Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Peppa Pig pedagogy
The first word my grandson said was 'Peppa'. An inveterate fan from 18 months, the Peppa Pig series is available to him on TV, a choice of iPhones and iPads, and on his own DVD player more or less on demand - and he demands quite a lot! And of course there are Peppa Pig toys, interactive books, and magazines at his disposal too. For his birthday, his mother plans to make a Peppa Pig cake. So Peppa and George are available across media platforms and his everyday experience is mediated (sometimes in advance) through Peppa Pig. Yesterday he did 'jumping in muddy puddles', and as is the way with popular narratives, his family were quick to cross-reference this to a pig episode he was already familiar with. The animated pig family sits at the centre of a web of meaning-making practices through which very young children are introduced to their social world. The self-aware pig family features Peppa, her younger brother George, the over-confident and often inept Daddy Pig and the can-do Mummy Pig who regularly flies the flag for competent women. Social and cultural values are woven into the fabric of the Peppa narratives, and alongside parents and caregivers, they are the young child's first teachers. But its not a single-track road. Dylan, my grandson, has appropriated the word 'peppa' so that it stands for a range of things. Prior to his mastery of 'herro' it worked as a greeting, and more recently it has started featuring as a term of approval: something is 'peppa' if it is cool (just as 'go' is not good at all, and usually accompanies separation from his mother). Some may bemoan what they see as the corrosive influence of popular media culture, but actually it seems to me that Peppa Pig is a pretty sophisticated teacher. Meanwhile Dylan's mother won't need a cookery class to make that cake, she's already found a YouTube tutorial. And Dylan's early years teachers may face some pretty stiff competition in the coming years!