Today is the 40th anniversary of the groundbreaking children’s television show Sesame Street. Marking this moment, and reiterating a commitment to education that was sorely lacking from the White House rhetoric in the past 8 years, First Lady Obama will be on the show today.
Billy Idol Tribute “Rebel L”
In a transparent move, Fox News wants to vilify the show b/c Oscar the grouch was in a skit in which both his fake news channel Garbage News Network and fake Pox News were referred to as “trashy.” This skit originally aired over a year ago w/out comment from either channel. The timing of Fox News’ complaint is clearly about discrediting the Obamas and continuing the Republican thread of “indoctrination from the White House” by once again targeting programming that encourages learning. 4 or more generations of children have grown up with Sesame Street without any major concern about partisanship until now, the complaint is obviously ridiculous. Worse, anyone who has ever watched Sesame knows that ‘trashy” in this context was a double entendre that children will interpret in only one way:
Sesame is not about politics but rather culturally relevant education and entertainment. It’s reach is globally, airing in translation all around the world. It has also inspired multiple other educational based children’s television in the U.S. and abroad; my personal favorite is Salsa which airs in the Southwest and in some areas of Latin America and is a Sesame Street style show with Latin@ specific cultural references.
Other shows more clearly tied to a time period or political message (or the political decision of dumbing down our youth) have come and gone, but Sesame is still with us.
And like the President’s speech on education earlier this year, that Republicans also created a huge “indoctrination” scare around, Sesame Street’s goal is to help children commit to and find joy in learning. Sesame not only teaches math and reading, it also teaches important social skills, encourages health (anyone else remember Snuffy working out to Jane Snuffleupagus?), and how to talk about & address your feelings.
If you scroll to the bottom of this post, you will also see that they have always made cultural references that make the show relevant to all ages watching, so you can put it on with older kids or adults in the room without driving them crazy the way that purple dino used to do.
So for everyone who understands parody and supports children learning in a fun and entertaining way, let’s celebrate this day together with some clips:
“La La La … L lights up your face”
“Near and Far”
Harry is Sad
City and Country Equally Good
And for all you 80s folks who read the blog, who could forget
Madonna Tribute “Cereal Girl”
And for you “70s folks” who read the blog, can anyone top
Springsteen Tribute “Born to Add”
Prefer Disco? (I used to sing this one to my little sister while dancing her around the living room; and yes we did own the Sesame Street Fever record):
Sesame Street’s 40th anniversary is a testament to what television gets right: providing entertaining, relevant, educational programming especially to children who may be under-served in their schools. Perhaps its most controversial act was daring to show a multicultural, multi-lingual cast that would appeal to children across socio-economic, linguistic, and racial backgrounds, something that does in fact frighten the folks at Fox News but is needed as much today as it was 40 years ago.
The show has never been about targeting or indoctrinating children. If we want to have a discussion about those issues, we need to turn the focus on to Republicans who have twice targeted the Obama girls’ school for political actions (first a pro-life rally in Sept. & now a tax/hcr tea bag protest yesterday that stopped traffic in the area). Both these acts intentionally targeted innocent children and made them potential problems in the eyes of the school administrators in order to vilify their father. Or perhaps, we could look at the ongoing work of Texas owned textbook companies and their successful attempts to remove liberal, radical, and socio-cultural history (including women’s rights) from text books. They have systematically removed references to some of the greatest leaders for social justice this country has ever known and down played inequality and violence against marginalized people (including the working class) with little consequence. These are the acts of indoctrination aimed at our children not a simple show that reminds us how much fun bath time is:
Happy 40th Sesame Street and thanks for all you do!
I can only hope Sesame Street is still on if and when my partner and I have children.