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Big Bird - and I - are Concerned! PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

Mrs._Nixon_meeting_with_Big_Bird_from_Sesame_Street_in_the_White_House._-_NARA_-_194339Hey, speaking personally, presidential candidate Romney's recent dismissal of Sesame Street – certainly one of the major contributions that the USA has made to international education for youngsters – was quite uncalled for!  Artist Jim Henson and his co-workers created a learning vehicle that brought a string of colorful, unique, entertaining and effective characters onto The Tube so that arithmetic, reading, basic good behavior and good manners and critical thinking were presented – free! – to any kid who had a TV receiver available, and I can't imagine that there are any of us who can't sing or hum the tune that opened that wonderful show...

 

Sunny day
Sweepin' the clouds away
On my way, to where the air is sweet...

Can you tell me how to get
How to get to Sesame Street?

Dear reader, confess. You were humming along, weren't you...? Yes, you were, and Mitt Romney thinks this is a waste of my tax money? No, I'm not here to push politics, folks, but I think that we need to get our values together...


SSTS-14I may feel particularly sensitive about Sesame Street because I was peripherally involved in its very first stages. When the series was first proposed in 1969, I was called in to perform a few tricks for the "pilot" episode, and I'd like to feel that my efforts just might have helped the show get noticed and accepted. I certainly hope so. My appearance in the pilot, along with those of James Earl Jones, Carol Burnett, and so many others, sold that show to PBS. To my regret, I wasn't taken on as a regular character for Sesame Street, but I've always appreciated what this show did – and still does – for so many children – not only here in the USA but around the world!

 

You can see my participation here:

 

 

 

 James Randi is the founder of the James Randi Educational Foundation.


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Pay attention!, Lowly rated comment [Show]
@maddog
written by FledgelingSkeptic, October 16, 2012
What are your sources for the above assertion and just how much qualifies as "income out the wazoo"? C'mon, you know the skeptic drill. Sources or it's just an opinion.

As an aside, I'm having a major SQUEEEE moment knowing that a friend of mine was on Sesame Street!!!!
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written by amyandalfred, October 16, 2012
Pay Better Attention!

“I’m sorry Jim. I’m gonna stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m gonna stop other things,” Romney said. “I like PBS, I like Big Bird, I actually like you too.” Too bad Mr. Romney and his research staff didn't pay more attention. PBS distributes Sesame Street. Sesame Workshop owns the Sesame Street license and makes money from its use. PBS doesn't see a penny of that revenue.
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Give it a rest ..., Lowly rated comment [Show]
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written by Morrigan, October 16, 2012
Actually, tax money going to PBS is minimal in the grand scheme of thing.

As Neil deGrasse Tyson said in a tweet: "Cutting PBS support (0.012% of budget) to help balance the Federal budget is like deleting text files to make room on your 500Gig hard drive"

So if you wanna bitch about your tax dollars being "wasted", I suggest you look at a bunch of expensive trillion-dollar costing useless wars... smilies/tongue.gif
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..., Lowly rated comment [Show]
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written by lytrigian, October 16, 2012
@FledgelingSkeptic -- Actually, Sesame Workshop's financials are easy to find. See the links here: http://www.sesameworkshop.org/...cials.html Tyrone has overstated their income by about $100M. I cannot imagine where he got his number -- although it's in the ballpark for their total assets, so maybe he's just confused. (Their net is much, much smaller, of course.)

I really think the cheap shots that have been going around in the news are non-issues at heart. If, Sagan forbid, Sesame Street did have to move to a commercial network, they'd have no trouble finding sponsors, and unlike the pre-500 channels era, there will definitely be room for it somewhere should PBS go away.

For that reason, I think focusing the discussion on Big Bird is a mistake. Big Bird is among the LEAST likely of all the worthwhile PBS programming to go away, should PBS itself be defunded. And anyone rational knows that such funding is a tiny mite on the back of the vast Doberman Pinscher of federal debt. Cutting PBS won't solve anyone's problem, and Romney must know that.

Randi would have been amazing as a Sesame Street regular!
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Special interests are all over this .... where does it stop.
written by johnlfox, October 16, 2012
I see all the special interest screaming to cut every one's budget but mine .. mine is important and we have to keep it.

Yet they can't understand how we got into this mess. Sure, trillion dollar wars (that both sides of congress and at the time most of the US population approved) don't help. But neither did bailouts of GM and Chyrsler, or loans to Solyndra and dozens of other green companies, or grants to study why male caterpillars are attracted to female caterpillars. Pick your budget, and people will line up to protect it.

For that matter, welfare, defense, social security, and medicare make up MORE than the US revenue combined. I see people whining about wars, but nothing about cutting any of those programs. If defense spending was reduced to zero, we would barely have enough left to cover the interest payments on the deficit.

Wise up people .. every middle class family in the US has had to cut back. Time for PBS, NEA, Dept. of Education, and the rest to also. When we get back on our feet again as a country and our tax revenues start to rise, THEN maybe we can afford them.

But we have to get there first, and right now, the biggest drain on our economy is taxes. Think of it this way .. if you give $1 to PBS, they get $1. If the IRS takes $1 out of my wallet, it gets broken up into so many pieces that it doesn't even matter when it gets to PBS.

*YOU* have the control to make PBS successful. If funding is cut and it isn't, you will only have yourselves to blame.
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Why subsidize a program which is supposedly profitable?
written by Radwaste, October 17, 2012
My objection to Federal subsidies of the arts is simply that the Feds should not subsidize a successful program. At all.

Isn't that a reasonable principle?
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I don't get it
written by drxym, October 17, 2012
US citizens deserve at least one channel which is impartial and puts out high quality and educational programming. It's not like any other channel is making much effort in this regard.
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D?
written by GusGus, October 17, 2012
The letter "D?" It should have been R(andi) or maybe J(ames) or even A(mazing). But D? Oh, prestiDigitation!
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It is simply a difference of opinion on what should be the role of the federal government
written by ScanningFool, October 18, 2012
It could be that the federal government should have no role in promoting a television network no matter how "good" the network is. Even if there was a time when this role was "needed", it certainly can be argued that that time has passed. I know there are many people in this country who would love to have a re-creation of the BBC in this country but maybe that does not fit the American model of a capitalist republic with a limited federal government. I love Randi and the JREF but sometimes his politics get in the way of his mission against woo. That is my humble opinion anyway. Now you can vote down this post so only a pro-pbs view is seen on this article.
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written by Mostly Harmless, October 21, 2012
I love Randi and the JREF but sometimes his politics get in the way of his mission against woo.


I agree. I think it's cool that Mr. Randi was involved in the origins of Sesame Street and he is correct that that program played a positive role in many of our lives. But, aren't there other ways to bring that up his interesting and commendable involvement without resorting to a political response that has nothing to do with the core purpose of the JREF and isn't even objective and reflective of the kind of critical thinking that the JREF advocates? Mr. Romney didn't say or imply it was a waste of tax money, nor did he admonish it's value, nor did he imply that cutting PBS funding would solve our budget problems. Furthermore, Sesame Workshop has stated that the majority of it's funding come elsewhere and they were not concerned about the future of Big Bird. They also requested the Obama Administration stop using a political ad featuring Big Bird as they are a non-partisan group and do not endorse candidates or participate in political campaigns.

Mr Randi, I learned a great deal from the practical lessons you used to offer on this website in the name of debunking the flim-flam elements in life. I pointed my friends and my children to this site as both a resource and training tool for educating oneself on critical thinking and the scientific approach to examining the information presented to us by others and through our own observations.

That changed in recent years as I saw more politically related stories working their way onto the site and culminated with your endorsement of Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth". Based on the lessons I had learned from the JREF, I had been waiting for you to champion a skeptical look at the subject and you did just the opposite. Then, the JREF staff seemed to becoming increasingly dominated by people whose chief qualifications appeared to be an orientation for political advocacy rather than critical thinking. I believe the James Randi I used to read would have quickly pointed out the pitfalls and paradoxical nature of that.

I used to read the site whenever it was updated. Now I only find myself coming back every month or two with a kind of masochistic bent to see what else I'll find that will disappoint me.

I offer the above with respect but with the same straightforwardness that has been the hallmark of your style. I believe enough in the critical thinking lessons that I learned here, that even these paradoxical diversions aren't enough to shake the way I evaluate information. In case it's overlooked, that's a compliment to your teaching. I just wish I wouldn't find myself using it so often to debunk the newer lessons offered here.

That is my humble opinion anyway. Now you can vote down this post


Ditto. And I will add that it's a shame that the irony of voting down posts expressing contrary thought is lost on those doing so... but it's just another indication that this site has allowed political orientation to trump critical thinking.
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