The second season of Child Genius returns tonight, and host Susan Carland believes the four-part series demonstrates that children are not born racist, but rather taught xenophobic attitudes.
The SBS show follows 16 of Australia’s brightest kids from various cultural backgrounds, and while a recent Islamophobia survey revealed women wearing head coverings are most at risk of racial abuse, not one of the kids questioned Susan wearing a hijab during filming.
“There’s a little boy in the show. He and his little sister used to watch the last season of Child Genius and his little sister used to practice with him to help him get ready for this season and try outs,” Susan told HuffPost Australia.
“Apparently his little sister, who is four or five, whenever she would take on the role of me, she would put on a head scarf. It was the cutest thing that I ever could have heard.
“I think it shows how kids, if something is portrayed to them as it’s not a big deal or this is just who someone is, kids can really just accept that,” she said.
The 39-year-old said this story told to her by producers exemplified children accepting people’s differences without prejudice.
“It’s actually not something confounding to children. They’re pretty cool about it,” she said.
“For them it isn’t a big deal or a thing we need to have a massive conversation about, it just is who you are. Children are actually pretty fine about dealing with it and I think that example shows that.”
Susan said it’s important to “model good behaviour to our children”, adding watching a show like Child Genius is a helpful tool for parents because of its diverse casting.
Citing “another reason why the multiculturalism and the diversity of the show Child Genius is such a lovely thing”, she explained the program is an opportunity for kids to see various groups represented that they may not be exposed to in real life.
“There might be communities where maybe you just will never get the opportunity to meet someone like that,” she said.
“For whatever reason in your suburb or your workplace or whatever it is, there’s just no one from X background around, and what are you supposed to do?
“I think that’s why TV can be so important because while you might not have the opportunity to be friends with someone from X background, if you can just see them represented on TV in a multidimensional way, not as a stereotype or a caricature, but just as a regular person doing great things like these kids being the delightful, cheeky, smart, funny kids that they are, that in itself plays a really important role as well.”
Season two of Child Genius, premiering Wednesday, will follow 16 children undergo a series of challenging quizzes that test their skills across history, science, spelling, memory and general knowledge.
Child Genius Australia will air weekly from Wednesday, 20 November at 8.30pm on SBS.