Shilling for the ABCs

New York Magazine (Print) /

New York Magazine Print

It's no shock that Sesame Street was born from a mixture of idealism and academic seriousness. Created by TV producer Joan Ganz Cooney and psychologist Lloyd Morrisett, then the vice-president of the Carnegie Foundation, the show aimed to bridge socio-economic rifts and reach kids who were falling behind in their education before they had even started kindergarten. What does come as a bit of a surprise when watching the documentary Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street is that the legendary series was thought of as an attempt to harness the addictive powers of an inescapable mass medium for the forces of good. In these days of screens and streaming, battles over the perceived disreputability of the boob tube feel as done with as the term boob tube itself. But in 1966, when Cooney and Morrisett first spoke about the subject at a dinner party, plenty of their peers considered television to be the domain of rotting brains and hawked products.

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