[lg policy] Sesame Street in Canada: A journey from A to Zee to Zed

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Wed Aug 3 11:06:49 EDT 2016

Sesame Street in Canada: A journey from A to Zee to Zed
University of Guelph professor looks at how the popular children's show was
adapted to, and reflected, Canadian culture
about 18 hours ago by: Joanne Shuttleworth
[image: Sesame Street]

As Canada strove to establish its own identity and culture in the 1970s and
‘80s, it found itself travelling along Sesame Street. And it wasn’t all
sunny days, as University of Guelph Professor Matthew Hayday has discovered.

Hayday is a professor of history with an interest in Canada’s education and
language policies and how they have shaped the nation and help define what
it means to be Canadian.

Sesame Street, the children’s television show, began to air in the early
1970s – a few years before Canada established Canadian content rules in
broadcasting and French language policy.

When it came to Canada there was pressure to Canadianize the content.

“I wanted to look at the way Sesame Street was adapted to Canadian content
and the politics involved in that,” Hayday said in an interview. “That was
the hook for me. What was the vision of Canada and how was that injected
into the show?”

The first and most obvious change was including French rather than Spanish

“The other priority was to include multiculturalism,” Hayday said. “This
was the second year after government policy on language so it was very

The third piece of Canadian content, and one that was “very progressive”
for the era, Hayday said, was to include images and information about First
Nations people.

“They were called Indians and Eskimos at the time but it was a very early
priority of the show in Canada,” Hayday said. “The idea was not to teach
French necessarily, but for children to know and accept that there are
different languages. And these were positive representations of First
Nations people – something not always seen.

“The idea was to subtly convey these values to Canadians aged three, four,
five and six.”

It was tough going for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, however, as
it negotiated these changes with the Children’s Television Workshop, which
produced Sesame Street in the U.S.

The Children’s Television Workshop was very proud of the show and its
vision of teaching children rather than just entertaining them.

“The show had specific pedagogical models and it didn’t want other
countries to tinker with that,” Hayday said. “(The CBC) had to make sure it
covered the curriculum in a specific way and educational experts had to vet
the project.”

Commercials could not be aired during the show and the program had to air
five days a week in the same time slot. Sesame Street was still building
its brand, and as it gained international interest it was adamant about
maintaining quality content for children.

Not every country thought Sesame Street was worth importing however.

Hayday said the British Broadcasting Corporation thought the show gave its
lessons “with too much authority. They thought it wasn’t child-centred
enough,” he said.

“What’s interesting about the Sesame Street project was how the stories
were changed for local content and in Canada the show served to normalize
certain values about Canada.”

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