Forget Big Bird: Why I Don't Like Sesame Street
I Capture the Rowhouse had a great post recently lamenting the replacement of shows like Reading Rainbow with Super Why on PBS. I’ve thought about this issue for days, which is 1) proof that I’m crazy, and 2) proof that I spend way too much time analyzing children’s television. But the part of my brain that is a Kindergarten teacher won’t let the issue go.
I think this programing change represents the pedagogy pendulum shifting from Whole Language to Phonics. When Whole Language was in power, we had shows like Reading Rainbow, Wishbone, and Between the Lions. Now that Phonics is back in fashion, we have Super Why and the new Electric Company (both of which I think are brilliant). But we also have Word World, which I’m not too keen on.
I’m a Balanced Literary Instruction teacher, which means that I think we should take the best aspects of both Whole Language and Phonics to help get children reading. So in my ideal world, Reading Rainbow would be back on television right next to Super Why.
The one PBS show that really bugs me is the sacred cow of them all: Sesame Street. (shock! gasp! horror!) I only let my daughter watch Sesame Street if I need electronic daycare. On hold with the phone company? Canning peaches? Mommy’s got a migraine? Sure, let’s watch Elmo.
What’s my beef with Sesame Street? One measly paragraph would not do this justice, so here’s a full list:
- Sesame Street devotes a whole hour to only teaching one letter and one number.
- It’s a one hour advertisement that makes children want to buy Elmo products.
- The editing has sped up over the years from 4 to 8 cuts per minute meaning that children don’t have to pay attention as long.
- A little bit of Social Emotional Learning takes place, but nothing that could beat fifteen minutes spent at the park.
- The rate of language and spoken words had declined over the years from 175 to 139 words per minute.
- There is way too much “filler,” like the intro to Elmo’s World, the intro to Abby’s Flying Fairy School, the intro to the Murray segment, etc.
- Abby Caddaby. She deserves to be her own line item!
If you compare the learning that results from one hour of Sesame Street to one half hour of Leap Frog Letter Factory, you will be shocked. Why put your kid in front of the television for a whole hour for them to learn one letter, when then could learn the whole alphabet in thirty minutes?
It also really bugs me how Sesame Street spends so much energy trying to incorporate adult jokes and actors that kids don’t know about. How does a two-year-old say “Big whoop?”
I don’t know, but I sure as heck know how a kid says “Buy me Elmo diapers! Buy me Elmo pajamas! Buy me Elmo blah, blah, blah…”
No thank you. But then next time I see a book with the Reading Rainbow stamp on it, I’ll whip out my credit card.
Photo Credit: moonlightbulb.