Getting to Sesame Street : Throughline In American history, schools have not just been places to learn the ABCs – they're places where socialization happens and cultural norms are developed. Arguments over how and what those norms are and how they're communicated tend to flare up during moments of cultural anxiety. Sesame Street was part of a larger movement in the late 1960s to reach lower income, less privileged and more "urban" audiences. It was part of LBJ's Great Society agenda. But Sesame Street is a TV show - not a classroom. And it was funded in part by taxpayer dollars. This story is about how a television show made to represent New York City neighborhoods – like Harlem and the Bronx – has sustained its mark in educating children in a divided country.

Getting to Sesame Street

Getting to Sesame Street

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1122499583/1123045151" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

'Sesame Street' hosts Matt Robinson (Gordon), Will Lee (Mr. Hooper) Loretta Long (Susan) and Bob McGrath (Bob) stand with Big Bird on set, circa 1969. Hulton Archive/Children's Television Workshop/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption
Hulton Archive/Children's Television Workshop/Getty Images

'Sesame Street' hosts Matt Robinson (Gordon), Will Lee (Mr. Hooper) Loretta Long (Susan) and Bob McGrath (Bob) stand with Big Bird on set, circa 1969.

Hulton Archive/Children's Television Workshop/Getty Images

In American history, schools have not just been places to learn the ABCs – they're places where socialization happens and cultural norms are developed. Arguments over how and what those norms are and how they're communicated tend to flare up during moments of cultural anxiety. Sesame Street was part of a larger movement in the late 1960s to reach lower income, less privileged and more "urban" audiences. It was part of LBJ's Great Society agenda. But Sesame Street is a TV show - not a classroom. And it was funded in part by taxpayer dollars. This story is about how a television show made to represent New York City neighborhoods – like Harlem and the Bronx – has sustained its mark in educating children in a divided country.