The first job I got fired from was after I reported to my Yugoslavian boss (during the Cold War) that UNESCO’s proposal for funding Sesame Street for Cuban National Television could be used for political, not only educational purposes. Guess what? USAid is now funding it for Nigerian State television.
And guess what else? Besides the Washington Post which originated the story, the only other major city media that carried it was the Kansas City Star. And Kansas is one of a handful (but growing number) of States that impede the teaching of evolution and promote creationism.
So would you please click here to sign the petition promoted by 17-year old high school student, Zack Kopplin of Baton Rouge, who is trying desperately to stop his state legislature from doing what Kansas has done. After which, I’ll put all these paragraphs into a meaningful idea.
Nearly 40 years ago when working for UNESCO in Paris, I realized that despite my liberal leaning that there were powerful tools that governments could use to attain acquiescence to almost anything. We dared not call it “brainwashing” but that was exactly what they were.
USAid is funding Sesame “Square” on Nigerian state television. There are 13 independent television stations and networks in Nigeria, but none can compete with NTA, the massive state-controlled network which unlike PBS or the BBC is a real mouthpiece for the government.
Mouthpiece. Nigeria has a lot of explaining to do, both currently and historically. And one of its most effective devices is NTA.
And now, it can develop in its children – with U.S. help – a tool for imbibing its messages.
America’s problems are manifold but I think easily reduced into this statement: we have empowered the ignorant.
The ignorant of America are wealthy, know how to spell well enough, and have developed social and political tools to lord over us infidels while flagrantly promoting contradictory ideas, and worst of all, embracing nonsense like creationism.
We can’t – we shouldn’t – outlaw ignorance. It’s our own fault. We didn’t pay the teachers in Oklahoma or Kansas, or for that matter anywhere, enough to do a good job. We created a generation of ardent believers … in nonsense.
The only skill you need to believe deeply in nonsense is how to read. Especially in today’s unreal, surreal and political contrary world.
Learning tools like literacy are not the same as acquiring analytical skills. That’s what’s lacking in America, and now possibly in the next generation of Nigerians. Masses of skilled kids will be made just literate enough to believe the nonsense of their autocratic rulers.
USAid could have funded Sesame Street in Nigeria in other ways – on competing networks clamoring for a voice in the country. But they didn’t. They propped up a corrupt and secular regime with a powerful additive: brainwashing.
Thanks to Conor Godfrey for sending me info on Sesame Square.
So I certainly would not have gone in that direction, but I see where you’re coming from with NTA (though I know precious little about their role in Nigerian media)
However, just to make sure this point is out there, the “brainwashing” that Seasame Street/Square will be undertaking in this case involves attacking the stigma around HIV/AIDS, teaching numeracy and literacy, and tackling other sensitive issues using Nigerian characters that will both excite and engage Nigerian kids. (Weren’t Bert and Ernie created to create a US precedent for two men living together on TV?…talk about breaking down barriers : )
Had USAID funded a competing network (which I admit was a very good thought) far fewer kids would see an HIV+ role model, or interact with empowered female characters….
I understand your objection to NTA entrenching its dominant position, but the sesame street message needed a megaphone….there are other tools for encouraging a freer press
I lived in KS for 9 years before coming to WI in 2003. I find it hard to believe that scientific evidence can be completely overlooked to propagate ignorance promoted by the religious right. I am distressed that this can occur ANYWHERE in the world. Jo Ellen
Your incisive analysi of a deplorable situation is right on as usual. Keep it up. I will sign the petition.
Jim — I wish the student all the best. I have signed his petition, as I had earlier signed the Clergy Letter petition to prevent the passage of the bill in the first place.