I was just off the target audience when Sesame Street premiered 36 years ago, but because of younger siblings, baby-sitting through my teens and now my own kids, I've watched Sesame Street evolve over its entire lifetime, as it changed with our society and dealt with new issues that children faced, like the death of elders in their lives and the devastation by natural disasters.
PBS's brilliant series Independent Lens is offering a program entitled "The World According to Sesame Street." While post-Boomers can wax nostalgic on the show of their childhood, I am more taken by the translations of Sesame Street to other countries:
In Bangladesh, the main Muppet character is a female, to let little girls in this very traditional country know that that they can have the same opportunities as boys.
In Kosovo, despite the need for the name in both Albanian and Serbian, learning to appreciate each other's cultures and find commonality is the main focus of this war-torn area.
In South Africa, the main Muppet character is a five year old HIV-positive female, reflecting the more than five million infected South Africans and hundreds of thousands of orphaned children due to the disease.
There's something so poignant to me as I see the increasing shrillness in which our own media keeps highlighting the extremes of the political spectrum and focusing on what makes us different that CTW understands that besides numbers and letters, the best thing we can do for our children is to simply let them know that their experiences are not theirs alone and that while each child is special in his/her own right, they are part of a global community.
Wouldn't it be nice if we could get the people in charge to internalize such a simple, peaceful message?