Those who feel the Obamas are indoctrinating our children will not be happy with Sesame Street's 40th anniversary guest: the First Lady. This comes shortly after the veteran kids' show made waves for trashing Fox News:
I wasn't allowed to watch Sesame Street - only Mister Rogers in fact - because my mom had read somewhere that the editing techniques shortened attention span. As a result, I always thought of it as a naughty treat to be snuck in secret at friends' houses. (This was later relaxed after it developed that 'Maria' lived in our neighborhood and I was starstruck.) I wonder if that's how conservative kids think about it now. Although the controversial episode ran in 2008, there's recently been a dust-up about a segment in which Oscar the Grouch makes a crack about "Pox News" ("Now there's a trashy news show!") that has come to the attention of the conservative blogosphere. (Although the scene is so confusing and chaotic that I'm amazed anyone noticed - was it always like that? Maybe it's my attention span.) Indeed, the outcry has been enough that PBS' ombudsman has weighed in, saying,
I don't know what was in the head of the producers, but my guess is that this was one of those parodies that was too good to resist. But it should have been resisted. Broadcasters can tell parents whatever they think of Fox or any other network, but you shouldn't do it through the kids.
Yup. It's especially unfortunate timing, because it politicizes Mrs. Obama's appearance, in which she'll promote her healthy-eating message. As the NY Times describes the upcoming episode,
Mrs. Obama's message on the anniversary episode isn't an exhortation to future soldiers, scientists and presidents to be all that they can be, but to tiny consumers to eat the freshest food they can find. "Veggies taste so good when they come fresh from the garden, don't they?" Mrs. Obama tells a rainbow coalition of children gathered around a soil tray, an echo of her White House kitchen garden. "If you eat all these healthy foods, you are going to grow up to be big and strong," Mrs. Obama says, flexing her fists. "Just like me."
Now, you could certainly argue that since any such joke goes over a kid's head, and it probably does. But the truth is, we live in a politicized world and, while Sesame Street has always been an aspirational nirvana - and, plenty would add, Free to be You and Me progressive - it can be that, philosophically, only by keeping their genuine care for kids' learning at the forefront. If it justifies critics' claims of politicization, well then, some kids are going to miss out on its valuable lessons in the process. And playing into O'Reilly's hands isn't a lesson any kid needs.
Grouch Trashes Fox News [YouTube]
PBS Ombud: Sesame Street Producers Should Have Resisted 'Pox News' Joke [Politico]
Michelle Obama Guest Stars on Sesame Street [Wall Street Journal]
Same Street, Different World: ‘Sesame' Turns 40 [NY Times]
To Get To Sesame Street, Hang A Left, Says One Blogger [NY Times]