I have no quarrel with parents who are up in arms at Sesame Street's decision to use cute little Elmo to push the COVID-19 vaccine on children. It's horrendous, despicable, a violation of the sacred trust between a show meant for children, and their parents.
But in a way I'm grateful that Sesame Street's writers, producers, and funders have finally come so far out of the closet. It's about time parents noticed.
There may have been a time when the show stuck with teaching basic reading and math skills, but once you decide that the purpose of your project is teaching children, it's only a small step to teaching them whatever you happen to think important—and before you know it, numbers and letters have taken a back seat to social and political activism. It reminds me of a young, idealistic teacher I heard interviewed the other day, who was in tears because she had become a teacher in order to "teach children social justice," and felt stifled under pressure to teach them academics.
Schools, and television shows aimed at children, have a widely-acknowledged—if mostly ignored—obligation to support the rights, values, and priorities of the children's families. Little by little both of these important institutions have blatantly and flagrantly violated that unwritten contract.
Maybe that's the best lesson Elmo can teach us.