When I was teaching kids English in China, I often felt like I was just going through the motions of the job. It’s not that I didn’t care. Because I did. But it seemed the schools didn’t care about teaching quality as long as they got tuition from the parents, and the parents didn’t give a be-jeesis either as long as they had their kid interacting with a real live foreigner. I thought to myself one day, I said “You know, self, your job could easily be replaced by a Sesame Street DVD.”
And the more I thought about it, the more I came to realize that Sesame Street is exactly what Chinese kids need. In fact, it’s what all kids need.
Now when I was a kid, I watched Sesame Street every single day. And I think I owe a lot to Jim Henson. An 8 foot yellow bird, a vampire obsessed with quantification, and all the other muppets who were fuzzy and/or silly enough to get your attention, and then subtly teach about you the Alphabet, or rhyming, or Co-operation or the number 7 when you didn’t even realize it. Chinese kids could really use this, I think. Come to think of it, I think Oscar the Grouch might be a closet Shoupulanr dude…
But I think the whole English teaching industry in China could easily be replaced by Sesame Street DVDs — in schools at recess, at home on tv, wherever… I think whatever semblance of an education I possess, I owe to Jim Henson and the Muppets.
But I think the most important thing that Sesame Street did, aside from teaching kids across the globe all about letters and numbers and triangles, is the fact that the neighbourhood portrayed on the show is a kind of microcosm (or an ideal model, if you will…) for the way that the world should be. You got all different kinds of people represented there – Gordon and Susan, Luis and Maria, Linda the deaf lady, and Oscar the ignorant cunt. And lets not forget Bert and Ernie, who were pioneers in same-sex sharing and caring.
I think given the state of the world right now, if 1/5 of the earth’s population (i.e. China) has a severe lack of global awareness, but instead is more concerned with China moving to the fore on the world stage — well, that sets off all kinds of bells and whistles on the “My-Planet-is-fucked meter.”
Now, I did some scholarly research, and it seems that Sesame Street, or (芝麻街/zhima jie） has in fact made it to China, as of some time ago. But I just don’t think it’s stuck. It seems that in 1982 Big Bird and Barkley took the proverbial long boat to the middle kingdom, and managed to do their Sesame thing China-style without either or them ending up on stuck on the end of a 串/chuanr. There’s even a DVD!
In any case, I think it would do wonders for a kids education and cultural awareness if they could see white people, black people, brown people, Japanese people, and even a few “camp-as-a-row-of-tents” Bert and Ernies — all of these people getting along in one neighbourhood, all speaking Chinese, and loving and sharing and fencing used Js.
Now there’s a worthwhile project for Dashan…
Incidentally, this Lost Laowai post has been brought to you by:
the letter S,
the letter B,
and the number 4.