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