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On the educational value of Sesame Street

The Jacksons, from the Mar. 13, 2015 issue of the Manitoba Co-operator

What’cha makin’ there Allie?” Jennifer Jackson pulled a chair away from the table and sat down as she spoke, smoothing her tousled hair with her right hand and smothering a yawn with her left. Her niece Allison looked up from the bowl in which she was vigorously mixing her imaginary ingredients.

“I’m making veggie half-burgers,” she said.

Jennifer couldn’t help smiling, and Allison’s mother Jackie, who was mixing actual ingredients in a bowl on the kitchen stove laughed aloud.

“Wow,” said Jennifer. “That’s a big job. How long do you think that will take?”

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“It’s really fast,” said Allison. “About 50 kilometres an hour. I’m almost done already. And then after that I’m going to make peanut butter tarts.”

“Oh, that sounds delicious,” said Jennifer. “And what’s your mom making?”

“She’s making chocolate chip cookies,” said Allison. “They take longer than veggie half-burgers.”

“Too bad,” said Jennifer. “I’d love some chocolate chip cookies for breakfast.”

“Cookies are just for snacks,” said Allison. “You can’t have them for breakfast.”

“Oh really? Well then, what should I have?” asked Jennifer.

“I think you should have granola,” said Allison. “And toast. That’s what I had.”

“That sounds like a good idea,” said Jennifer, getting up and fetching a bowl from the cabinet and dropping a couple of slices of rye bread into the toaster. “You have good ideas Allie.”

“I have another idea,” said Allison. “We should watch ‘Sesame Street.’” She put her bowl into her toy oven and turned to Jackie. “Can we watch ‘Sesame Street’ Mommy?” she asked.

“OK,” said Jackie. “But watch quietly. I don’t want you to wake Andy.”

“OK!” Allison headed for the living room at a run. “Come on Auntie! Let’s go.”

“Tell you what sweetie,” said Jennifer. “You go ahead and start without me. I’ll come when I’m done my breakfast.”

“OK.” Allison disappeared around the corner into the living room and a few moments later the sounds of Big Bird arguing about something with Oscar the Grouch could be heard, emanating from the television. There was a brief silence in the kitchen as Jennifer waited for the toast to pop up.

“You have a good sleep?” asked Jackie.

“Like a log,” said Jennifer. “I love my old bed. I miss it so much when I’m at school.”

“How’s school going?” Jackie wanted to know. “Are you having fun?”

Jennifer reached over as the toaster beeped and put the toast on a plate where she began to apply a liberal spread of butter.

“It’s school,” she said. “How much fun could it be?”

Jackie laughed. “Good point,” she said.

“It sure isn’t high school though,” said Jennifer putting her bowl and her plate of toast on the table and sitting back down.

“I guess not.” Jackie finished greasing a large cookie sheet and began spooning mounds of cookie dough onto it in a somewhat random fashion. “What’s the biggest difference?” she wanted to know.

“The lectures,” said Jennifer. “You don’t have to go if you don’t want to. The profs make everything available online. And if they don’t you just get one of your friends to record the lecture on their iPad and send it to you later.”

“Sounds like too much freedom,” said Jackie. “If it was me, on the day before exams, I’d have 25 hours of lectures to watch.”

Jennifer laughed. “It happens, believe me. Although not to me. And of course when you’re doing fieldwork you have to actually be there. So it’s not all fun and games.”

“But mostly it’s fun and games?” said Jackie.

“Mostly,” said Jennifer. “Sometimes I go to art history lectures with Alan just because I can.” She took a bite of toast. “Did you know that Claude Monet’s father wanted him to work in a grocery store? He did not approve of Monet’s art.”

“I did not know that,” said Jackie. “I don’t know how I have lived so long without encountering that important fact.”

“Exactly,” said Jennifer. “Apparently it’s a vitally important thing to know if you’re an artist. I suppose so that when your father tells you it’s time to grow up and get a job you can tell him he’s just like Monet’s father. Because that’ll be a convincing argument that no father could possibly counter.”

Jackie laughed. “Well, I’m sure all the stuff you learn is directly applicable to your daily life.”

“Oh yeah, for sure,” said Jennifer. “Like the molecular structure of ancient grains or the finer points of the financial instability of multinational agricultural conglomerates.” She got up, put her empty dishes in the dishwasher and headed for the living room. “Everything we really need to know,” she said, “we can learn from ‘Sesame Street.’”

For more from Rollin Penner, visit my blog.

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