We should not let SpongeBob, Barney and Dora rule the primary curriculum



Some schools in various areas of the United Kingdom are allowing children to choose their own topics of study. This is an idea seriously close to risking the future of our educational system, if widely accepted and continued.

By using well-known children’s cartoon characters, such as SpongeBob Squarepants, to enhance learning experiences, primary school children have been given projects to learn basic skills (arithmetic, writing) through association with their favourite television personalities.

Whilst it would arguably take a long time for this sort of interactive principle of learning through popular association to catch on, it seems perilous. Although it would undoubtedly hold a child’s interest for a longer period of time than when faced with learning about the ancient Egyptians would, topics with a bit more substance are surely the most beneficial to a comprehensive learning experience, where over the years of primary education children collate (seemingly useless, but later surprisingly memorable) information.

The focus on television, as opposed to infamous historical characters such as Cleopatra or Caesar, is similarly concerning. Isn’t this a promotion of the televisual obsession that so many parents have been anxious to avoid? The irony lies within the reality which remains: a lack of concentration on other areas of learning would be detrimental in the long-term. It’s a praiseworthy initiative, but if continued, a more selective system might be considered. Even Asterix the Gaul has a sort of ‘real’ background embedded in his cartoon 2-D existence and as a result, perhaps more to ‘teach’.

An underlying issue of introducing this sort of curriculum is where the cut-off age would lie. By a certain age, independence needs to be fostered – not only in social skills, but the broadening of educational horizons as well. The schools in question were teaching nine year olds in this way, by which time most children should be learning by their own experiences rather than being taught passively.

In academic terms this translates as an unnecessary dependence; these programmes were not made to be specifically used for scholastic purposes. SpongeBob and Co. teach children some arguably valuable ‘life skills’ and moral lessons; for instance, the episode where SpongeBob sacrifices his own ‘Best Day Ever’ in order to help his friends, which they in turn really appreciate.

These lessons are enough. They teach messages in themselves, and do not require being taken out of their context into the ‘real world’. There is already a National Curriculum – it may be flawed in your personal opinion, but it’s solid enough not to be causing a daily uproar – in place. Cartoons should be left in their own realms…or else, will we eventually be referring to the Interactive New Media Cartoon Curriculum?

Image – quicheisinsane