Friday, February 08, 2013

DUSO the Dolphin - Teaching Toy or TOOL OF THE DEVIL?!

First off, spoiler alert: teaching toy.

I have just done some research after spontaneously remembering this dolphin puppet that was occasionally brought out when I was in school - apparently kindergarten, though my memory may be hazy because of Satanic programming rituals. DUSO stands for "Developing an Understanding of Self and Others", which I certainly never knew until just now and even as a child, always assumed it was some sort of dum grown-up pun. I think I like my definition better.

At any rate, I remember it being a furry dolphin puppet, and looking at some of the pictures I found, such as the one I'm reposting here without permission, because I'm a lazy thief, I also do have a vague recollection of how unsettled I was by just how abjectly ugly and frightening DUSO was. It's not like people had never seen a dolphin, but like they intentionally refused to make him resemble a normal animal, and instead placed a wildly staring single eye at the very corner of his mouth. Turns out that's ... "sort of" where a real dolphin's eyes are location, if instead of a ruler to measure things, you use a dozen mashed peas. I think he really looks so weird because his body is "comically" out of proportion and he always (and still does) looked much more like a shark to me than a dolphin. DUSO looks as much like a dolphin as Dane Cook is a comedian. But I guess I'm veering off my point.

DUSO was developed as an educational development tool, to share storties and sort of kid-friendly analogies about various things like sharing and conflict resolution, imagination - the kinds of things pretty much all teaching and educational courses and television shows have always done in one form or another. What I found to my surprise, however, is that there has been a low-key but persistent anti-DUSO movement, maybe since he first appeared. So this package, pictured below: somehow a threat to our kids. I found a few various sites that speak out against this marine master of deception that is DUSO, but one of the ones that caught my eye had an article on entitled, "DUSO - Drowning in a New Age Sea", an article from 1993, which shows just how far back this goes.

In this article, I came across this shocking expose about text from the DUSO kit:

A few pages later, under the heading Guided Fantasy Activities, the manual explains, "Following a brief introduction, the teacher asks the children to find a place on the floor where they can lie down or to put their heads down on their desk. The Sophie puppet is used with the recording to present a relaxation exercise" (DUSO Revised 1, pp. 8, 19).

And the concerned reply: "Do parents really send their children to school to have the child's make-believe ability enhanced or to learn relaxation exercises? What do guided fantasies have to do with quality education?"

Well, maybe you don't send them to school specifically for those purposes, but they're using the words "make-believe" and "relaxation exercises" like they would "porn rehearsal" and "genocide-enrichment". I mean, sure, on one hand, yeah, you're sending your kids to school, which is a place to teach things, for the children to learn - but then again, it's freaking kindergarten! And the are learning!

It's not like they're just willy-nilly running all over the place with a pair of pinking shears and a syringe full of liquid pop-rocks while pretending to be Spongebob; they are learning guided imagery and imagination, how to focus their attention, even when imagining, and bringing that powerful tool under their own control, which is where creativity and invention can come from. They're learning to relax, in the proper sense of the word, to lie still, quiet themselves, and realize there are times to enjoy silence and replenish your energy, and to calm yourself if you're too hyped up.

I'm not sure how the people that write these hatchet-jobs on things like DUSO can look through these books, and somehow miss the entire intent. Maybe they weren't good students themselves and couldn't get the hang of reading for context or following the subject. Their particular problems would be hard to pin down, as criticizing a fuzzy puppet dolphin teaching children to imagine and relax and solve problems as a tool to turn children into crystal-gazing starchild Scientologists requires an imagination I don't think even the best DUSO adherent could possess.

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