We Shouldn’t Need Doc McStuffins To Give Us Permission To Be Wrong

My 5 year-old daughter loves to watch Doc McStuffins. My wife and I are glad she has graduated from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse to Doc which is a bit more intellectually stimulating and also features a black female lead, something we like to see as parents of a girl. So when we noticed new episodes were available, we all got excited – our daughter because of the new story, and Mom and Dad so we at least have a new episode to put into the rotation of old episodes that we have seen a seemingly infinite number of times.

The new episode is titled “Nurse’s Office” which is a bit misleading because the main plotline is that Chili, Doc’s stuffed snowman, is nervous about attending the new school Doc has setup for her toys. He’s so nervous that he keeps asking to go see the school nurse (also one of Doc’s stuffed toys) so that he can avoid class.

Why is Chili so nervous? Because he doesn’t want to be wrong. And that makes me sad.

“It’s a great day to be wrong!”
-Ken Mattingly

I’ve recently started implementing Standards-Based Learning and Grading in one of my classes, and one of the foundations of the SBL/SBG system is that students are free to make mistakes, because that means there is learning happening. If students are afraid to be wrong and fail once in a while, they will never stretch themselves to the point where they can learn as deeply as we want them to. I’ve heard Ken Mattingly (@kenmattingly) say something that I absolutely love regarding failure: “It’s a great day to be wrong!”

Clearly the message of the episode is that there is no reason to fear being wrong, and of course by the end of the episode Doc and her other toys have reassured Chili that he has no reason to fear being wrong, that he should be confident in his abilities. What bothers me is that this episode even needed to be created. The fear of being wrong and being scrutinized by teachers and peers is still so strong that we continue to have to find creative ways to convince our young children that they should not fear failure. Further, this message is clearly not reaching the kids it should. Doc McStuffins is geared toward kids from about 3-6. Which age group NEVER has a problem with trying new things and fearing failure? Exactly the age range that Doc McStuffins targets.

Maybe we need a cute little animated show to teach this message to our school-age children. Better yet, maybe we need a cute little animated show to teach this message to their teachers.

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