in progress edited by Daniel
Department of Adult Education, Community Development and Counselling Psychology,
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)
November 10th 1969, the first broadcast of the children’s educational show
Sesame Street began delighting children all across America.
Jim Henson’s adorable and zany muppet characters began teaching
preschoolers about letters, numbers and social values.
The flashy imagery and quick pacing appealed instantly to the young
viewers. “The show employed principles of learning and developmental
psychology in its presentation of academic and social skills.
Psychologist Edward L. Palmer led the Sesame Street research and
evaluation team.” “The
idea behind the show, developed by Joan Cooney for the Children's Television
Workshop, was to present a limited pre-school curriculum via television.”
Despite the fact that the urban street setting of Sesame Street was designed to
attract an inner city audience, it soon proved popular among children of all
backgrounds. The show’s executive
producer, Michael Loman says that, “the most important thing that we do is, we
show children a wide variety of people living together in a neighbourhood, all
races, all cultures, all monsters, a little girl in a wheelchair.”
The multi-ethnic and racially diverse cast created a positive, inclusive
subtext for the show. One cast
member, Dr. Loretta Long, referred
to this as Sesame Street’s “hidden curriculum.”
Dr. Long played the character of Susan for many years on the show.
She explains how the show often used family events, food, dress and music
to teach children about different cultures. “And if you notice, most of the voice-overs are children or
puppets,” Dr. Long adds. “We
all know kids don’t listen to adults very long, they tune us out.
They’ll listen to other children.”
the show aired on PBS in the United States.
The Children’s Television Workshop, a non-profit production company,
produced the show in New York City. The
global acclaim and support for the show transcended borders.
The CTW began educating over 120 million young viewers in over 130
countries around the world. There have been 17 local co-productions in countries such as
Russia, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, China, Poland, Mexico, Spain,
Germany, Norway and Canada. Nobody could have ever predicted the sweeping
international success of Sesame Street. Some
say that the Children’s Television Workshop is the “single largest educator
of young children in the world.”
Henson’s muppet characters were a key element in the success of Sesame Street.
PBS producer, Joan Cooney, first invited Henson to “create a family of Muppet
characters to populate Sesame Street.” From
this invitation were born the legends of Big Bird, Oscar, Ernie & Bert,
Cookie Monster and many more. Henson
brought distinctive personalities to each one of his unique characters. The
charm and magic of these muppet creatures were a delight.
Their creator, James Maury Henson, was born in September of 1936 in
Greenville Mississippi. He was the
second son of Paul and Elizabeth Henson. One
of Henson’s childhood friends, Kermit, became the inspiration for the name of
one of Henson’s most celebrated muppet characters.
Henson’s first televised puppet performance occurred while Henson was
still in high school. He later was offered to do a late night show called “Sam
and Friends” while completing his freshman year at the University of Maryland.
His performance partner, Jane Nebel, later became Henson’s wife.
recent years, Sesame Street has been forced to face funding issues like many
other public television programs. Ralph
Nader criticized the show in October 1998 for ending a 30 year streak of
commercial-free broadcasts. Sesame
Street is now sponsored by Discovery Zone, the indoor playground manufacturer.
Nader argues that impressionable children will be exploited by the
“shameless” advertising. However,
many people feel that the wholesome values and learning opportunities provided
by the show outweigh this potential cause for concern.
Street is a long- standing tradition in children’s television programming.
For many, it is a classic childhood memory.
Sesame Street has a commitment to quality programming that parents can
trust. Here’s to another 30 years of Big Bird!
Jill. “Sesame Street takes a bow to 30 animated years.”
Friday, November 13, 1998. http://www.cnn.com/SHOWBIZ/TV/9811/13/sesame.street/
Julie. “The Muppet Show.”
Henson” February 17, 1999.
Historical Database: Selected Entries.”
Ken . “Sesame Street' character-turned-author wows kids, parents Loretta Long
draws lots of 'gooey' looks in Washington Township” The Packet Group. Friday, April 14, 2000. http://www.pacpubserver.com/new/news/education/4-15-00/sesame.html
Prepared by Leah McMullin (OISE/University of Toronto)
Citation: McMullin, Leah (2001). 1969: First broadcast of Sesame Street. In Daniel Schugurensky (Ed.), History of Education: Selected Moments of the 20th Century [online]. Available: http://fcis.oise.utoronto.ca/~daniel_schugurensky/assignment1/1969sesamestreet.html (date accessed).
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Number of visits to the 1960s