- Politics and Social Issues
Saving Big Bird: A Political Issue?
History of the Muppets and Big Bird
In a world filled with strife; hunger, terrorism, financial crisis, global warming, warring nations, is it time to do away with Big Bird?
Back in 1954 a gentleman named Jim Henson created "The Muppets". In 1955 the Muppets appeared on various adult TV Shows and one, Rowlf the dog, became a regular on the Jimmy Dean Show. Some of the Muppet characters were subsequently sold to the Sesame Street Workshop. But what about Big Bird? He was one of the original characters on Sesame Street in 1969. He's an eight foot two inch bird that lives in a large nest behind 123 Sesame Street and next to Oscar's trash can, and he has a teddy bear named Radar. By the way, Jim Henson designed Sesame Street because he believed TV could teach children how to read and write though the show was actually created by Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett.
What Does Big Bird Do?
Big Bird teaches children the alphabet but he also teaches them about life. He portrays a 'curious child' which small children can relate to. Caroll Spinney originally played Big Bird but as he has aged various other actors have filled in.
He's taught children how to resolve conflicts and recently Big Bird has been tackling the topic of bullying and showing children they have the power to deal with bullying, how to identify signs of bullying and what to do when you are bullied.
Big Bird's popularity has led to him receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1994.
A 1996 survey found that 95% of all American preschoolers had watched the show by the time they were three years old.
In 2008, it was estimated that 77 million Americans had watched the series as children.'
By its 40th anniversary in 2009, Sesame Street was broadcast in over 120 countries
(All according to Wikipedia)
Is Sesame Street Educational?
But as we know it really isn't Big Bird that is at stake right now, he has just come to symbolize Sesame Street, that wonderful Children's show on Public Television, and Public Television itself. The main problem is, through the years Sesame Street has successfully taught and/or encouraged thousands of children to read. Children have learned the alphabet, new vocabulary, how to count, and more. Wikipedia tells us that Jim Henson 'was able to take "arcane academic goals" and translate them to "effective and pleasurable viewing".'
According to the Educational Research Center in a study done in 1990;
"Three studies by the Educational Testing Service on Sesame Street's first two seasons determined that among children who watched Sesame Street, those who watched the most scored highest on an achievement measure; frequent viewers made more cognitive gains than infrequent viewers; and teachers rated viewers as better prepared for school than nonviewers. Results from two longitudinal studies indicated that Sesame Street viewing predicted improved vocabulary scores, and Sesame Street elicited more verbal responses from children while they were viewing the show than did other shows. Results from other studies showed that Sesame Street viewing produced substantial gains in children's vocabulary, letter and number recognition, and printed word identification; and preschoolers who viewed Sesame Street learned to cooperate better than did nonviewers."
A 1997 study (again by the Educational Research Center) states; "Vernon C. Hall, Karen S. Chiarello, and Beverly Edmondson also showed that television can have positive effects on literacy... Educational television increases literacy, while non-educational television limits it."
According to Wikipedia, "As of 2001 there were over 1,000 research studies regarding its [Sesame Street] efficacy, impact, and effect on American culture."
After reading the last statement I'm sure you'll agree we're not going to be able to settle that debate here....however, whether you're for or against Sesame Street you have to know that Big Bird and his friends have helped children all over the world learn to read....and is Sesame Street the only program on Public Television? Certainly not. I wanted you to have a little knowledge about Big Bird and Sesame Street as we go forward.
Further, just for your information, here's a quote from PBS'
“Over the course of a year, 91 percent of all U.S. television households tune in to their local PBS station. In fact, our service is watched by 81 percent of all children between the ages of 2-8."
How to Get to Sesame Street
Who writes the check?
Who Pays for PBS?
The company that produces Sesame Street gets money from many sources. Here’s what Sherrie Westin, Sesame Workshop executive vice president and chief marketing officer, told CNN:
“Sesame Workshop receives very, very little funding from PBS. So, we are able to raise our funding through philanthropic, through our licensed product, which goes back into the educational programming, through corporate underwriting and sponsorship. So quite frankly, you can debate whether or not there should be funding of public broadcasting. But when they always try to tout out Big Bird, and say we’re going to kill Big Bird — that is actually misleading, because Sesame Street will be here.”
From the Times Union Blog;
"We get it: Romney will starve out the freeloading feathered friends at the Public Broadcasting Station (which is a weird thing to say, since the station runs almost entirely on viewer donations)."
So Why was Big Bird in the News?
In the 2012 Presidential Race between Barrack Obama and Mitt Romney, Presidential candidate Mitt Romeny said during adebate, and I quote, “I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you, too. But I’m not gonna keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it.”
President's Obama's camp countered with a video to save Big Bird. Sesame Workshop said, in an official statement, to both of them;
"Sesame Workshop is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization and we do not endorse candidates or participate in political campaigns. We have approved no campaign ads, and as is our general practice, have requested that the ad be taken down."
Stop the Madness
Time to Stop the Madness
With a little less than a month left before the Presidential election our nation became involved in a mini-war about Big Bird and Public Television. Really? Yes. If we're borrowing money from China Mr. Romney wouldn't that be more of a concern than paying for PBS? Do you really think cutting Public Broadcasting is going to solve this Nation's Budget woes? It was said Mr. Romney was concentrating on one one hundredth of one percent of the budget!
And you Mr. Obama...of all the things Mr. Romney has or hasn't said, found the most important thing to jump on was about Big Bird! Really? What about the freedom to choose (or lose) MEDICARE? What about allowing students to choose their own schools? What about raising the retirement age...will it stop at 80?
I seriously think there are more important issues than Big Bird's fate, especially when there are millions of people that are not going to let Big Bird get ready for the Thanksgiving table! Starvation across the world is more important than Big Bird's fate. This entire incident only shows what American political campaigns have come to.
Heaven help every American who is faced with a future and leaders like Obama and Romney.
Copyright Tillsontitan - All Rights Reserved
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