I’m not proud to say I watched this 2012 season of Celebrity Apprentice, but I did. There’s no going back. I heard Penn Jillette, whose art and views I’ve appreciated for years, mention it on Twitter; I felt compelled to watch.
If you’re not familiar with the show, it’s standard competition-based reality TV. It moves at a snail’s pace, and the narrative often stinks of too much interference from producers trying to craft a good story. Trump and Trump alone appears to have the final say in who gets fired, and he often bases his decision on which celebrities are too tired to argue and yell anymore (i.e. they’re done making good television for him).
I bring up the stupid show here because there are plenty of parallels of human behavior between the weekly projects Donald Trump assigns and the group work I see in my classroom.
Most immediately recognizable was when the celebrities weren’t bright or creative, so they claimed their talents lie in completing mundane tasks, doing grunt work. It happened quite a few times on the dumb stupid show. Lou Ferrigno would say he gave “110%,” when all he really offered was a few strong arms and no ideas. It seemed to infuriate the actually smart celebrities.
I see this all the time. Specifically, on the yearbook staff, I’ll have kids who sit idly by like potatoes when the important work is being done–designing, reporting, writing. When I’ve got something easy to do (count votes, sort receipts, etc.), they embrace it like it’s their life work, their hidden talent. Alas, they don’t even do the grunt work very well. The more talented kids would count the votes or sort the receipts faster and more accurately, but they’re busy doing the hard stuff.
Another parallel is the chaotic and surprising ways a project can come together. On Celebrity Apprentice and in my classroom, a good idea can come from anywhere. The motorcycle reality TV guy will mutter a slogan that becomes the foundation of a commercial. A student will see the connection between his Odyssey project and the World of Warcraft video editing with which he’s been playing. Both lead to a successful execution of a project.
When it comes to self-evaluation, the comparisons get a bit trickier. No one gets “fired” in my class (though many have deserved it), so there’s little incentive to throw a peer under the bus, like the celebrities inevitably do on the dumb show, blaming each other for the disastrous results of a project. While that does happen, most students stick together and say everyone did a great job, even if that’s not the case.
Recently, I had some big Journalism projects done in groups. I conferenced with each student afterward, and they were predictably harder on themselves than they were on their partners. It’s tough as a high schooler to say your peer deserves a lower grade for their incompetence, laziness, or ball-dropping. It’s much easier when stupid Donald Trump is staring you down, forcing you to pick somebody on your team to call an idiot.
*I realize that the season of Celebrity Apprentice is not actually over yet. But Penn Jillette got fired, and I have no desire to watch Clay Aiken and Miss Universe hang out on TV.