Sara brought a group to the studio to do some work with super heroes. Hoping to encourage collaboration, we suggested they use a long piece of paper to draw a 'movie', a long story with lots of parts. They started off by listing the super heroes they would use in their 'movie'- The boys listed themselves first, and then few children who were not in the room,(McGuire and Emerson), Batman (who flies in the air), Supercat, Wonder Woman, Spiderman, and then Beverly said "I like Dora". Lucas was alarmed: "Wait, No, she's not super. She's not a superhero. She doesn't have a cape like super heroes."
"I like Dora", Beverly replied.
"Dora is not a superhero. You need Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman is a Super Hero, Dora is not."
"I like Dora", shrugged Beverly.
Owen drew a web. He said "Spiderman is saving every stuff. He's saving all of this, and he's calling all of these things, and he's calling them to him".
Beverly said "I did draw Dora. See, these are some webs that keep her in." (Later, Diego was in the web, and Dora saved him.)
Lucas said "Superman doesn't want Batman to come. He wants to be be by himself. Then he says 'Hey Batman, you can come now. I'm done with my work.'"
Lukas began to ad non-caped heroes to the story, including Astronaut and a droid. I'm not sure he and Beverly have reached intersubjectivity, (as in a common definition for what a super hero is), but they seem to at least be able to work together with their separate opinions.
I have long been interested in popular culture and it's role in the classroom. I have a feeling that banning things at school, things that children love, is undemocratic and marginalizing. However, I understand Joseph Campbell's ideas about transforming society by changing the mythologies that define us. Among the three and four year olds, power, good, bad and even nurturing and empathy are defined through stories. They seem to need super heroes, in the same way that people long ago needed stories about Witches, Dragons and Heroes. You can almost see their conception of these things growing and changing as they tell or draw stories about super guys or animals, princesses or monsters, bouncing these ideas off of each other and the teachers. I have learned that letting the play/drawing/talk unfold, and just intervening occasionally with questions that might point out gray areas to children, is the right way to go. I have heard so much talk about shooters and dead guys from young children over the last 14 years, that it doesn't alarm me anymore. What do you think?