Why Are “Characters” Not Allowed in the Primary Program?

There is a “no character” policy in One World Montessori’s Primary program. This policy is often questioned by parents — “Why no characters?” or “What are characters?” The answer to this seemingly simple question is a broad and complex one. To keep it brief, we will focus on our main concerns.

First, characters can be defined as any human or non-human seeming creature depicted in cartoon form, not just ones that perform super or violent actions. We do not allow any of these because we are concerned about the commercial exploitation of children. In our society, children are exposed daily to advertising in many different forms of media. This makes them particularly vulnerable to commercial exploitation by corporations which make vast amounts of money by explicitly marketing products to children. Research has shown that children who are exposed to commercials and advertisements often become more materialistic. This exposure can also result in children, especially girls, developing a negative body image.

Just think about what happens after a popular Disney movie is released — suddenly in every store there are toys, games, dress up costumes, pajamas, socks, underwear, swim wear, towels, lunch boxes, bottles, bags, shoes, slippers, pens, pencils, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and more all emblazoned with the characters of the latest movie. Then Halloween arrives and everyone wants to be dressed like one of their favorite characters from the latest movie and they all look the same. Last year’s characters are old and need to be replaced with the newest fad, contributing to our “throw away” culture.

At One World Montessori, we believe in the uniqueness of each individual child. We want to encourage the children to find their own means of self-expression and sense of self. True self-expression is creativity that comes from within the child, not the imitation of stories created by adults who are exploiting the children for commercial purposes. We also wish to foster reusing, recycling, and being satisfied with what we have rather than throwing things away and always needing something new, something more.

Secondly, during the period of the absorbent mind, children are not yet capable of consistently discriminating between fantasy and reality. They often confuse what “super hero” characters can do with what is really possible. Children have seriously injured themselves when attempting to imitate super human actions. These “super heroes” also often resolve problems through the use of violence, so the children, in imitating this behavior, can injure others.

Another concern is regarding role models. Good role models are especially important to children of all ages. At One World Montessori, we believe in exposing our children to real “super heroes.” We talk about people like Maria Montessori, Malala Yousafzai, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Jane Goodall and many more. We talk about how these people used their human “super powers” of kindness, love, justice, integrity and courage to make a difference in our world. We all have powers within us and we can contribute in our unique way to make the world a more peaceful, loving, kind and fair place for all.