September 8, 2014 by Debra Gittler


Tomorrow is El Día del Niño/a in El Salvador. The Day of the Child.

Three years ago, just as we started planning the Santa Tecla Library (Biblioteca Infantil Tecleña: La BIT), the municipality was getting ready for the celebration of El Día del Niño.

“We’ll have events in the street…” explained an educational leader. “We’ll have snacks, a parade, a payaso educativo…” An Education Clown.

And I suspect that tomorrow, thousands of kids in El Salvador will be celebrated with snacks, costumes, games. And educational clowns.

These aren’t just circus clowns meant to provoke laughter and entertain. They are meant to distract children from the boredom of learning with silly tricks. And that’s the problem: the underlying assumption is that learning is boring. But we don’t make learning fun by hiding it under a bulbous red nose and too-big shoes; it’s human nature to seek knowledge and crave understanding.

And the other assumption is that kids are too naïve to not see through this charade. That they are inherently not bright; that they are empty vessels to be filled and distracted. But kids, we know, have a wealth of information and insight.

The Educational Clowns don’t distract kids as a means to educate them; these clowns teach kids that learning is dull and that children are expected to be passive and docile.

El Día del Niño doesn’t have to be a day to just entertain kids, but a day to engage them.

I hope tomorrow, that instead of parades and charades, we see thousands of Salvadoran kids in the streets, demanding changes to benefit them and the future. They should be leading an army of adults who encourage these young people as active thinkers and engaged learners.

Education has become enough of a circus. We don’t need acrobatics and certainly don’t need any more clowns. We just need to remember what it’s like to see the world through a child’s eyes: a world filled with possibility and magic.

Debra Gittler
Founder and Executive Director

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