Thursday, May 26, 2005

Lo Hicimos!

Since it’s been a while since I’ve done any blogging, I thought I’d start in with something easy: Dora the Explorer.

For those unfamiliar with Dora, this is a kid’s animated show in which Dora, a little Hispanic girl, goes on mini adventures with her best friend, Boots the Monkey. The show teaches Spanish, sharing, helping others, memorization, and encourages participation from the viewing audience. It helps children develop in many ways and I highly recommend it to parents. I do question a couple of practices on the show and I’d like to hear your opinions.

First, as part of the participation, children are asked to help pick out certain objects from a collection of other objects. For example, some spotted juggling balls might be hidden in with some colored eggs and a polka-dotted snail shell. Every now and then the "mouse cursor" will fall on a non-conforming object and Dora will ask, "Is that a juggling ball?" Our son will dutifully intone, "Nooo," often without even looking at the screen.

Now, does this teach children to identify objects in a class or do they learn to say "No" when asked "Is that a juggling ball?" If the question is asked only for objects that don’t meet the desired criteria, as it is on the show, then a child stands as much chance to learn one lesson as to learn the other.

The second part of the show involves estreyas, or stars. During the adventure little animated stars will fly around and the adventurers must try to catch them. I’ve never seen a show where Dora and Co. missed even one star (and having a young child, I’ve seen several of these shows). It isn’t just with stars; Dora et al win every challenge they undertake.

My concern here is that children will get the impression that if you try, you will always succeed. I would prefer that they miss some stars and then say something like, "Wow, we got four stars this time!" or "Whoops! We only got three stars." I want my children to realize that sometimes they will get mud on their face, that they will fall short, that they will fail in their efforts. I think a lot of the problems and attitudes we face today stem from the faulty belief that life is perfect and fair and that, if someone doesn’t conquer every challenge, either someone is working against them or they should just be awarded a prize because they tried.

Legitimate concerns or paranoia? Or do I just think too much? Let’s hear what you’ve got to say.


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