Kids playing in the streets and spending time with adults. Songs about bathing. Sketches that criticize childhood obesity. Early Sesame Street is clearly "intended for grown-ups."
In 2007, PBS released Sesame Street: Old School (1969-1974). The DVD set begins with with a warning:
These early ‘Sesame Street’ episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today’s preschool child.
At first, I tried to give it the benefit of a doubt. Maybe what they mean is that old Sesame Street lacks ADD-inducing, overstimulating computer graphics and speedy plot lines. After all, a seven-minute segment featuring cows grazing to the slow strumming of a guitar isn't nearly as attention-grabbing as, well, this:
But an interview with Carol-Lynn Parente, the executive producer of Sesame Street, proved otherwise. Among the troublesome aspects of Old School include:
Not to mention other atrocities, like Wanda's Fat Knees, which encouraged kids to be more active and eat fewer cookies, lest they get fat knees and lose all their friends.
Children spending time with their teachers outside of school:
This somewhat terrifying lesson in how to find your way home when you're lost:
And... this creepy "salesman" in a trench coat trying to sell Ernie the number eight:
To me, it all seems pretty harmless. Creepy, at times, but harmless. The fact that Old School is "intended for grown-ups... not today’s preschool child" seems to illustrate just how much more sheltered this generation is from previous ones. As Lenore Skenazy, author of Free Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts With Worry), writes, "It is NOT our imagination — our expectations and fears for our kids have changed dramatically in a relatively short time."
And, in this case, change is not good.
As I wrote in Kids' Games are Getting More Dangerous, and It's Entirely Their Parents' Fault,
When you help your child with everything, when you constantly hover over and protect them, you are making your child stupid. You are robbing them of opportunities to develop fine and gross motor skills. Without which they cannot control the world around them. Without which they can't hold a pencil and turn a page or push a wagon up a hill. Without which they are not safe on the playground. Read more >
Additionally, as I wrote in By 1979 Standards, Your First Grader is Physically and Emotionally Stunted, among 1979 first grade prerequisites were:
6. Can he ride a small two-wheeled bicycle without helper wheels?
Other prereqs included having 2-5 permanent teeth and being able to tell a policeman where he lived. (Weird, right? Because these days, it's all about being able to do math and multiply and read -- even though those skills will not give your child a creative, entrepreneurial mind, and aren't even necessarily developmentally appropriate.)
If early episodes of Sesame Street are not appropriate for today's preschooler, we only have ourselves to blame.
Want to know more? Check out Here's the ONE Vocab Word Your Kindergartener Needs to Learn TODAY, Playborhood Your Neighborhood: The Best Gift You Will Ever Give Your Child, and 4 Reasons a Tutor is the WORST Thing You Can Do For Your Kid.
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