Ruth's Diary


I've never been a supporter of the idea that no TV would be of benefit to children. I have always acknowledged that too much TV is detrimental to their development, but here in Peru I've found proof that a small amount of TV is actually beneficial, especially to those children from families not particularly supportive of their education. I've had to personally teach the alphabet to a little girl who only learned to read and write in school, but still didn't know the letters or how to spell. Compare this to my infancy: I started school knowing the alphabet thanks to my incessant watching of Sesame Street.

On the other hand, there are plenty of children in the same class who watch a lot of entertainment but don't benefit. They're all fans of Pokémon (why's that still going?), Bakugan (never seen it myself but it's everywhere), Ben10 and even Max Steel. He looks somewhat different to how he originally did but there are shorts that air on Cartoon Network and merchandise is still available. Despite such a wide range of programming being watched in their daily lives the kids' awareness of the world is 0.

After drawing an atlas on the board I found myself teaching an impromptu geography lesson. They were completely unaware of the name of Peru's capital (Lima), didn't realise the national language of most of South America was Spanish, and they'd also never heard of the Andes Mountains (even though they live in the midst of them!) nor of the Amazon Rainforest! How's this possible? When I was 7 I knew about the Amazon. And imagine their lack of knowledge on further parts of the world. (They guessed that Italians spoke Spanish and Russians spoke French. WTF?)

At 7 years old (their age) I had more world knowledge than they did. Thanks in part to the genius of a show that was 'Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?'

I've only just now realised that many readers will be confused by this: why was I teaching and where did I find these kids? Well, that is my volunteering placement in Peru: I am a teaching assistant in class 2C of Santa Rosa de Lima Primary School, a very typical public/state school.

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