Don’t go to school, kids. In fact, stay home and watch TV all day.
As long as it’s Sesame Street.
Ok, not the best parenting advice out there, but a recently published research paper by the University of Maryland’s Melissa Kearney and Wellesley College’s Phillip Levine confirms the iconic kids show yields educational benefits as powerful as the ones children get from going to pre-school.
“Our analysis suggests that ‘Sesame Street’ may be the biggest and most affordable early childhood intervention out there, at a cost of just a few dollars per child per year,” says Levine. “It’s econometrically phenomenal.”
While early-childhood education budgets are an increasingly hot political topic, economists and the Sesame Street educational team were quick to dismiss the show as a viable alternative to pre-school spending. Rather, it should be seen as a cost-effective model for how educational entertainment – especially online – can complement existing school curriculums, which offer family support, medical and dental services, and the development of emotional skills a child can’t access behind a screen.
Sesame street writers and researchers have strongly emphasized an academic curriculum that’s heavy on reading and math since the show’s inception in 1969. Past studies suggest children in cities where the show was more consistently broadcast saw a 14 per cent drop in their likelihood of being behind in school. This was especially true for those from low-income, urban neighbourhoods.
While such claims have long been disputed, Kearney and Levine’s paper proves that kids in areas with higher access to the show were more likely to stay at the appropriate grade level for their age. The positive effects were again increasingly beneficial for less affluent children.
If nothing else, watching Sesame Street will always be more fun than going to school – and isn’t that what being a kid is all about?