Monday, May 9, 2011

Seeking the Soul in Educational Television Shows

In Search Of----- (cue Leonord Nemoy narration) ---- Acceptable Kids Shows.

The other day my Kiddos, Viking Dad and me watched our first episode of Yo Gabba Gabba. This is a "educational show" on Nickelodeon Jr.

Our family doesn't watch a lot of television but the Kiddos do watch a selected set of shows that we feel are more age appropriate and live to our expectations.
As a teacher I tend to look at children's "educational" shows with some criticism. Over the years I have developed a criteria that I base my expectatio
ns on these shows.
1. Educational Theme- Are the "Three R's" being introduced? These are the old fashion "Reading, wRighting and aRithmetic." I will also add shapes, colors, numbers and critical thinking et al to this category too.
2. Social Theme- What is the social message being presented? I especially love the themes about sharing and getting along and the consequences of actions or choices.
3. Age Appropriateness- This is so important. There is a new show on reading that is aimed at the kindergarten age and I feel it is
too old, focusing on more complex topics.
4. Tone and Image- The show can be totally perfect academ
ically but if you have the main character talk to the children like they are imbeciles-NO! There are color and music that has been researched and developed to be appropriate for kids. Some shows hit this target and some are way off base.
5. Parental Involvement- Lets face it parents are going to have to enjoy it too. We all know that once the children fall in love with a particular character it will become the glue that holds the universe together.
6. The X Factor- This was an element or ingredient that for some time I couldn't name. It was the X Factor that made the show perfect. I fell in love with Dragon Tales because the shows had relevant and touching story lines that spoke to the child at heart. It had the X Factor. There are some shows that may have the first five expectations but missed the X Factor. Those shows we don't watch.

So, what is the X Factor?? For a time I didn't have a
clear explanation. Until now.

For the lack of a better term the X Factor is the soul of the show. It has depth, character, meaning, love and purpose. I discovered the term and application while attending my Waldorf education teaching program here in San Diego.

Waldorf Education or Steiner or Steiner- Waldorf educ
ation is based on the educational philosophy of Rudolf Steiner. Rudolf Steiner is the Austrian philosopher who developed the philosophy of anthroposophy. In 1919, Rudolf Steiner wrote his first book on education called The Education of the Child. After reading this book, Emil Molt the owner and manager of the Waldorf-Astoria Cigarette Company in Stuttgart, Germany, asked Steiner to create a school based on his philosophy. Current traditional public schools have developed curriculum and programs to raise test scores, teach to standards and programmable lesson plans for each class with no relationship one class hour to the next, unhealthy competition and cram as much information into the day without a break. Then the routine is then started again the next day. This leads to an overtaxing of memory and inner exhaustion of students instead of healthy development. In Waldorf education, the emphasis is on the efficient use of soul energy in developing real capacities in children. The soul is touched using practical, artistic and conceptual elements. Art, music, handwork, gardening, dance, games along with traditional core teaching are taught in a holistic environment that encourages not only the soul of the child to grow but also the teachers.
It is in this light that The X Factor now has a name. It is the Soul of the show.

A rare and almost unheard of concept in traditional schools is prominent in the Waldorf Schools. The television and the computer do not exists in the lower grades. Parents are also encouraged to "unplug" their children. Allow them and encourage them to explore their imaginative world.

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