Barney the Dinosaur
A Primary Teacher's Worst Nightmare?

Diana DeFreitas

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)!

Anti-Barney expressions 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 anti-Barney songs).

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!