I got a fundraising letter in the mail today from Sesame Workshop (formerly the Children's Television Workshop). The letter states that this is "the first time ever" the Workshop has asked for direct contributions from individuals.
Corporate sponsorship is down, and the government has cut funding to the show. As the program has spread around the globe, R&D and production costs have gone way up. Merchandise sales sustain production in some places, but not in the poorest regions where the show is most needed.
Why should we care, and why do I think Sesame Street can help save the world? As the letter states:
Those, my friends, are core liberal beliefs we all stand for.
More across the break.
The Workshop works with educators and filmmakers in more than 20 countries to create regional versions of the Street and other programs. The regional shows are tailored to meet the needs of the children in each area and take into account the history and culture of the region. The shows not only teach basic skills, but are designed to foster cross-cultural understanding and respect. The Workshop's programs are seen in over 120 countries.
In Egypt, where female illiteracy is high, a four year old female Muppet named Khokha has a passion for learning which shows girls that learning is not just for boys.
In South Africa, the Workshop uses TV, radio, and outreach materials to reach remote urban and rural areas to teach basic skills the children would not be learning otherwise. And the program also features a 5 year old girl Muppet named Kami, who is HIV-Positive, and teaches age-appropriate lessons about HIV/AIDS.
In Macedonia, the Workshop has targeted pre-teens with a dramatic series called Nashe Maalo (Our Neighborhood) that teaches tolerance and understanding between Albanian, Macedonian, Roma, and Turkish children and teens.
Sesame Workshop is now working on new projects in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bangladesh, and Northern Ireland, all areas where ethnic, religious, or political conflict and violence has interrupted education and warped people's shared sense humanity.
This is what our country should stand for. This is the example we should be setting. This is the message we should be spreading. In a time when our government wont do this through a sane foreign policy, I am glad we have an organization like the Sesame Workshop that does.
Disclosure: I am not in any way affiliated with Sesame Workshop or the Muppets, but I can do several Muppet voices and would love to work for them.