Television Must Teach
By the late 1960s groups like ACT (Action for Children’s Television) began to question television’s impact on children. New programming, especially public television series like Sesame Street, pioneered new ways to entertain and educate youngsters. Following years of criticism and activism, in 1990 Congress passed the Children’s Television Act, requiring television stations to air a number of hours of educational programming for children. New television programs taught life skills like inclusion and kindness, and some inspired kids to discover science and technology.
Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, 1966–2001
An early pioneer of educational public television, Fred Rogers used his honest, warm persona to teach children about themselves and their neighborhoods. Episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood featured visits to The Neighborhood of Make-Believe, where puppet characters like King Friday and Daniel Tiger faced everyday problems.
Sesame Street, 1969–present
Sesame Street premiered in 1969 and has won accolades for its innovative approach to educational television. The nonprofit Children’s Television Workshop designed Sesame Street for underserved viewers who might not attend preschool. The show’s diverse cast of live actors joined Muppets to teach the basics of reading, writing, math, and life skills.
Bill Nye the Science Guy, 1993–1998
Engineer and comedian Bill Nye developed a fast-paced, humorous science education program for Seattle public television in 1993. Still struggling to meet the educational requirements of the 1990 Children’s Television Act, networks picked up Bill Nye the Science Guy. The show won acclaim for its entertaining approach to science education.
Clifford the Big Red Dog, 2000–2003
Adapted from the popular series of children’s books by Norman Bridwell, Clifford the Big Red Dog aired on PBS. Clifford is caring, helpful, and loyal to his owner, Emily Elizabeth, but he sometimes runs into trouble due to his large size. The program taught viewers how to deal with everyday problems and to build relationships.