Ethics Quiz: Indoctrination On Sesame Street

Seseme St Covid

I don’t know why I didn’t see this coming.

Big Bird tweeted a few days ago, “I got the COVID-19 vaccine today! My wing is feeling a little sore, but it’ll give my body an extra protective boost that keeps me and others healthy. Ms. Hill even said I’ve been getting vaccines since I was a little bird. I had no idea!” Naturally, President Biden, who watches Sesame Street religiously (yes, it’s a cheap shot, but I’m in a bad mood) tweeted back, “Good on ya, @BigBird. Getting vaccinated is the best way to keep your whole neighborhood safe.”

This set off an immediate partisan and ideological debate, with conservative hone-schooling mother, blogger and pundit Bethany Mandel taking a leadership role. She wrote in part,

Just as “Sesame Street” isn’t content with allowing parents the freedom to guide their children’s own moral compass, so too are they uncomfortable with the idea of parents making individual risk assessments for their children’s health and safety. There is a moral absolutism necessary to be part of the left, which is where “Sesame Street’s” writers appear to fall. The messaging on COVID-19 vaccination has become yet another absolutist position. Big Bird’s tweet doesn’t exist just on Twitter. It’s part of a larger campaign from the series to “educate” parents on the vaccine.

Earlier this year, she wrote about the iconic children’s educational show shifting from ABCs and vocabulary into the culture wars:

Those in charge of messaging and programming children’s media have positioned themselves as arbiters of our children’s moral compass. And that Soviet-style demand for a universal, well-curated set of beliefs from a particular coastal lens should concern all parents — not just those with religious or personal beliefs that make them uncomfortable with a particular episode of “Sesame Street” aired during Pride Month.

Parents should take note: The aim of children’s media is no longer just to provide free, education-minded babysitting while you get ready for work.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

Does Big Bird pushing Wuhan Virus vaccinations to children cross the line into  breach of parental and public trust?

A few thoughts from your friendly neighborhood ethicist:

  • No parent should allow children to watch any TV programming without oversight and supervision until…I don’t know, 12? 15? Never?
  • I cannot recall Sesame Street ever wading into politically controversial puddles. That was wise. If the show can’t be trusted now to steer clear of climate change policies, illegal immigration, social justice and the rest, then parents who don’t want their children’s brains washed should opt out, that’s all.
  • Half of the show’s budget comes from the government, so any political messages are government propaganda by definition. To hell with that!

But what health messages come in under the line as fair and responsible?

20 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: Indoctrination On Sesame Street

  1. “But what health messages come in under the line as fair and responsible?”

    Washing your hands and brushing your teeth – which are the only things children in “Sesame Street’s” demographic should be expected to understand and control.

    • Exactly.

      No shot that was NEVER tested in animal safety trials should ever have come to the public.

      That they tested on about 3k children and admitted they won’t know the real side effects til AFTER it’s been injected in a few million….

      Despite the CAREER long immunologists, and countless others who testified before the FDA and CDC, laying out HARD FACTS about the spike protein the body is programmed to make via the computer code delivered to the cells, and more, they STILL approved it. And despite many experts saying the pandemic will be over in early 2022, (which is consistent with corona viruses) and all the other information being ignored and suppressed…. It makes me sick that AT THE VERY LEAST the public has NOT been able to hear both sides represented and if God forbid, one believes anything but the pushed narrative, they have taken care of that with calling concerned citizens “anti vaxxers” and more…. We still have Dr Death in one breath saying “we don’t know” and THEN laying down the law based on that.

      I wonder where the hell people have left their common sense.

      I’m thankful the CDChas already had an early meeting due to the reactions already being seen.

      Not to mention… my friends son was in the trial and had a bad reaction and guess what? HE WAS DISMISSED FROM THE TRIAL so his data would not be counted!!!! How is THAT ethical????? He’s not the only one either!

      And… most people don’t know that in the past 10 months, adverse reactions on the current jabs gasFAR EXCCEEDED the prior 25 years of ALL VACCINES COMBINED!!! Why no news of that?

      And we’re being told… “anyone can report to VAERS… “and not told that the medical community makes up over 72% submissions, pharma companies, about 20% and only 8% of the public.

      So much wrong with all this. And now big bird??????

      Ugh. God help us.

  2. Yes.

    I am conflicted a bit on this (that is the first red flag (red flags being a symbol of communism (as we shall see))).

    Puzzling Digression: various places around Minneapolis were lit up
    Last weekend in Purple. This was for the Minnesota Vikings, who played a nationally televised game Sunday night.

    One of these places is the site of the 35W bridge collapse. When it was rebuilt, it got special
    Lights. Same with the old Lowry Bridge (Now, the New Lowry Bridge). Now, with whatever comes along, they can light up those structures as needed.

    Same with the White House. They can promote whatever cause they want.

    So, the Vikings should be no issue. Shine purple lights. Who could complain? Call it a Prince tribute if you have to.

    Maroon and Gold for the Gophers?

    Red, White and Blue on the Fourth of July?

    Pink for Breast Cancer Awareness?

    Red for AIDS Awareness?

    Rainbow colors for Gay Pride?

    Thin Blue Line Awareness?

    At some point, the symbols get divisive. (I am fine with the Vikings lights, but not the X lights.)

    And worse: the divisiveness gets divisive. (If you are not fine with the X lights, there is something wrong with you.)

    We can’t have any nice things because we can’t draw the line between what everyone should like because it is innocuous, and what everyone should like because it is right (the inability to agree on what is right being the key stumbling block).

    As a (partially) publicly funded enterprise, Sesame Street should stay in its lane. It should stick to preaching about things the majority agrees upon, NOT what it thinks the majority SHOULD agree upon. If it fails to do so, it becomes divisive.

    Yet, if it feels compelled to take a principled stand on a controversial issue (regardless of whether is SHOULD be controversial), it should reject public funding and demand to be released from public restrictions created by a monetary conflict of interest.


  3. Can someone like Steve enlighten us on whether there was any pushback against Dr. Salk and the polio vaccine back in the ‘fifties? We used to get shots or oral vaccines for free at school (parochial even) or at county facilities. I was young but I don’t remember it being controversial. Of course I was six or seven or eight at the time. I do remember one kid in an iron lung in the neighborhood and a polio quarantine poster hung on the back of a neighbor’s door as a memento. In the ‘eighties, I worked for a tax partner who’d had a bad case of polio and was in a wheel chair.

    • That is approximately where I come down on the matter. Back when Polio was an epidemic (if not full pandemic), Big Bird getting the shot wouldn’t be controversial. The Big issue I take is that they vaccinated a Bird. Tigers and apes have tested positive, but not avians! Oscar the Grouch would be a better candidate for the message, or even Elmo (once 0-5 years olds become eligible).

      • Incidentally, I drove around the whole month of October with a (plastic) skeleton in my backseat. I was mildly tempted to put a mask on it, but stopped to think what good it would do him. He’s got no lungs to catch pnumonia in from the virus!

    • My family grew up during the polio epidemics in the 50s, although I was really too young to remember much about it. I do know it was an ongoing and pervasive worry at the time as I don’t think there was any cure — do you remember reading about iron lungs? They were a thing during the polio years.

      I do have a memory of getting a polio vaccine in a sugar cube — that would’ve been the Sabine vaccine, which wasn’t approved until 1961. I’ve done some reading on it and it gained favor in part because there was an incident in 1955 with the Salk vaccine from a particular supplier that resulted in some kids getting polio, including some who were paralyzed or died from the vaccine.

      However, looking at the history of the Salk vaccine, it appears to have been in development since 1948 and the first successful trials were announced in 1953. There were more double blind trials and it ended up being approved in 1955. So that was a 2 year testing program and eventually involved 1.8 million children — some were vaccinated, some got a placebo and some were a control group.

      There weren’t as many deaths from polio as from Covid (although I don’t know how many were paralyzed to one degree or another), but they were children, which I think made it a lot scarier.

      None of that says anything about the long term effects of the Covid treatments we have now — we just don’t know enough yet. But I think the polio trials were extensive enough to prove its efficacy and a good notion of the risks. On the other hand — thalidomide.

      • Thanks for the context, D.G. It was a scary time to be a kid (and of course we were all going to survive a nuclear bombing by getting under our desks at school). “Stay out of mud puddles!” Just this morning I heard of a neighbor’s father who contracted polio and suffered a withered leg for life (he became a surgeon of note). He thought it was his fault because he snuck out of the house and swam in a swimming hole against his parents’ orders. Was there ever any definitive determination of how polio was transmitted? I assume it was oral.

  4. It is obviously fair and responsible for the show to promote health messages. Just like they promote healthy eating, not doing drugs, exercising, and going to school.

    There is a global pandemic after all.

  5. Jack wrote:
    Does Big Bird pushing Wuhan Virus vaccinations to children cross the line into breach of parental and public trust?

    Well, I guess that’s up to the parent to decide. First of all, it makes no sense to pitch a vaccine to children — at least in my state, they can’t get it without the parent’s consent. We allow commercials to pitch toys, drinks, and many other things to kids all the time in hopes they’ll help the kids pressure their parents into buying them.

    The vaccine is not that different, assuming parents are nominally interested in the welfare of their children. Parents can decide to permit or deny the vaccine based on their judgment, just as they do for practically every other aspect of their minor children’s lives. Big Bird’s involvement should have no particular impact other than an annoyance.

    Which brings me to the rest: This is, as you say, pure political propaganda reminiscent of Soviet Union tactics, or something from the Third Reich. Even if it may have no particular impact on an informed, intelligent parent, it has no redeeming qualities whatsoever as a pro-vaccine strategy, and is downright Orwellian as a government policy. It is therefore unethical and, frankly, creepy.

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