The announcement that Sesame Street plans to introduce a Muppet named Lily, an impoverished girl whose family faces ongoing hunger issues, is prompting much snark and derision in the right-wing media.
For instance, The Blaze's blog had this to offer:
Uh-oh. It's time to redistribute Cookie Monster's cookies.
Question: When did Sesame Street become so focused on teaching societal issues? From Bert & Ernie's gay marriage fiasco, to Big Bird's birtherism and growing unemployment. What “injustice” might Mr. Snuffleupagus stand for?
One of my colleagues (who wishes to remain anonymous for obvious reasons) points out that “Snuffy” actually comes from a broken home and represents a lesson in divorce for kids. I had no idea.
Here's something else Barack Obama and democrats can be proud of.
With a record number of Americans on food stamps, record unemployment, increased debt and record poverty, Sesame Street will introduce a poor, starving muppet to educate on the growing number of starving children in Obama's America.
However, like other Sesame Street characters before her, Lily will help educate children about current issues facing the country and the world, as well as home and family issues that can be difficult for young children to understand. On the Sesame Street website, viewers of all ages can find educational videos on a variety of topics, such as Health and Safety, Self Confidence, Cultural Appreciation, Feelings, Disabilities and Getting Along with Others.
Sesame Street characters not only teach children in the United States, but throughout the entire world. The South African version of Sesame Street features an HIV-positive character named Kami to teach children about the HIV epidemic, which is extremely prominent in African countries.
In Northern Ireland, a version of the program teaches young viewers about the “need to share their space,” drawing comparisons to the conflict between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
In the Palestinian version of the program, the following scenario took place:
In one episode, the Shara'a Simsim [Palestinian Sesame Street] Muppet Karim is upset when the character Abbas knocks over a tower of blocks he's busy building. Karim's teacher tells him to use his mind to solve his problem rather than getting angry and violent. When Abbas tries to knock his tower over again, Karim asks him to stop and enlists Abbas's help in building the tower, saying, “If you want, we'll build the tower together.” And the two do exactly that, accomplishing much more from teamwork than they could have achieved alone.
Back in the U.S., Lily's task will be to educate an audience of young children -- and their parents -- about the national hunger epidemic. Lily will be introduced on Sunday and will only appear in the special, which is titled, “Growing Hope Against Hunger.” The New York Times reported:
For now, [Sesame Workshop senior vice president] Ms. [Jeanette] Betancourt said, the Lily character is planned only for the special, which will make its debut on Sunday on PBS. Previous “Sesame Street” specials have addressed subjects like economic insecurity and children with parents in the military.
The fact is that every Sesame Street character -- from Grover discussing the concept of what “marriage” is with a little boy to Big Bird and Zoe teaching kids about Christopher Reeves' quadriplegia and how he uses his wheelchair and respirator -- is a teacher. On both sides of the aisle, we would all do well to learn from them.