Sesame Street Turns 40

Manila Bulletin, November 8, 2009 | Go to article overview

Sesame Street Turns 40


Los Angeles (dpa) — It has won over 100 Emmys, been shown in more than 125 countries and on Tuesday it will celebrate a rare achievement in an age of ever-shifting tastes: Sesame Street will be 40 years old Tuesday.''Sesame Street is one of the five most influential television shows of all time,'' says popular culture professor Bob Thompson of Syracuse University. ''It had an enormous social influence as well as artistic. In fact there's nothing like it on the air to this day.''The format of the show may have changed somewhat since that first historic broadcast on November 10, 1969, which itself was the result of extensive research that aimed to find the way of blending entertainment with education.The goal was to give children and their parents an alternative to the fun but mindless fare of children's television back then, shows that were often filled with violent episodes and were primarily designed not to teach kids, but to sell them things.Funded by grants from the Carnegie Institute and the federal government, the Children's Television Workshop used the latest knowledge of child development, psychology and preschool education to stimulate young viewers' minds, improve their letter recognition, math and problem-solving skills, and just as importantly teach them essential life skills needed to thrive in modern America.That goal established the new programme as one of the most progressive shows on US television.It was determined to appeal to underprivileged urban children and to create a muppet-inhabited world that reflected the reality those kids saw each day. Sesame Street was thus set in a gritty cityscape with rubbish bins on the street and African-American actors featuring prominently in the cast.The trick was that by using brilliant production techniques, the show taught children and their parents, without them even knowing.Forty years on, it's not too much of a stretch to argue that the liberal and tolerant approach the show inculcated in its viewers played an important role in bringing the United States to the point where it could elect an African-American as president. …

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