Friday, September 27, 2013

Sesame Street goes Upstate

This has been around for a few months, but I just ran across it recently.  Of course I'm behind on most things: it's a problem.  But in this case I feel more or less off the hook, in that, having no children and not likely to become a parent anytime soon, I don't feel much responsibility to keep up with the details of kid's TV.  But this is significant on a few levels, so I was impressed when I found out about it.

Meet Alex, a new character on Sesame Street (or at least an online version of Sesame Street) whose father is in jail.  It says something pretty important about the World We Live In that this platform is necessary – as this Pew Research article mentions, some 2.7 million American children currently have a parent in jail or prison.  That would be 3.6% of American children with an incarcerated parent.  Incarcerated, one might add, in a correctional system that is arguably ineffective, weighed down by misguided drug laws, and inescapably, profoundly, maddeningly racist and classist.  Oh, and well nigh devoid of any noticeable corrective element.
But this piece is for the kids.  And of course Sesame Street being Sesame Street, they find a way to deal with this unbelievably tough-to-even-wrap-your-mind-around topic with not just kindness and sensitivity, but with a "did they just pull that off?" sense of humor.

“What’s ‘carcerated,’ and why was your dad in it?”
Well played, Children's Television Workshop.  Well played.

'Prison-Industrial Complex' is one of those terms that rubs me kind of wrong, being that too clever for its own good brand of inflammatory.  But America is out of balance - way out of balance - in the way we handle corrections, and the penal system is so seriously in need of reform that I'm willing to accept the provocation.

More materials and more video is on the Little Kids/Big Problems section of the Sesame Street website.

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