Tuesday, November 17, 2009


TV wasn't our baby sitter. But I've seen bits of "Sesame Street." What a marvel it has been for so many kids, so many families, for forty years.

Here's the cast with Michelle Obama celebrating.

I didn't feel it was right to sit our infant in front of, or anywhere near our television set, but our friends -- they ensconced their kids for hours and hours in front of the magic box watching everything.

Of course, I opened my mouth, occasionally, and said in an actress's bland tone, "All that TV, I would think your child gets restless and bored."

Talking with other mothers you have to be careful. You can't tell them to yank the pacifiers out of their toddler's mouths. (Some kids chomp away on them well past the age of three.) You just mention something innocuous about how nice it is, to have a quiet child enjoying the sucking. .

I've judiciously bragged about teaching my son to read at 9 months, explaining -- "Kept me from being bored," and mentioned what fun I had with my little one, promoting jingles, poems, and let's pretend games.

But the fact is, I didn't have the time to sit with our son, and do nothing, and watch "Sesame Street."

Mom Em was very busy with her dancing career. And our son's Dad was there, when I wasn't, and Vonnie, a young woman from Guyana, who took care of light housekeeping and our son, in a tender, reliable way.

Lucky Em, lucky us -- we've led a sheltered life.

Big Bird and Jim Henson's muppets DID enter our life via our son's playmates, pre-school, grade school, and high school pals, who grew up on "Sesame Street" -- grew into adolescents with "Pac Man," and tons of movies, ever louder, wilder, Pop music, as they figured out what they wanted to be --if they couldn't be rock stars.

"Sesame Street," and Tipper Gore (wife of Al, our vice president who was almost our president in 2000), made a big to-do over violence in Pop music, and then -- pow -- hit hard on the violence in television and movies.

What did I do about the horrible murder-death-despair scenes -- horrifying images, sickening put-down of women?

Um ... I ... uh .. . had my career, and I did run my home and family. Women like Tipper ran their homes and families, and made careers out of helping others.

Celebrating "Sesame Street," its survival and growth -- (it was one of the first TV shows to depict a racially harmonious neighborhood; the show is shown in more than 140 countries and is the longest-running kids' program in U.S. history, and currently averages more than 5 million viewers each week ) -- I should, at least, mention what other shows are doing.

According to the National Institute on Media and the Family:

● 20-25 violent acts are shown in children’s television programs each hour.

●61% of children’s television programs contain violence. lethal violence is in 54% of programs.

●67% of children’s programs that contained physical aggression were not correctly rated, with one program containing 53 acts of aggression in 1 hour

●Children, ages 8 to 18, spend 4 ½ hours per week, 6½ hours daily in front of computer, television, and game screens -- more time than any other activity in their lives except sleeping. (Kaiser Family Foundation.)

●Violence (homicide, suicide, and trauma) is the leading cause of death for children, adolescents and young adults, more prevalent than disease, cancer or congenital disorders. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

●Parents Television Council just released its new data comparing the incidence of violence against women and girls by CBS, NBC, ABC, and FOX during prime time sweeps in 2004 and 2009. They found a 120% increase in depictions of violence against women and girls amidst a steady rate of overall frequency of violence.

Oh Tipper, come back! Work on this! I know your husband is doing a huge, important, life-and-death job for all of us -- never will I forget how simply, forcefully, patriotically he conceded, five weeks after election day on Dec. 13, 2000 -- saying -- in a televised address --"Tonight, for the sake of our unity of the people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession..."

Hurrah! We've got "Sesame Street!" Help us get more streets, more leaders like Big Bird and Al Gore , for the unity of the people and strength of our democracy -- get it for the world of children's entertainment.

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