Last night, the PBS News Hour showcased a report by economics correspondent Paul Solman entitled, 'Sesame Street' Tells You How to Get to Sunnier Days Financially.
Mr. Solman does a good job of covering the science and psychology of delayed gratification using a lesson Elmo is learning on savings as a backdrop. Elmo sets out to save $5 for a 'stupendous ball' and eventually meets his goal. But at the very moment when his dream is to be realized, along comes Cookie Monster 'belly aching' that he's hungry for a cookie. ("Me no have cookie. Me really want cookie.")
Having just heard all about the virtues of savings one would expect Elmo to turn to his friend and say, 'Oh Cookie, I just learned a lesson...If you really want something you can save your money and get what you want. Maybe you can do the same thing.'
Instead, Elmo gives Cookie Monster one of his hard earned dollars so that he can go off and get his cookie. (BTW Sesame Street, cookies aren't on the new food circle...just saying.) Moreover, the adult in the scene that just witnessed Elmo's 'charity' comes over and says, "Hey, Elmo, that was really a nice thing you did." A heavy, psychologically infused message from an authority figure ironically juxtaposed with all the 'science of the mind' investigations covered in the report.
'Seasame Street' missed a huge opportunity to promote responsible charity (help those that are in the process of helping themselves...ala the social safety net) instead of charity that might be abused and turned into a hammock by freeloaders in our society.