attitudes about education?

    “Insisting that students behave in a certain manner and holding them accountable.”

    You clearly have no idea about how our hands are tied on this issue: lawsuits, parents, school boards, state and federal restrictions, and administrators who have no time for individual student behavior issues (more money might help on this one).

    “Make parents more accountable.”

    Yes, but how? In some of the other threads that I linked, I offer some suggestions for getting parents more involved with the schools.

    “The main reason I am given by students for the single biggest learning obstacle they face are due to the distractions of other students.”

    I don’t know about that. That sort of thing depends on the teacher. Then again, class size is a huge factor here. Last year, I had three classes that had 36 students in them. The more students, the more difficult to manage the classroom. That is a funding issue.

    “I am highly skeptical of the school boards and administrations of the school districts.”

    I agree.

    “They are politically correct buffoons for the most part.”

    I don’t know if I would broadly characterize them all like that.

    “All of this, of course, has been helped by our wonderful court system that has levied large judgements against our school systems and emboldened parents and the ‘not my child attitude.'”

    Ah, maybe you do understand a bit how our hands are tied.

    “Do you honestly believe that more money alone will help improve education?”

    Not necessarily. You have to look at it on a school-by-school basis. I know that great disparities in public school funding exist in and around Detroit. Bloomfield Hills, a super-rich suburb, gets around $12,000 per pupil from the state. My district gets around $7,500 per pupil. As I said above, there are so many other issues that affect a child’s success, and just adding money would address none of these. But, money still is a factor, and I don’t see why one public school shouldn’t be funded the same way another is. In my school, books are falling apart, and we can’t replace them. I can just envision a Bloomfield Hills teaher browsing through a bookroom that looks like Borders or Barnes and Noble. That kind of thing can make a difference.

  • anonymous

    I agree with Dirtgrain. I came home this evening only to find my roomate watching the dispicable show that “helps so many families”. When I tried to explain why the show was so awful she defended it, because you know they are just so helpful to ONE family every week. But only for part of the year, they have about 15-20 shows a season. Do the math its not that many people.

    There are starving children in all over the world (not to state the obvious). With the budget for ONE of their shows they could save so many lives. But they choose to make ONE family have more things, but things don’t make people happy. And I doubt their happiness lasts for that long after the show is over.

  • busy worker

    Oh shut up. You couldn’t do better.

  • truenorthern

    I would love to see a third party review of these homes. Those houses must be of terrible quality and will cause their owners major issues over the next few years.
    There is no way to build a quality house that quickly, it doesn’t matter how many people you have to build, the materials need time to cure/dry.

    Concrete needs time to cure.
    Stucco needs time to cure.
    Adhesives used in construction need time to cure.
    Grout (tiles) needs time to dry.
    Drywall Mud needs time to dry fully.
    Paint and other finishes need time to dry and cure.
    More time than they have >10 days,…

  • Anonymous

    They came to our state and the local news did a follow up. All the volunteers did ALL the work, Ty and the other designers were on set for about an hour out of the whole week, since they were also “building” another house in a neighboring state. One of the designers actually came in with the camera crew and asked a volunteer to step aside. She grabbed a sledgehammer and pretended to nail in some stuff then left and the volunteer finished the work.

    ABC also apparently doesn’t pay for anything – a big local company paid for all of the materials and a local catering company had to pay for all of the food to feed the volunteers. Then ABC covered up most of the logos strategically with black tape yet some logos were allowed to stay.

    Then later, my mom found out through a co-worker of hers who was doing a temp job in the town that the family ended up having to petition to be exempt from taxes because now that their house was bigger, they had to pay taxes they couldn’t afford.

    When one of the volunteers was asked if they’d ever watch the show again they replied, “No. All the magic’s gone”. Sad but true. This show seems great but like most reality TV, it’s heavily controlled and certainly not what it appears to be. As a student of Film and Television Studies, I’ve been told this multiple times both by Professors and guest speakers, some of which being actual TV Producers.

    I think people should know the reality in what they’re seeing. I don’t think it’s right to brainwash people to the extent that this goes on for money. Reality shows are so popular to produce because they cost 1/3 of the cost of a regular scripted TV show with actors. So, if it’s so much cheaper, then why are local companies paying to build the houses that “ABC is making possible”? Think of how much money people are pocketing for Extreme Makeover, with all of the advertising that happens within. It’s not right.

  • Chris

    Dirtgrain, awesome post. The know is growing.

  • Truths, and a thought……

    An Extreme Home Makeover occurred in my area and without identifying myself, I’ll just say that I saw it all. The demo, the concrete work, the interior work, the filming, the final product, etc. There are a few misconceptions that bother me and need to be corrected. So, I am going to correct them.
    1.) You do NOT want to qualify for a new house this way. These people have very tough lives and I would not change my house and life for theirs EVER. My life is not a rose but these people *really* do have some obstacles. Is it quite as bad as TV makes it seem, probably not. However, it’s still pretty tough.
    2.) The house is not built in a 10 days or a week. These builds are literally done in 3-4 days. High tech concrete (8 sack with special polymers for you concrete heads). Huge de-humidifying machines to dry the mudding and taping in 5 hours (yes, bare walls to finished in 5 hours). Armies of electricians, carpenters, plumbers etc (sorry if I don’t mention your trade). Not to mention the huge groups of volunteers the feed, serve, transport and direct all this controlled chaos.
    3.) Someone questioned the quality and speed of the build and I can tell you that it is not sub-par. The builders and tradespeople stake their reputation on these builds and I guarantee that these homes are looked at by people a lot more than your average house. If this fell apart, what would the builders reputation be after that? They come back every few months to check on the status just to make sure everything is good. Is there a punch list? Sure. Heck, my wife wishes I got on her ‘punch list’ as fast as these homeowners probably get their’s done! As for the time it takes paint to dry, a fan and dehumidifier work wonders (been there, done that in my own home)
    4.) Expense to maintain – Well, you run into issues that some interior designer doesn’t want the color they picked to look cr*ppy just because the house has those flourescent bulbs. Well, once you start with high-end incandescent bulbs, who’s going to yank them out and trash em? Certainly not the people who were struggling financially in the first place. The utilities are relatively comparable simply because you are usually tearing down an older home with old equipment and replacing it with a well-insulated home that’s got really efficient units. Probably a lot more lighting will be more, and certainly the heated toilet seats may cost to operate (yes, heated toilet seats).
    5.) Taxes: Yeah, this is the tough part. I know it’s a burden to be paying taxes on a house that’s at least tripled in value, but how do you explain to the neighbors that they have the same tax bill as the guy with a 6000 s.f. house? Death and taxes. Neither can be avoided.

    6.) Who’s paying for this? Well, people claim it’s the corporate money, but a lot of it comes down to you and me. Yes, you are paying for that fancy toilet when you buy your little cheap one at Lowe’s or Depot or your sofa at Ashley Furniture. Granted, it’s probably only a few dollars per peice, but it’s in there. The rest? Well, it comes directly from the local companies that stop doing their regular work to work on this job (in some cases even paying their workers to work on the site (yes, that does happen and when I saw it, it was almost exclusively done for the union guys. No, I’m not anti-union, so don’t give me a bunch of flack about it. The facts are what the facts are.)) or in the donated materials that they are giving to the project but never really recovering because their company doesn’t get a bunch of extra business for donating material or services.
    There are a lot of heroes on these projects, and they are the local companies. If you are going to patronize somebody, dig them up and throw them some business. Caterers, suppliers, equipment rental places. Heck, even local police and fire departments paying overtime to cover the projects.

    7.) TV hosts – Hello, this is T.V. If you beleive you are watching reality, you need a reality check. You are watching what you watch because that is what companies that advertise are willing to pay for. So, if you don’t like the hosts pretending to work on a house, send something to Ashley Furniture, Sears, or whatever other major advertiser is on the show. This and this alone will get those yahoos away from the tools.

    8.) Is this good: In the end, it is good for a select number of recipients and it certainly is good to increase volunteerism in these times of need. However, these homes are ‘over-the-top’ nice and I just can’t see why we couldn’t spread the wealth a little more and do 5 houses in a city as opposed to one. Heck, maybe even give the money to a group like habitat for humanity and see what they could do…..

    If you are still reading, it’s because you care and I challenge you to do this: find someone in need in your community, an elderly person, a shut-in, someone that is handicapped and can’t do something for themselves. Go and do an ‘extreme’ makeover for them. Maybe re-do the exterior of their home with extra flowers or divided plants from your flower beds and a couple of cheap bags of mulch. Repaint the living room with a decent but inexpensive paint. Not everyone has a need that is ‘extreme’. But your small act of kindness just may be…

  • Samantha

    You, simply, are a terrible person. Even if this show helps ONE person, sponsored by every corporation possible, that is one person. Get a heart. Or at least a brain.

  • KJ

    Dirtbrain the fact that your response to El Bitcho was nearly as long as your article speaks volumes in terms of the lame ways that you use your time. You may have heard the saying “it is easier to complain about things than to change things,” I think that is actually incorrect as is your hypocritical site. Hypocritical meaning this b.s. site is full of ads – really lame ads – can your people even sell this space or is it all used up by the teeth whitening people and Windows marketing people who buy cheap space anywhere it exists needless of the quality or content of the site? The recent unemployment numbers shouldn’t be a problem for long because obviously anyone can get work writing for BC. Have a good life, sincerely.

  • Lemastre

    EMHE’s blatant plugging of its sponsors is of less interest to me than whether the recipients of the new homes can pay the increased property taxes, higher utility bills, and/or mortgages that the extravagant structures surely will bring. I also wonder how sound is the construction of such hastily erected buildings. A builder skilled in working quickly knows what shortcuts work, but these volunteer crews probably aren’t of that ilk. Also, having a hundred workers swarming about doesn’t necessarily lead to efficient, quality work. I assume, however, that experience has by now taught EMHE how to do adequate work within its tight time constraints. I’m sure the various starsof the show, the “design team,” don’t really make it all up on the spot as the show suggests. But the TV episodes don’t show or even hint at the preliminary time and effort that actually goes into design and preconstruction.

  • JLynn

    I agree with Nicollete Rivers, I dont know If many of you live in a poor household, but I do, I would gladly let them remodel my home(the roof is falling in in all the bedrooms, i have to pin wool blankets up around my windows just so my family can be warm at night, and the only thing keeping my kitchen wall up behind my sink is the sliding glass door). Im not trying to bitch and moan about my life but if they came to my door step right now and said they are going to rebuild my house i would start packing!

  • A Matthews

    I know this show has now (more or less) finished, but I only discovered it recently on British cable TV. I was seduced by the heart wrenching stories as much as I was made uncomfortable by the blatant manupulation of the sweeping music, the saccharin designers and their too-ready tears, and the stunning self interest of the show’s sponsors. So yes, I suppose I do find a lot of Dirtgrain’s arguments about the show very persuasive. However I still watch it from time to time, even if a little guiltily, just for the chance to see a glimpse of the spectacular goodness of the volunteers, and indeed of some of the fmailies helped. The one thing that consistently shocks me about the programme is not so much big corporations doing what big corporations do. It is the total destitution with no apparent safety net of so many of the families. I can only assume and hope that this is hyperbole on the part of a “reality” show and not the genuine reality of poor families in the USA.