*Disclaimer my notion of educational is broad. The classical music in the background of Looney Tunes, the friendship and kindness themes in My Little Pony, Phineas and Ferb and others could all be considered educational.
My family and I rarely watch TV but my kids spent a weekend at their grandparents. They watched a program called Uncle Grandpa. My kids were watching it because it's animated and funny. As I watched I realized it was a program that really had nothing to recommend it.
Children's brains are different from adult brains. Cells in the brain grow dendrites whenever we learn something new. Children can grow dendrites much faster and denser than adults but only when they are learning. For 30 minutes my children sat in front of the television and learned nothing, no dendratic growth.
In the United Kingdom all programming aimed at children must have an educational component. The average IQ of school children in the UK is 12 points higher than the average IQ in the United States. This is not a coincidence. It's directly related to using the time that children use to consume media to help them grow their knowledge.
Preschool age children watch 2 hours of TV per day and children age 8 to 18 average 4 hours per day. I suspect much of the TV time it put in by our most vulnerable children who do not have access to other activities. This is the group we are working so hard to reach in our classrooms. I propose it's time to take education out into the homes and daycare centers in the United States.
If a company makes programming aimed at young people under the age of 15 they should be required to teach them something while they entertain them. As we grapple with the issues of engaging and educating such a diverse population we need to use every resource at our disposal, TV is one such resource.
The Department of Education could oversee and coordinate TV curriculum so our students don't receive a diet of random facts. It would give them something useful to tackle since the parents, teachers, admin and governments are beginning to take back their authority over the curriculum in their states. Television crosses state lines and would seem to be interstate commerce so it would be reasonable for the to turn TV into a tool of 'Mass Instruction.' It would be good to give the Department of Ed something to do as long as they don't screw it up and make TV as deadly dry as they attempted to make school.
One of my favorite programs for young children is: http://www.amazon.com/Cyberchase-Totally-Rad/dp/B000BITUA2/ref=as_sl_pc_qf_sp_asin_til?tag=teachersandco-20&linkCode=w00&linkId=C66LT7HZMCL6355Y&creativeASIN=B000BITUA2