A commercial touting the reboot of MacGyver just appeared on my office TV screen and I recall with fondness its tales of improvised solutions. Now, the term “MacGyver” has become shorthand for improvising a solution from the supplies on hand.
When the show premiered in 1985 it inspired Boy Scout groups to add similar challenges to district competitions. This worked well for a few years, but eventually some adults spoiled things for the boys by tipping them off to previously worked out solutions and even going so far as to have the kids carry unusual items in their backpacks to help them “win.”
Nobody really wins when the entire educational side of a problem is stripped from it. Life often presents challenges that cannot be anticipated; problems for which there is no handy solution a few smartphone clicks away. The star of the old show did not have a cell phone, and no doubt would have done things his own way, even if he did.
I do not object to books about clever solutions to common problems. I rather like tips on alternate uses for WD-40, Vicks VapoRub, Windex, and old nylon stockings — but not robbing children of the joy found in a well-reasoned fix for a vexing dilemma.
Learning to make do with what you have is an important skill to develop. We used to call it “American ingenuity,” although it is clearly in evidence in other countries. People enjoy figuring out how to hold up their failing exhaust system with duct tape and coat hangers. Kids who get good at such things can go on to do amazing things for their classmates, teammates, co-workers, and customers.
I hope the reboot of MacGyver is successful. The last thing we need is another empty time spot for a shoot-em-up.