Ignite a love of learning early. Fan the flame with humor, then stoke the fire with gentle teaching on kindness and friendship. Parents welcome such input into their children’s lives, which is the reason millions of children worldwide have grown up watching “Sesame Street.”
The groundbreaking TV show, which first aired in November 1969, has always sought to live up to Jim Henson’s “genuine desire to do good through his creative work.” Untold numbers of children have learned their ABCs and numbers from the loveable Muppet cast. Kids have also learned how to help others, how to live in harmony, and how to overcome problems.
Since the 1970s, “Sesame Street” has championed racial diversity in its characters. It also incorporated cast members with special needs — a boy with Down syndrome, a girl in a wheelchair, and a Muppet with autism. Consequently, parents and educators have heaped accolades on the show.
On the other hand, “Sesame Street” has had its share of controversial episodes during its 50-year history. The first black Muppet, Roosevelt Franklin, was removed from the show because some felt he reinforced “negative stereotypes about black children.” An episode that dealt with the real-life death of a human cast member was criticized as inappropriate subject matter for children.
The show has also received backlash for everything from putting Cookie Monster on a diet to introducing an HIV-positive character. And the truth about Bert and Ernie’s relationship — roommates or lovers — is still debated.
In recent years, the show, as well as many of its spin-off programs, has lurched to the far-left side of the political spectrum. As one father put it, “Far too many writers, directors, and producers in Hollywood think that you have to insert mature content into a children’s program to attract adults.” For example, in the 2015 ABC Muppets reboot, writers added “profane language, sexual innuendo, even references to marijuana.”
In 2010, an episode featuring Katy Perry was scrapped because her clothing was considered inappropriate, but a recent “Sesame Street” preview featured actor Billy Porter wearing a tuxedo dress. Similarly, on “Muppets Now,” the star of a cross-dressing competition is noted among the show’s half-dozen celebrity guest stars.
Are we to conclude that provocative female clothing is only objectionable when worn by women? And what message does cross-dressing send to preschoolers — that pretense is preferable to reality?
The promotion of cross-dressing and transgenderism as normal is the opposite of what Henson set out to do with his Muppets. He wanted to encourage children to accept people for who they are, not who they pretend to be. Only when we are honest with one another can we form authentic friendships and create lasting harmony in society.
The goal of cross-dressing, however, is the creation of a false identity. The message is “I’m not comfortable with who I am, so accept my fantasy world as reality.” Research shows that this behavior doesn’t foster self-esteem; it destroys it.
For example, data compiled by the American Academy of Pediatrics indicates that “female to male adolescents reported the highest rate of attempted suicide (50.8 percent), followed by adolescents who identified as not exclusively male or female (41.8 percent).” Gender re-identification did not strengthen the “self-esteem” of these teens, nor did it increase their happiness. Similarly, a paper published in The Journal of Humanistic Education and Development found that non-cross-dressers have “significantly higher self-esteem” than cross-dressers do.
To suggest to children that destructive behaviors are normal is to open them to the psychological and physical dangers these actions encourage. To promote such behaviors on children’s TV programs is as ill-advised as suggesting kids should talk to strangers to learn about friendship or play with matches to learn about fire safety.
Parents want their children to appreciate all cultures and ethnicities. They also want their children to be kind to those who look different than they do. But parents should not tolerate Hollywood’s attempts to normalize what is abnormal or to condone what is harmful. Neither should parents expose their children to leftist talking points about sex, gender, or drug use that conflict with research and reality.
The days of sitting a child before the TV for 30 minutes of unsupervised edutainment are long gone. Alphabet rhymes and number songs can quickly morph into the indoctrination of a variety of politically correct but potentially dangerous viewpoints.
So, parents: Be vigilant. Watch television with your children. Turn off episodes that promote unhealthy behaviors or undermine the dangers of certain lifestyles. Above all, make sure what goes into your children’s minds is truly in their best interest.