Today is Sesame Street’s birthday. Back in 1969, children were exposed to blocks of information given in short bursts playing to their short, not yet developed, attention span. This concept was, and today still is, hailed as a grand achievement. In her interview with The Old Man, Dominique is exposed to a different opinion about the much celebrated show and the havoc it may have spawned.
What follows is an excerpt from One Day I Was..
The Old Man paused.
“As an example, let us not forget one of the most profoundly detrimental initiatives, done in the name of education — The Corporation for Public Broadcasting. By funneling tax dollars, at the direction of the so-called intellectual elites, we have done a great deal of harm to children and thus society.”
“So, you are telling me that shows like Sesame Street and Electric Company are not educational?”
“Far from it. Why do you think that today’s children have problems with attention?”
“No one has said for sure?”
“There are many components, but a major contribution to it is often ignored — the rise and popularity of these forward thinking and progressive educational shows that were developed and then promulgated through Public Broadcasting. Shows like Electric Company took the approach that since a child’s, their target audience, attention span was very short, they would establish a continuing trend that sought to play to that child’s short attention span. The theory being that the child will learn more by being exposed to more in short incremental bursts. What really occurred was that over time, the child’s, and often times now the adult’s, attention span was never fully developed. The brain, like any other part of the body, must be exercised. You have developed and continue to maintain a fit body through rigorous exercise — because we all are aware it isn’t your diet.”
The Old Man paused.
Dominique just gave him a look.
He continued, “Well, in the days before the Great Society, education was geared toward developing the brain. Terms that have fallen out of fashion like memorization were no longer allowed to be used. Instead of pushing further, educational programming and eventually schools, coddled. Instead of communities developing and funding schools, the centralized government provided money and then requirements. Instead of teaching for the betterment of the person, schools now teach students to pass a standardized test.
What is the purpose of this standardized testing? Nothing more than maintaining or increasing a school district’s funding which in turn, has led to the United States’ worldwide decline in education.” The Old Man finished his sentence and shook his head in disgust.
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I write of the damaged and broken, because that is the norm. For each person who overcomes their demons, there are hundreds, if not thousands, who do not.