The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Controversy over ‘Sesame Street’

David Taintor

If Disney World and Disney Land weren’t enough, next year you can drive over to Pennsylvania and hop onto Grover’s World Twirl and Ernie’s Bed Bounce and tackle Cookie Mountain. Yes, now even “Sesame Street” has its own theme park – Sesame Place.

As much flak as the show gets, I still love it just as much as I did when I was a toddler. If I ever have kids, I’d feel much more comfortable taking them to Sesame Place than I would to most other amusement parks.

The controversy over Cookie Monster’s transformation into a health-conscious creature is probably still the most maddening.

“A cookie is a sometimes food.” True, but Captain Vegetable had been on the “Sesame Street” scene since the early ’80s to teach us about eating healthy foods. Taking Cookie Monster’s cookies away also strips him of his identity in the eyes of children.

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The point of giving “Sesame Street” characters vices is to teach children with them. Take Bert’s short-temper and Oscar’s general grouchiness. They were realistic and taught children about manners and how to get along with each other.

Cookie Monster eats a lot of cookies, yes, but part of that was also comic relief. The spray of crumbs was funny! And clearly an exaggeration. Even a child knows that. I don’t remember ever shoveling cookies into my mouth because Cookie Monster had done so.

TV isn’t a bad thing, and watching doesn’t necessarily make you lazy.

From the age of about two or three until I started grade school, I’d plop in front of the TV every day and watch for literally five-hour stretches at a time. But it was fun! They taught me new songs, how to draw a proportionate duck, how it hurts my friends’ feelings when I don’t share, and hell, they even helped me learn to speak English.

Most people don’t believe me when I say this, but it’s definitely true. I spoke Dutch until I was about two, and then we moved to Canada, so I had to switch over to English. I learned most, but not everything, from my family because I can still spell better than they can.

We lived on a farm, so my parents were already in the barn by the time I woke up, and my siblings are six to nine years older than me, so I spent most of my mornings entertaining myself while they were at school. So I talked to Big Bird, Grover and Snuffalupagus instead. Their Letter of the Day totally did the trick for me.

I even learned some French! The Canadian government’s rules for bilingual programming (bilingual everything, really) even applied to “Sesame Street.” Later, the show branched into Canada’s Sesame Park offshoot, so I got double the Sesame. Before you make any jokes, I’ll openly admit that the main characters were Louis (pronounced Louie, because he’s French) and Basil – an otter and a polar bear.

Children’s programming is such an effective educational tool because it tricks kids into learning everything from colors, shapes, numbers and words, to manners and appropriate social behavior. Not only that, but shows are typically organized by a large team of specialists who are experts on packaging education geared to children. One giant team has better odds of imparting more than two parents could alone. Of course there are anomalies, and there is such a thing as too much TV. But as long as a parent is also actively involved in the child’s development, TV is exactly what it was intended to be – an educational tool.

“Sesame Street” didn’t shape my views on gay marriage; I didn’t even know what that meant. It never occurred to me that Bert and Ernie were anything more than best friends; they just happened to live together. At the time, and even now, I would have loved to live with my best friend too.

“Sesame Street” also didn’t send me on a cookie or junk food binge into obesity, and it didn’t coerce me into living in a dumpster. Kids don’t care about political correctness. The only thing that ever really disappointed me was the realization that Elmo wasn’t actually a girl. Otherwise, I have no complaints.

The nice thing about “Sesame Street” and other children’s programming is that children can watch them at face value without getting any “terrible” ideas. That’s the beauty of innocence. We, the adults, are the ones who bastardized “Sesame Street” and other programs by finding meaning where there was none.

Boschma is a junior print journalism major and managing editor for The Spectator.

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Controversy over ‘Sesame Street’