The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Sesame Street and the Downfall of Civilization

It's clear to me that various periodicals (that would be newspapers and magazines) are in a bit of a financial problem. They no longer have the respect or amiration of the public they once enjoyed. We can blame the internet easily enough. Perhaps too easily. On the other hand, we can blame the public's developing a massive case of Attention Deficit Disorder. I blame Sesame Street.

Why blame just one TV show? It's easy. Millions of children's brains were sacrificed to the One-Eyed God of the modern home: The TV set. And Sesame Street was the ritual of rituals. Or maybe we could call it the Mother Of All Rituals. Children were willfully plopped in front of the TV to be entertained by muppets and fascinated by quickly changing images and catchy tunes about letters and numbers. Whereas my generation's parents feared the TV, we did not. We welcomed the advent of cheap (mostly free... until cable and satellite came along) in home entertainment.

My parents, like millions of others back in the 50's worried that too much TV would rot our little brains and turn us into mindless robotic consumers. They were right but it has taken a couple of generations to happen.

Sesame Street allowed it to happen; encouraged it, facilitated it.  If you are as old as I am, you remember the "Flash Cards" your teachers used to run through the "multiplication tables" and spelling lessons. They were the New Thing of education in the 50's. Rapid, repetitious, and fairly simple, they captured the children's attention and imparted knowledge by rote. Sesame Street expanded on the concept. Beyond the simple math and language, Sesame Street added socialization in the form of tunes and bright colors and short, easily grasped, stories of Bert and Ernie, Oscar, and Big Bird. And our children, of course, ate it up.

In past generations, parents told fairy tales and explained the morals of the stories to their progeny. Bowdlerized versions of the Brother Grimm's tales, thanks mostly to Walt Disney, had become the method by which many children were socialized. These were replaced by 30 minute TV shows in which the morals were blatantly obvious. And as black and white as the monochromatic screens of the period.

But the old social values were deemed unworthy in the 60's and the stories changed to reflect the new morality. The simplistic moral lessons were replaced with more nuanced ones. Ones that reflected a more complex view of society.... until the nuanced ones were accepted and then they, too, became simplified so as to be more easily grasped by young minds.

There was no mass conspiracy involved in this. People's minds changed over time. You might say that society evolved to embrace the changes.

Other children's shows also changed but they adopted Sesame Street's methods (which, in turn, seemed to mimic the commercials that so many in society found entertaining) which were successful in imparting information in short periods of time by using rapidly changing colors and sounds.  Sesame Street was the pioneer in this, I think.

And, in the end, it appears my parents' fears were well placed. Morality and Truth are now encapsulated in the 140 character limit of Twitter. And our grandchildren now have the attention span of kittens.


Joanne Noragon said...

The largst, most pernicious change in additude came from Sesame Street. "I" am the most important person in the world.

This is a sea change. I hold Sesame Street totally responsible.

Douglas said...

Children always knew that, Joanne, Sesame Street just confirmed it.