Youngsters

When I was a child I used to watch “Sesame Street” every chance I had. Those who know me know that Oscar the Grouch always has been – and most likely always will be – my favorite “Sesame Street” character. My wife’s – the very talented bestselling paranormal author Desiree Lee – favorite character on the show is the Count. Both of these characters have been on the show for decades. We have a year-old daughter. She now watch’s “Sesame Street”. It’s a bit surreal to me, still, to see my own child watching episodes of a TV show that my wife and I grew up with. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that something as innocent and educational as “Sesame Street” has such incredible staying power. It’s still strange for me, though, to see my own child watching a show that I was watching at her age. Her favorite characters are Elmo and Abby. Abby I typically don’t mind, though she can get on my nerves a bit at times. Elmo, though, I just find obnoxious. Not as much so as another character I won’t even bother mentioning here, but still… Anyway, those two – Abby and Elmo – are usually the characters who grab her attention.

A couple of years ago – well before our daughter was born – my wife and I dropped our satellite dish service. Since then we’ve been relying on Netflix and network websites to keep up with our shows. Netflix has a small selection of “Sesame Street” episodes from recent years. Our daughter had gone through all of those. We’ve started her off on the small group of old episodes that Netflix offers as “Sesame Street Classics”. The first couple of those that our daughter watched were from 1974. The collection then skips ahead a decade to 1984 from one episode to the next.

Watching “Sesame Street” episodes from the 1970s and 1980s with our daughter, we’ve noticed something. Our child pays far closer attention to the classic episodes, despite them lacking Elmo and Abby, than she does to the newer ones. The more recent episodes are brighter, and far more colorful than the classic episodes. Yet the older ones grab and hold her attention far better.

Why?

We started paying closer attention, too, and noticing the changes between the classic episodes, and the newer ones. Although the newer episodes are more vibrant, the classic episodes featured more children – more young people, laughing, singing, playing, and just generally having fun. One adult character on the show who’s no longer there – Bob – would sing songs to the children about how great, and wonderful, and smart they are. That’s all gone in the newer episodes, judging from the ones we’ve seen with our child. The animation in the classic episodes was hand-drawn. Some of it was sketchy, and jumpy, but it was hand-drawn. The animation in the newer episodes we’ve seen has all been CGI. Most of that has been designed to either look like animated clay figures, or something very close to the actual Muppet look of the puppet characters.

As I’m writing this, I’ve not taken the time to research anything I’m about to ask, or say. This is all off the top of my head, stream of consciousness type of thing. Scared yet? As Yoda said, “You will be… You will be…”

How many children are in school these days that struggle to read, write, do basic math, and other simple academic things? How many of those children, even high school students, watch, or watched, “Sesame Street”? Were they watching the old, classic, episodes? Or were they watching the new ones?

From what Desiree and I have seen, “Sesame Street” isn’t the educational tool that it once was. Now, it mostly seems to be all about marketing. Elmo and Abby are popular? Give them tons of screen-time, so that children will beg their parents to buy Abby and Elmo plush figures, and other officially licensed “Sesame Street” toys. Elmo and Abby seem to dominate the show in recent episodes. Most of the teaching aspects of the show seems to have been tossed aside to make room for subtle marketing ploys.

How many struggling school children watched “Sesame Street” in recent years, their parents plopping them in front of the TV set, thinking they were helping their children with an educational “head start”, only to have those children learn little to nothing from the show? How many of us grew up watching the classic “Sesame Street” episodes, and actually learned a lot that we took with us into our academic careers throughout school? Has any sort of study on this connection ever been done? If so, I’d very much like to see the results. If not, I’d very much like for someone to undertake that study.

Personally, I would love to see a return to the smarter, classic “Sesame Street” for children. I’d also love to see “3-2-1 Contact” and “The Electric Company” back on the air, too. Growing up, I loved those shows! So did Desiree. Now, even the so-called “educational” programming seems to be more about making money, than actually imparting knowledge to young children.

What does everyone else think of this matter?

Scott Harper

www.scottharper.net

Advertisements
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: