In 1971, Dr. Natalie Shainess, a prominent New York professor of psychiatry, testified before a U.S. Senate Subcommittee about the damage Sesame Street might cause young children. It would be 20 years before the name Generation X would take hold, but she was talking about us just the same. Here is what she had to say:
“The damage that this program…is doing to children is really frightening to me, but nobody sees it. Why is it dangerous? Because we ignore the fact again that the ends don’t justify the means. On this program, elements come at children at such a rapid rate they hardly have time to absorb, let alone think about what it is.
“There is a tremendous amount of noise. That is the auditory input is very loud and constant. The basic approach is one of great sophistication — an adult extrapolated concept of what a Broadway-type person would think a child likes — a pseudo-childness reflecting the vision of a grown up merchandiser, certainly not an educational psychologist…”
She goes on to say Sesame Street may foster a generation of drug takers and/or increase drug dependency in Generation X.
“But, more than that, we are really fostering a new generation of drug takers and I will tell you why. There is a kind of keyed-up quality that these children develop from watching this program over and over…The whole matrix of what this program conveys I can see furthering another generation needing drugs and having drug dependency even greater than this one –because of the restlessness that is fostered; the lack of discipline, the lack of critical judgment, and what literally will become a fear of a moment of quiet and silence.”
Was Sesame Street Bad?
I loved Sesame Street as a kid. I wanted to live in a New York Brownstone and hang out with Oscar, Big Bird, Cookie Monster, and all my white, black, Hispanic, and Asian friends. The show has received plenty of criticism over the years, but this is the first time I’ve heard it blamed for turning Gen-Xers into druggies. What do you think? Did the show make you do drugs? 😉 Is Sesame Street bad for kids today?
Did you know that Sesame Street was considered a real problem for segregationists? In early 1970, the State Commission for Educational Television banned the show from Mississippi’s state educational TV system. The commission claimed that Mississippi was not ready for a program in which black, Latino, and whites all played happily together. Their ban was reversed after it made national news.