Monday, January 18, 2010

Dora the Explorer Cartoon: Teaching Diversity

It is rare that a show manages to be so overwhelmingly effective at accomplishing essentially everything which it sets out to do as the Dora the Explorer cartoon has proven to be. In many ways, the Dora the Explorer cartoon follows in the footsteps of such public television greats as Mister Rodgers' Neighborhood and Sesame Street. These shows, like Dora, managed to be entertaining, charming, and still teach children everywhere a number of valuable lessons which were about more than just your basic academics.

Indeed, the Dora the Explorer cartoon does teach many of the basics that children in the target age group should be learning, essentially an animated preschool classroom. However, Dora goes further than just your basic shapes and numbers by integrating a constant flow of Spanish vocabulary into each episode. This may not seem to be particularly significant at first, but here are two basic reasons which make this important in the lives of children today.

The first reason is the state of global relations currently. It is often said that the world is getting smaller every day, and for the most part that is true. Communications technology is making it easier and easier to talk to someone across the world as easily as you could talk to someone across the street. The borders between cultures are blurring and crossing at an ever-increasing rate. In this world, where communication is paramount, children who learn a second language are at a potentially great advantage over other children in the long run. While it is true that most high schools require students to take foreign language classes, a child's brain is far more receptive to learning languages in their early years. This means that the Dora the Explorer cartoon is introducing children to Spanish at the age when they are best able to integrate a new language, and thus setting them up to be well prepared in the long run.

The second reason this is important, though, is quite possibly far more important than the first. While the Dora the Explorer cartoon introduces children to the Spanish language, it also introduces them to elements of the Latin culture. These elements may be subtle, but they are the basis of a powerful message that is every bit as powerful as anything children are learning in schools. It is a lesson that is as vital as it is simple: diversity is good.

There can be no doubt that this is something the newest generation of the world's children needs to learn, as they are growing up in a world where so many people are still so blinded by where someone is from that they can never seem to see who that person is. Things like the Dora the Explorer cartoon have the potential to help a great deal to bring up a generation of children who, when they come in contact with someone who is different from themselves, they do not think of how those differences separate them, but rather they think of what those differences can teach them.

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