Barney the Dinosaur
A Primary Teacher's Worst Nightmare?
I am a teacher candidate in my third year
at the Faculty of Education and I despise
Barney the Dinosaur. Some people are surprised by this
information while other more knowledgeable people nod with approval
when I vent my wrath.
Unless you have been living
in a cave for the past four years, you know that Barney is the
purple monstrosity whose television program pollutes the airwaves.
He was created by a parent (who is also a teacher!) concerned about
quality shows, however, Barney has become a monster more fearful
than a Tyrannosaurus Rex (do not let that goofy, disgusting smile
fool you)! According to an article in the New York
Times (April 11, 1993 section 2), the sales of Barney
spinoff toys reached approximately $200 000 000 in 1993. (I admit I
have a Barney doll - it was given to me by two sadistic friends of
mine. With some signifcant alterations, the "new and improved"
Barney is hanging [literally] in my study)!
have almost become an industry in themselves. On the Internet are
discussion groups devoted exclusively to attacking the saccharine
fool (see links at end of article). Weird Al demolished a
plasticine version of Barney in one of his music videos. Academia
and organized religion have even gotten involved in "the Barney
issue". At a Literature and Popular Culture conference at
Binghamton University, one of the discussion topics was "The Purple
Antichrist: Barney the Dinosaur in Folklore and Popular Culture" (I
kid you not)! In The Toronto Star , a preacher claimed
that Barney's television show erodes the family structure. (I am
not a fanatic, but I do confess to knowing and collecting all the
So what implications does
Barney's success have for us as educators? Our primary-age students
will come to class wearing Barney T-shirts and singing insipid
Barney songs (I believe that whoever wrote "This Old Man" can sue
Barney and win for destroying that tune). Teachers have to be
cautious when using commercial characters such as Barney in the
classroom. It is important to incorporate children's interest in
the class environment, but is Barney really what children are
interested in? There is a difference between staying on the surface
of Ninja Turtles, for example, and studying the underlying Ninja
codes of honour that the kids are really attracted to. Barney is
stiff competition for teachers to contend with. His popularity is
unexplainable but maybe teachers can sense what appeals to
students. Music is an important part of this horrid show so
remember in your own classroom to sing or play other songs. As long
as we don't sing the Barney theme song, I'll be happy!