Sesame Street

July 2007

I don’t let my kids watch Sesame Street. Why? Good question. We don’t watch much TV at our house, we get the Prairie Package: Fox, CBS, NBC, ABC and PBS. Since I don’t watch soap operas, women gossiping, or people suing or exploiting each other for entertainment, the TV sits off until Jeopardy comes on at 4:30, (although I have been known to sneak in a little Rachel Ray). I do let the kids watch TV for a while during the day, a half hour here and there, usually when we are eating lunch, or when I need a diversionary ploy. The TV is not on for noise at our house.

Back to Sesame Street. It was great when I was a kid, in fact my brother learned to read by watching Sesame Street before he went to Kindergarten. The program has changed though, and not for the better. The first half isn’t so bad, but the second half, the half aimed at younger children, specifically Elmo’s World, is lousy. Although we don’t know what causes autism, it is widely assumed that children should not watch things that “flash”. The whole premise behind Elmo’s scenery is flashing and throbbing. Several other segments like “one of these things doesn’t belong here” flash as well.

The other thing that offends me about Elmo’s World is that when Elmo wants to learn about something, for example music, he asks Mr. Noodle, who is silly but harmless, then he watches “the music channel” on a TV then he asks a baby. I don’t see anything specifically wrong with these things, but as an adult, I would not be able to learn anything useful from these sources, even a grade school child would not learn anything from these sources. Apparently the Sesame Street neighborhood lacks the basic fundamental of learning, a library. As annoying as he can be, at least Barney has a library card.

(2023 side note: One day Lydia Mae came to me in the kitchen and very solemnly said, “In Germany sometimes women wear a dirndl for special occasions.” I was floored. Then I went to a dictionary to look up dirndl. Sure enough, Lydia was right. Where did she learn this? Several weeks later I was walking past the living room and there was Barney’s Colorful World, and Barney was explaining just that same thing in those same words.)

Personally, I love Curious George. He has a great personality, he doesn’t speak English, and the show focuses on his imagination and how he learns through trial and error. I also love Mr. Rogers, and so do my kids. He isn’t flashy and modern, but he is engaging and interesting, his program provides the kind of television environment a young child should expect. George and Fred have both visited the library, although George didn’t go there to look at a book.

Barney is a little sappy, but also good. I don’t mind Clifford or Calliou either, although we don’t watch them as much. I wish these things were on Saturday mornings. What passes for children’s programming Saturday mornings is awful, and what isn’t is very scattered. I don’t mind Babar or Veggie Tales, but finding them and having the TV off in between isn’t easy. We either leave the set off or watch a movie. There is nothing wrong with having the TV off, but sometimes I just want the kids somewhere that doesn’t involve being under my feet.

I now take an active role in my children’s television viewing. When my oldest child was a few months old, I wanted to mop the floor, so I put her in a swing, in the living room and turned on Saturday morning TV then left for the kitchen. When I got done mopping and went to get her, she was watching some kind of skanky women’s wrestling. I felt horrible for exposing her to such programming, but I atoned by setting aside a special “counseling account” for her.

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