What the Death of the Circus Means for Today’s Kids

Jan 26, 2017 by

Image result for Ringling Bros. Circus show posters

By Naomi Schaefer Riley –

“Entertainment has changed, attention spans, the traditional family unit is quite different today than it was many, many years ago.” That was Kenneth Feld, CEO of Feld Entertainment explaining why the company had decided last week to close down the Ringling Bros. Circus. Most people assume that the circus had to shut down because it had ended the use of elephants in the show—and those were the show’s biggest draw. (Despite all of the complaints of PETA, the circus was never found to have mistreated its animals and the lawsuits against it were thrown out of court, but the bad publicity proved fatal.)

And maybe Feld was just trying to save face. But it is probably true that kids today are used to a different kind of entertainment. We took our children to the circus last year—at the ages of nine, seven and three—just before the elephants were retired from the show. Even though we were sitting relatively close to the action, we still had to tell the kids where to look and even describe to them what was happening at times. The circus is not like television or the iPad. Things are far away and you have to pay attention to them for a few minutes at a time without being distracted by something else in order to understand what’s happening.

Even the clowns have small skits running. Their routines didn’t really seem to do it for most of the crowd around us. (I’m not sure my kids would find The Three Stooges very funny either.) But if you wanted to get it, you had to pick a few clowns and watch them for a few minutes. The acrobats definitely held our attention. Motorcycles riding across tightropes, people bouncing in and out of two-story houses from trampolines, and a woman being shot out of a cannonball all seemed to go over well.

But ultimately, the wow factor came from the animals. The sheer magnitude of the elephants—even when they weren’t putting their legs up on the elephants in front of them—was enough to produce audible “oohs” and “ahhs” from the crowd. Without the magnificent elephants, the show was far less appealing. Our new president even tweeted that he wouldn’t go to the show now that it had no elephants.

But the end of the circus means the loss of a unique experience for children. Where else do kids get to see such large animals up close? As a frequent visitor to the Bronx Zoo, I can say the elephants are pretty far away and they’re almost never doing anything even mildly interesting. What the circus has is not only wild animals, but wild animals that are actually awake and moving around. My youngest is a big fan of the lions, but whenever we arrive at the lion exhibit at the zoo, there are one or two lionesses lying around. Occasionally one will pick up her head and look around. The bears and gorillas are the most active, but you still have to catch them on the right day.

Source: What the Death of the Circus Means for Today’s Kids – Acculturated

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