Friday, November 04, 2016

Sesame Street Preaches Trans Politics to Parents

Watching television with your children is a great way to learn about their likes and dislikes and what resonates with them. For example, the other day my son wasn’t feeling so great, so I declared it a pajama day. After some rather unenthusiastic play, he grabbed his favorite Curious George stuffed animal and headed for the couch, his way of telling me he just wanted to zone out and cuddle. I complied and we tuned into Sesame Street.

My son quickly went from relaxed to confused. His brow furrowed as a series of puppets including Elmo, Abby, Cookie Monster and Grover got into an argument over how boys and girls could play dress-up. The narrative, a dress-up club on Sesame Street, was quickly lost amidst the puppets talking over one another about how boys and girls should play dress-up. One puppet kept screaming that girls needed to be princesses while boys needed to be superheroes. Grover and Elmo suddenly wanted to play tea party and then, Cookie Monster burst onto the scene in a tutu declaring himself to be a ballerina.

At that point my son was so confused and I was so irritated that I flipped over to an episode of Cat in the Hat I’d left on the DVR for a rainy day. Instantly he lit up, sat up and grew ensconced in the narrative. He was so excited about Nick and Sally’s adventure with the Cat to study amoebas in drops of water that he soon slid off my lap to get closer to the TV, smile and dance along.

There are a number of lessons to glean from this TV viewing experience. Firstly, even at 16 months old a child can follow a narrative. When the basic story is lost, the child quickly loses interest. In their zeal to infuse gender politics into a story about playing dress-up, Sesame Street lost the attention of their target audience. Kids don’t want to be told what to do. They want to be shown how it’s done.

Secondly, more children, boys especially, are going to be drawn away from the liberal arts and into the world of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Boys are practical, logical learners. Shows like the Cat in the Hat and Curious George use a logical narrative structure that involves problem solving with a STEM-related topic. While the girls on Sesame Street argue over what it means to be a girl, the boys will be busy with the Cat in the Hat exploring single-cell organisms, or working with Curious George to build an igloo at the farm. Critical, creative thinking in order to solve real-world problems using science, technology, engineering, and math. How logical is that?

The third lesson I learned is the most frightening to me. Not only are the liberal arts being stolen by this gender and sexuality obsession, but now imagination is as well. The goal of the Sesame Street dress-up club is to dress up in order to pretend fantasies. Telling girls they can be superheroes and boys that they can enjoy tea parties is nothing new or remarkable. Pick up a comic book and you’ll find a female superhero. Look around the world and you’ll find plenty of men drinking tea. But, when have you ever seen a male ballet costume featuring a tutu?

The history of dance has taught us that men can be dancers, even on a professional level, and still embrace their masculinity. Moreover, men do not need to cross-dress in order to dance, because dancing is not an engendered talent. By putting Cookie Monster in a tutu, Sesame Street turned dressing up into cross-dressing. And as happens often in the realm of gender and sexuality studies, male sexuality became a direct target for attack and feminization. Where is the freedom of imagination in that?

The overarching lesson of dress-up club on Sesame Street is that Children’s Television Workshop has clearly lost touch with its target audience. Kids are going to dress up however they want without any help or intervention from any media outlet. Contrary to popular opinion, children do have minds of their own. The real target audience of this episode is parents. Hence the TV Guide review of this particular episode ends with, “Though Sesame Street is clearly aimed at children, this is an episode that some adults could benefit from seeing as well.” Why? Because retailers are suddenly making toy aisles gender-neutral, or because politicians and school boards are passing laws against gender-oriented bathrooms? In other words, Sesame Street doesn’t really care about your kid’s imagination at all. They care about your level of political correctness as a parent. They care that you’re raising your child, not to think critically or creatively, but to go with society’s flow.


Rote learning of facts helps children become better decision makers as adults

It may not be the most fun method but rote learning for children will help them become better decision makers in the long run according to one expert.

Dr Helen Abadzi, a specialist in cognitive psychology and neuroscience, said that the method, which involves learning by repetition, commits knowledge to memory.

This in turn frees up the brain for more complex calculations - an important factor when it comes to decision making.

While speaking at a seminar for Cambridge Assessment, Dr Abadzi argued that 'traditional method' has been used for centuries and is a good indication that it works.

She said: '"Traditional" means we’ve been doing it for two, three, five centuries - it’s actually a good indication that it works because our memory system can do this stuff.

'People may not like methods like direct instruction - "repeat after me" - but they help students remember over the long term. A class of children sitting and listening is viewed as a negative thing, yet lecturing is highly effective for brief periods.'

The education specialist, who's currently based at the University of Texas at Arlington, said that people were 'prisoners to their working memory' and it's this working memory that helps them come to the right decisions.

In most cases, people can only fit a few facts into their working memory and these last for 12 seconds at the most according her presentation.

The facts in play will determine the decisions that are made - the faster people are able to process the information, the faster they're able to come to the correct decision.

However, people are able to 'escape the working memory prison through practice'.

Through rote learning, children are taught, for example, the times table by repetition and commit these to memory.

Home work and text books will all contribute towards the effectiveness of rote learning.

In the long run, instead of using their working memory to calculate numbers each time, they are able to automatically retrieve these figures from their long term memory.

This in turn frees up their brain for the more the complex calculations needed for decision making.

What's more, according to Dr Abadzi, 'those who practiced the most forget the least over time'.

In the same lecture, Dr Abadzi also criticised creative education proponents like Sir Ken Robinson and said that multi-tasking and technology are both new threats to education for children today.


How to Innovate in K-12 Education

Texans can boast about their state’s superior economic performance and business climate—they’re usually ranked among the top ten in the nation—but when it comes to educational innovation, the Lone Star State is a laggard, not a leader. If public opinion is any indication, however, things may quickly improve: A recent survey by EdChoice found that 71 percent of Texans polled support adopting a new policy tool for K-12 education—Educational Savings Accounts.

Texans’ support for ESAs may stem partly from their success in Arizona, where surveys of ESA-participating parents found that 100 percent reported they are “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their state’s program. This popularity shouldn’t be surprising, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Vicki E. Alger. While ESA programs vary by state—five states have enacted them, so far—all share an essential ingredient: They enable any parent to supplement their child’s education with additional funds, not simply the well-to-do, Alger explains.

ESA funds typically amount to some portion of the cost of a student in a public school, and they can be spent only on approved education-related services, including distance learning courses, tutoring services, educational therapies from accredited and licensed therapists, limited transportation services, tests, books, curricula, tuition and fees for public schools or any accredited private school. Funds not used in one year can be rolled over for future education expenses, including college tuition. Thus, a system of universal ESAs, not merely for a small segment of the public school population, can be a game-changer, Alger explains: It would vastly increase the supply of educational providers and foster more innovation and higher quality in education.


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