Mike, Taylor and DK by Monty Brinton/CBS Mike, Taylor and DK by Monty Brinton/CBS

At noon today CBS will introduce the 40 child citizens of Kid Nation, its controversial new reality show about youngsters who build their own society from scratch in a desert ghost town - with no adult help. TV Guide recently met about a dozen of the junior pioneers, and among the gifted 8-to-15-year-olds are five straight-A students, two future journalists, four school band members, a karate black belt and a Carnegie Hall vet. Forget the Lord of the Flies comparisons. These kids gave us hope for the future.

There's Mike K., 11, a show-tune-loving Boy Scout; Taylor, 10, who wants to be a paleontologist and Miss America; DK, 14, an aspiring novelist and admirer of Martin Luther King Jr.; and Alex, 9, whose interests include building molecular models, studying chemistry... and tap dancing.

This extraordinary bunch also includes a rodeo rider, future fashion designer, actress and more than one wannabe president. They spent 40 days in an iPod-free world, sleeping on the floor, cooking on woodstoves, and working out problems at Town Council meetings, where they dealt with issues like economics, religion, pollution and how late the root beer saloon should be allowed to stay open.

Although they report that passions about certain topics sometimes led to discord, they remained dedicated to making their society work - and have come away with a determination to make the world a better place. "I don't think I'll ever look at a conflict the same way again," said Michael T., 14. "It might have been on a smaller scale, but looking at the world, it's the same problem we have now. It tears people into two groups. It will make me look for a solution a lot harder, because I know firsthand what it's like."

These citizens of Bonanza City are intelligent, kind and genuinely want to prove that if we all pull together, we can create a more peaceful and just civilization. We're hoping grown-up global leaders tune in. - Reporting by Kate Hahn