An Engaging Pedagogy “Sesame Street”

“Sesame Street” undermines what the traditional idea of schooling represents.” When I read this statement of Neil Postman, I wanted to read what he had to say about the different forms of education prevailing throughout the history. The reason was also because I was intrigued by his article- Postman, N. (1998). Five things we need to know about technological change. http://Recuperado de http://www. sdca. org/sermons_ mp3/2012/121229_postman_5Things. pdf.

So when I started reading the back ground for: “Sesame Street” undermines what the traditional idea of schooling represents.” I was amusingly-interested in reading the backdrop of this book, the works of Marshall McLuhan and Neil postman; both the writers felt that media has the potential to bring about change, however their perspectives differed. For Mc Luhan, his “the medium is the message” approach emphasized qualities of media and technologies with their varied repercussions on human perception and behavior. Postman critiqued how media was affecting cultural and educational theory. He was concerned with the effect of television, and its impact on education, public discourse, and the erosion of critical thinking skills. McLuhan spoke about the transformative potential of new media technologies. He believed that technological innovations, including television, had the power to reshape society and create new forms of communication and community. Postman’s idea of Classroom was that of a place of interaction whereas it was becoming a space in front of the TV. The two significant concepts mentioned here are:  there’s the shift of responsibility from human educators to an entertainment medium. Secondly, there’s the shift from a social learning environment, like the classroom, to a solitary one, in front of a screen. Over three decades later, these issues remain unchanged. Whereas skimming through the various works of Postman- Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology” (1992), “The Disappearance of Childhood” (1982), I felt Postman was more skeptical of the impact of television and other media technologies. He warned against the uncritical adoption of technology and argued that certain forms of media, particularly television, were contributing to the erosion of traditional forms of knowledge and critical thinking.

Postman’s 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in today’s world is bound to lose the lustre. In our everyday life as we wake up the smartphone has many apps to take care of our time, workout, To do’s, health, travel, so on and so forth. Segregating technology from today’s world means separation from the world.

One thing I do agree with Postman is that: “Parents need to regulate how much time their children can watch television and what they can watch, what films they can see and even what records they can have. They must talk to their children a lot about what they are exposed to in these media. If parents are paying considerable attention to what’s happening, then I think it’s possible to provide children with a childhood.

But, if you are too busy or your life circumstances, for whatever reason, don’t permit that, then NBC, CBS, Steven Spielberg, Coca-Cola, and Procter and Gamble will simply do the job.”

Postman continues:

This does not mean that “Sesame Street” is not educational. It is, in fact, nothing but educational—in the sense that every television show is educational. Just as reading a book—any kind of book —promotes a particular orientation toward learning, watching a television show does the same. “The Little House on the Prairie,” “Cheers” and “The Tonight Show” are as effective as “Sesame Street” in promoting what might be called the television style of learning. And this style of learning is, by its nature, hostile to what has been called book-learning or its handmaiden, school-learning. (p. 144)

If against this backdrop we view the contemporary world, how knowledge is imparted, how learning happens, especially after the onslaught of IOT, connectivity and then Pandemic; we can practically operate, learn, and educate ourselves with media being the prominent factor. I feel the key to calibrating what works what doesn’t (Faustian Bargain) makes all the difference. The various ways of imparting education today seem kind of indispensable, which can be MOOC, Virtual classrooms, Social Media, video sessions, etc. Change has been constant ever since; if we look back in the history; in the 5th century BC, the 1st change came when the Oral culture shifted to alphabet- writing culture, the second was in 16th Century with printing press, the 3rd is with EdTech.

A lot of education for all age groups is not just imparted through various Educational websites, Social Media, LMS…rather online element always exists in one form or the other.  The need for paper notebooks is almost fading. And I think this is what Postman dreaded. While the most common objects in the 20th century classroom consisted of slates, boards, pens, sheets of paper, chairs and desks, personal digital devices have become central objects in today’s BYOD schools. In the BYOD model the devices that are used for education are owned by students and which have their personal stuff, stored onto these devices, to school (Carvalho et al. 2016).  Henceforth the digital media brings loads of distraction for the students and that in some way affects the quality of education too


Willis, D. J. (1987). Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business [Review of Technological Media, from Message to Metaphor: An Essay Review of Neil Postman’s

“Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business,” by N. Postman]. Journal of Thought, 22(1), 58–60.

Carvalho, L., Goodyear, P., and de Laat, M. (2016). Place-Based Spaces for Networked Learning.

Why you hating on Sesame Street?

Neil Postman wrote “We now know that “Sesame Street” encourages children to love school only if school is like “Sesame Street.” Which is to say, we now know that “Sesame Street” undermines what the traditional idea of schooling represents.”

Upon some research around the quote, I believe Neil Postman is saying that Sesame Street is not education it is television. School involves learning content, which television can do but there is some key aspects missing for learning to occur. He believes interaction is important. He says with television this isn’t possible. There is only a direct way of learning from the television to the students. Students can’t ask questions with television, hence there is no room for curiosity or discussion and therefore insufficient learning.

He also discusses how it pushes the importance of entertainment, and amusement rather than learning. Television is educational in the way that it teaches about the ideology of television. This ideology is misinformation, and exaggerated information.

I agree with some aspects of his argument and disagree with others. Firstly, television itself which has dramatized and unrealistic content is harmful as people believe it is true or how things work. We become so invested in it we forget it is not real. This can be damaging to children especially teenagers who are starting to watch shows with more adult and complex content. I agree that it can cause people to believe untrue information and cause ignorance. Producers goals are to make money, not educate people most of the time. They will be creating content that most viewers will enjoy and not worry about the ramifications.

I also understand how since television can be so entertaining so students will need this in the classroom. I think students should be able to enjoy themselves in school to a certain extent. Learning should be fun and television or audiovisual technology can do this! However if they are expecting to be just entertained and amused this will not be the case. Another quote from this chapter is “they will expect it and thus will be well prepared to receive their politics, their religion, their news and their commerce in the same delightful way” . Students do become bored very easily, they do want to be entertained in many ways and give up when they don’t like something or things get too difficult. Some of our audiovisual technology especially videos have made it so students have shorter attention spans. If it is not amusing, they move on. Certain aspects of life just are not entertaining and are difficult, so this is definitely a problem. Teaching resilience needs to be a continued priority in education.

I disagree that television is not education or interactive. I show my students a Netflix show called explained. We watch the episode designer DNA. This gives them some background into what is possible in the science world around altering DNA in humans. From this I get them to form their own opinion around whether we should edit germline DNA or not. There is important points on both sides and it is an excellent discussion. Television initiated that conversation. It may have not been interactive in the moment but after students can ask questions!

Lastly, it can be interactive in the moment as well. There is this tool I use called edpuzzle. It takes any video from youtube and makes it so it has discussion questions throughout the video. It makes you think about what you are hearing. My students also go straight to youtube videos in my lessons to learn how to do a new math or science concept, especially when they have missed a lesson. Audiovisual technology is a wonderful starting tool to foster learning. By itself it isn’t perfect. But nothing is. A variety of ways of instructing is how students will learn. I agree teachers should not be replaced by audiovisual technology, movies, youtube videos, projectors, virtual reality and so forth. However, they are a wonderful starting point. It is a great instructional strategy.

How is this little blip of an episode of sesame street not a great way to learn counting! Music is an excellent way to retain information as well! So, I do not hate sesame street as much as Neil Postman I think. Are there negatives, yes, I spoke about a few but this is the technology age we are living in. I am not about to fight it. Do you think the negatives out way the positives?

Cailen Tribier