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Sesamestreet
Sesamestreet
Sesamestreet
Sesamestreet
Sesamestreet
Sesamestreet
Sesamestreet
Sesamestreet
Sesamestreet
Sesamestreet
Sesamestreet
Sesamestreet
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Sesamestreet

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  • 1. How We Got to Sesame Street (sorry, I had to) 2.27.12
  • 2. Plan of Lecture <ul><li>Historical Circumstances (Macro) Leading Up to Sesame Street </li></ul><ul><li>Historical Circumstances (Field of Children’s TV) Leading Up to the Street </li></ul><ul><li>Joan Ganz Cooney’s Idea </li></ul><ul><li>How CTW Planned Sesame Street </li></ul><ul><li>The Show’s Format </li></ul><ul><li>Talking Race on Sesame Street </li></ul><ul><li>Reactions (Part 1: Race, Gender, Identity) </li></ul><ul><li>Reactions (Part 2: Educative Value) </li></ul><ul><li>Contemporary Views </li></ul>
  • 3. Historical Circumstances <ul><li>Civil rights, awareness of racial inequities </li></ul><ul><li>Nationwide concern over poverty: Michael Harrington’s The Other America , pub. 1962; Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action,” position paper pub. 1965 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Concern for financial/material/educational situation of Af-Ams mingled with problematically racist assessments: “culture of poverty” (Harrington); “tangle of pathology” of Af-Am family (Moynihan) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Johnson’s War on Poverty: First proposed in State of the Union address in 1964; Economic Opportunity Act passed that year </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Established Office of Economic Opportunity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>OEO administered Job Corps, Legal Services, Community Action Program </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>For our purposes, Head Start is the most important result. Est. 1965, as a summer program; now one of the longest-running social service programs in the US </li></ul></ul>
  • 4. Sesame Street’s Intervention in Kids’ TV <ul><li>1961: Newton Minow, head of the FCC, issues wakeup call to broadcasters: “TV is a vast wasteland” </li></ul><ul><li>Some precursors to SS: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Ding Dong School” (“The Nursery School of the Air”), 1952-1956 - later condemned for commercialism ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62A-Homjvzs ) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Captain Kangaroo” (1955-1984) – did a better job of controlling “sponsorship,” perhaps because of lower ratings expectations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” (1968-2001) – originally a Canadian show – distributed by National Educational Television (NET) and designed to be developmentally appropriate </li></ul></ul>
  • 5. Joan Ganz Cooney (b. 1929)
  • 6. Test Subjects, Feedback, Planning
  • 7. Format <ul><li>“ Magazine-style” – inspired by Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In , then popular in primetime </li></ul><ul><li>Cartoons </li></ul><ul><li>“ Commercials” </li></ul><ul><li>Lots of songs (“J Friends”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4bJgTd72AE ) </li></ul><ul><li>Balance of adults and puppets (at first, no child actors) </li></ul><ul><li>Promotion of interactivity: James Earl Jones’ Alphabet http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJ6WwC174Yc </li></ul>
  • 8. Race in Sesame Street <ul><li>Gordon and Susan Robinson </li></ul><ul><li>Oscar the Grouch </li></ul><ul><li>Roosevelt Franklin – Days of the Week: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_PLsYSTRHDg&feature=related </li></ul><ul><li>Roosevelt Franklin - Africa: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOP0U03BdSg </li></ul>
  • 9. Critiques from Af-Am/Latino Groups <ul><li>Oscar the Grouch: Some black viewers thought the program socialized children to submit to their situation (“That cat who lives in the garbage can should be out demonstrating and turning over every institution, even Sesame Street , to get out of it” – a day care director [Morrow, 153]) </li></ul><ul><li>Roosevelt Franklin was a caricature </li></ul><ul><li>Asked for feedback after the first few seasons, Latino activists told Cooney in 1971 that the bilingual parts of show “were of poor quality and seemed patronizing” </li></ul>
  • 10. How Long Can You Hold Your Arm Up?
  • 11. But Is It “Educational”? <ul><li>Marie Winn, The Plug-In Drug (1977): It doesn’t matter whether Sesame Street has stellar content; it’s still bad for kids to watch TV </li></ul><ul><li>Some educators cited the show’s style as anti-educative: Minnie Perrin Berson “objected to the cartoons, slapstick, and ‘high key of pound-it-in didacticism’” (Morrow, p 144) </li></ul><ul><li>Head Start pulled its funding, citing research by Herbert A. Sprigle: “There are simply no short cuts through the problems of educating poverty [sic] children…Sesame Street and other programs with surface appearances of education may be thrust at the public as easy answers to a complicated problem” (Morrow, p 147) </li></ul><ul><li>Regardless , Sesame Street was Exhibit A for “Positive TV” for Action for Children’s Television, advocacy group formed in 1968 </li></ul>
  • 12. Present-Day Sesame Talk <ul><li>Conservative Critiques: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Ypsojc5vFg&feature=player_embedded </li></ul><ul><li>“ I Love My Hair”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=enpFde5rgmw </li></ul><ul><li>Chappelle on the Street and Kindness (if we have time!): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVW-FB1q8FM </li></ul>
  • 13. References <ul><li>5 Years, My Brain Hurts A Lot. “Roosevelt Franklin Playlist.” YouTube , n.d. http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL6A5659A78D980183. </li></ul><ul><li>Davis, Michael. Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street . New York: Viking, 2008. </li></ul><ul><li>Isserman, Maurice. “Michael Harrington: Warrior on Poverty.” The New York Times , June 21, 2009, sec. Books / Sunday Book Review. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/21/books/review/Isserman-t.html. </li></ul><ul><li>King, Jamilah. “Critics Accuse Sesame Street of ‘Anti-Conservative Bias’.” Colorlines , June 3, 2011. http://colorlines.com/archives/2011/06/sesame_street.html . </li></ul><ul><li>Minow, Newton N. “Television and the Public Interest.” May 9, 1961. http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/newtonminow.htm. </li></ul><ul><li>Morrow, Robert W. Sesame Street and the Reform of Children’s Television . Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005. </li></ul><ul><li>United States Department of Labor. “The Negro Family - The Case for National Action.” U.S. Department of Labor Official Website , March 1965. http://www.dol.gov/oasam/programs/history/webid-meynihan.htm . </li></ul><ul><li>Winn, Marie. The Plug-in Drug . New York: Viking Press, 1977. </li></ul>

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