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Admittedly, my first education wasn't Sesame Street, it was "Green Eggs and Ham," which got me in considerable trouble when I admitted the "Dick and Jane" reading stories in the first grade were "dumb." (Well...they were.) Despite that fact, half of my first day in the first grade was spent in the principal's office.
I was six going on seven when my parents parked me in front of the television. I was hooked with the life-sized animated characters that would become known as "Muppets." Along with Schoolhouse Rock and the original charter of The Learning Channel, we enjoyed passive learning, a democratized, continuous education that transcends neighborhoods, demographics and social barriers. With a foundation of reading and simple numbers, the strength of Sesame Street was both making education fun and instilling a sense of wonder, the foundation of scientific exploration. For competitiveness in global economies and the narrowing of the wealth gap, we need more of this (and LESS "reality TV").
For 46 years now, "Sesame Street" has created television programming aimed at preparing young children for school both academically and socially.
According to a new study, it worked.
Children who lived in areas where "Sesame Street" was easy to view when it premiered were less likely to have been held back in school by 9th grade than children who lived in areas where reception was spotty or non-existent. Boys, black children, and children living in economically disadvantaged areas saw particularly strong effects.
How this carried over into educational attainment and the job market is unclear, according to the researchers. But, "for a television show that kids watch for an hour a day to have an impact that persists for 10 years or so, that's remarkable," said Phillip B. Levine, a professor of economics at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Mass. He co-authored the paper with Melissa S. Kearney, a professor of economics at the University of Maryland in College Park. (Jim Henson, the creator of the Muppets, was a Maryland graduate.)
The researchers consider "Sesame Street" to be the first "massive open online course," an education course made available for free to a large group of people. Of course, in the early days of "Sesame Street," people were not receiving the program over the Internet. But the basic tenet of transmitting educational material outside of the traditional classroom remains is the same, the researchers said. Early Childhood Education by MOOC: Lessons from Sesame Street was published Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
'Sesame Street' Boosted School Readiness for Young Children, Study Says,