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When Dora is outlawed, only outlaws will wear Dora

Submitted by on Thursday, 6 January 2011 No Comment

The guys’ backpacks are camouflage. Their lunch boxes, though, are Buzz Lightyear. We have a camouflage model left over from last year, and since only one guy takes his lunch these days that means they’d allowed to on an Association of Waldorf Schools of North America campus.

Waldorf is among a number of schools – largely private – across the country that have banned licensed characters on clothing and gear at school, according to a recent Chicago Tribune article.

Handy Manny headgear – one more reason  you must take your hat off indoors. Hello, Kitty backpack – bye bye. The same goes for  you, Disney Princesses and Thomas the Tank Engine.

The reason, according to the Tribune: Children should be protected, not marketed to, at school.

It reminds me of the time a Big Boss banned personal items from all desks at work, in the interests of increasing office professionalism. I’m not sure it helped but, hey, if it made the Big Boss happy …

Problem is, it created days of needless hoo-ha and grumbling. Banning licensed characters at school has the same potential.

“I’m no fan of the ban,” Shaping Youth executive Amy Jussel told the Tribune. “When you squish it or tamp it down, it comes out sideways with even more heat.”

Jussel founded Shaping Youth with an toward examining media and marketing’s influence on children. She believes, and I agree, that today’s youngsters are bombarded with far too many commercial images at far too young an age. She also believes, and I agree here too, that parents play an important role in making sure children learn to be media literate and critical thinkers in order to defend themselves against the onslaught.

For the first two years of Big Guy’s life, I did ban commercial characters. There were no Disney babies in the nursery or Sesame Street on his body. Sometime between 2 and 3, though, he started watching “Franklin” on commercial-free Noggin. A stuffed Franklin made its way into the house, and the books soon followed.

That was mild compared to the SpongeBob menace a year or so later. That’s when the commercialism really took hold – or, at least, it tried to.

No, Big Guy. The SpongeBob Cheez-Its don’t taste any better than the other ones, but they cost a lot more.

No, we’re not buying the SpongeBob bed linens. You have a perfectly good bedspread already.

And on and on down every aisle and during every trip to the store, until the message began to sink in. I bet those SpongeBob apples don’t taste any better than the other ones, he said one day at the grocery. I could have kissed him on the spot.

Unlike the ACLU, which filed a lawsuit when a California school tried to toss Tigger, I don’t view licensed characters as a big free speech issue. For me, it’s more of a big common sense issue. Trying to eliminated all vestiges of marketing from a kid’s life is a waste of time. Spend that time instead teaching them how to assess and analyze marketing pitches.

So here’s a SWAT for telling kids to just say “no” without telling them why. Stop Wasting America’s Time and teach them to think instead.

Copyright 2011 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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