What does it say about the world we live in today when 40 children between the ages of eight and 15 are roughly 1,000 times more interesting to watch than 33 girls who are meant to be the most beautiful in our nation?

It's a question viewers will be forced to ponder this season as they decide if they'd rather tune into the ninth season of "America's Next Top Model" or "Kid Nation," the show that’s garnered headlines for allegedly placing the kids it features in dangerous situations.

It comes down, really, to this: would you rather spend your Wednesday nights watching children scrub outhouse toilets, or waiting to see which wannabe model can cry the hardest when revealing the secrets of her abusive childhood to Tyra Banks?

Certainly there are differences between the two shows (nobody on "Kid Nation" has a weave and there was nary a "fierce" uttered), but the similarities between them are notable.

Think about it. The players all weigh roughly the same and are probably at similar reading levels. The biggest bullies and the most insecure are featured the most prominently. And they're all playing for cash and prizes.

Yes, it's true. The models are competing for their contract and the Cover Girl ad, and the kids are vying for $20,000 gold stars that will be handed out each week to the child who worked the hardest for the group.

While that's a lot of money to be handing to children this young, at least the values that are being rewarded — discipline, dedication, generosity — are far nobler than those that "Model" deems important.

I mean, Tyra may act like perfecting your runway walk and being able to pose with an animal/baby/spider/whatever wacky new idea they come up with this season to raise the bar actually matters, but we've been through this with her for several years and know the truth by now.

My conclusion? Aside from having to battle some bouts of homesickness and a bit of bullying from the quintessential Bigger Kid With Braces, the "Kid Nation" kids looked like they were having the time of their lives.

It’s the models — all of whom are convinced that appearing on this show will somehow remove them from their humdrum existences back home and change their lives for good — that we should be worried about.

Sure, it can't be easy to push wagons up hills, make macaroni and cheese and divide up tasks when you haven't even graduated the fourth grade (though I haven't tested my wagon-pushing skills anytime lately, it's safe to say I'd struggle with at least two of those myself), but being informed that you have to put a town together seems like a dream come true for children.

I mean, we all played house and the various and sundry other games that were designed to make us feel like we were really adults. Imagine taking away the parents that are just going to tell you it's time to stop and do your homework and then combining every one of those games together.

Add in a candy store, and seemingly no rules about how much or often candy can be consumed, and you haven't created Kid Nation — you've given them Kid Nirvana.

Watching girls get backstabbed by their roommates as their bodies are scrutinized and their hair shorn somehow just doesn't hold the same appeal.

Anna David is a freelance writer. Her novel, "Party Girl," is in stores now.