11.10.2009

Why little Nigel will never watch Sesame Street.

If you happened to use Google anytime this past week, you might have noticed that the Big Bird feet turned into an "L", the Oscar the Grouch "O" or a variety of other Sesame Street themed Google icons. I thought that was a little premature because the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street is actually today. It's also excessive and annoying.

But since Sesame Street has been around for such a long time, it seems safe to say that it will probably be around when our little one reaches the preschool years. But he/she won't be watching it. I really don't like Sesame Street. I once mentioned that casually and the person looked at me like I was crazy - why not, they asked. Is it because of Bert and Ernie, because that's kind of ridiculous. Well, blog readers, rest assured that it is not because of Bert and Ernie. In fact, it actually has nothing to do with content at all. I'm not particularly worried about the content of TV shows aimed at two-year-olds. Now TV shows aimed at 5-7 year-olds? Yeah, those have tons of stuff our family will consider "inappropriate," but if you can't tie your shoes, you probably will be missing anything too "bad" even if it is there.

Sesame Street has been a thorn in my side for a number of years because I hate the way it is designed. Someone 40 years ago had this great epiphany - why, two-year-olds have really short attention spans so let's feed them information in 30-second tidbits. They will love our show! And that way by the time they are four, they will still have 30-second attention spans and be used to getting entertained that way. Oh wait, that doesn't sound good, but let's not worry about that because the information we include will be "educational." Parents can't object to the alphabet, can they?

Now, I understand that 2-year-olds have short attention spans. That's normal. But I want to teach my kids to have longer and longer attention spans over time. And yes, long is relative. But if you keep feeding kids information in the length of time they like best, we will end up in a world where graduate students can't make in through a 50-minute lecture without whipping open their laptop and playing around on Facebook. Hmm...does that sound familiar?

Just compare the exposure a kid gets to the alphabet by Sesame Street to books. Now reading a book to a toddler is like playing with flashcards, you don't even have time to focus on the words before they flip the page on you. But you can at least name words "flower, dog...the end." Pretty soon you can start actually talking about what is happening in the pictures "oh, look, the pokey little puppy is smelling the flower" before they flip the page. And somehow, miraculously, you get to the point where you can actually read the story. Progression, it's a good thing.

It probably isn't fair to compare books to TV since books are such a great medium for learning and TV, well, isn't. Which brings me to my second problem with Sesame Street. I think in general most people believe the first sentence of this paragraph to be true - except when it comes to Sesame Street! Somehow Sesame Street is considered to be this great educational tool instead of what it is - a TV show. There are probably many other kids shows that are just as ADD as Sesame Street, but not only am I not aware of them, I don't have to be subjected to hearing about their greatness all the time. It's everywhere. Google, newspaper articles, even the National 4th of July show was riddled with Sesame Street propaganda. But not my child, oh no, I don't want my toddler thinking it is grammatically correct to refer to yourself in the third person, even if that person is red and furry.

And as much as I'd like to say our kids will never watch TV, I'm not that naive. I'll try to limit it, but I also like to shower, so compromises might have to be made. So I will pick a show that will at least try to keep their attention on one story line for 10-15 minutes and I won't be doing it under the pretense that I am "educating" them, I will just admit that Mommy needs a break.

5 comments:

aggierudy3 said...

Way to go after the sacred cow! Sesame Street will probably have to go on my lengthening list of "Things I loved as a kid that Susanna will just have to go without." Also on the list: Waffles with ice cream and sprinkles for breakfast, no bedtime, Murphy Brown, and too many movies to name that I now realize are immoral, anti-God, or just plain silly.

Rachel said...

Hmm. I can't decide. On the one hand, I think most of your problems with Sesame Street are really problems with TV in general. TV, like almost everything, is fine in moderation. And I did learn stuff from TV when I was a kid, although probably not until I was older than (or on the tail end of) Sesame Street's demographic. As far as TV shows for little kids go, I'd still bet that Sesame Street is better for kids than most of the stuff out there, since it's about niceness and letters.

On the other hand, it's probably not enough better to justify ALL the celebration stuff everybody's been doing. (Especially since it's just 40. What's left to bust out in ten years?) Also, my mom has told me that me and my sister didn't really care about Sesame Street. I knew of it, certainly, but I wasn't one of those kids who learned to tell time in a rudimentary way just to know when it was on. So I don't have an investment in either opinion, really. Finally, I LOATHE Elmo. I hate him with the fire of a thousand suns.

(Grover, though--I like Grover.)

MacKenzie said...

AR - My mom occasionally made us waffles with cherry pie filling and whipped cream for dinner. As completely unhealthy as that is, I don't think it is a tradition I am willing to give up.

Rachel - I think you're right, it's not that Sesame Street is any worse than other shows that are on now, it's just that it has gotten lumped in with Baby Einstein (well, before Baby Einstein become the devil that is) with "miraculously wonderful things for your child"! If it was just considered another show, it probably wouldn't get on my nerves so much. But I love Grover too. And Guy Smiley.

Oh, and our kid won't be watching Caillou either but now for any great reason. I just find his voice annoying and creepy.

Amanda said...

I know I watched Sesame Street, but I don't remember much from it. I liked reading rainbow and mr rogers neighborhood better, I think. (elmo is the devil, I think that's why he's red)

Karen@Candid Diversions said...

Good thoughts. We let our girls watch videos and I know they've watched a few Sesame Street over the years but it was never a favorite. I drew the line at "Elmo's World". An entire show of the most annoying muppet? No thanks.

One of my major problems with kids TV (after actual content) is the materialism promoted. And I'm not just talking about commercials (which we skip by only watching DVDs) but the "Mommy, look! A Blue's Clues backpack! I need that! Blue's Clues is my favorite!" variety.

Enough is enough.

On the other hand, I did watch Sesame Street as a kid, and my attention span is just fine. Anecdotal evidence for you there. ;)

My husband is concerned about the social-conflict issues taught by so many kids' shows. He's forbidden Dora the Explorer, for example, and, most recently, Arthur. His concern is that shows spend 25 minutes on the conflict and 5 minutes on the resolution and therefore our children learn much more about conflict than resolution.

There's just so much to pray and think about as a parent!