and what about naomi?

An Open Letter to Joan Ganz Cooney, former president, Sesame Workshop (Childrens Television Workshop)

Dear Mrs. Cooney,

What a pleasure it was to receive in the mail today the 4-DVD set of The Best of the Electric Company. It is a joy to see these programs available in purchasable media, and to be assured that the money will help fund future Sesame Workshop programs.

When I took over running the grey-area online archive of Electric Company video and audio clips a few years ago, I knew I was taking a risk. I never intended to threaten Sesame Workshop’s claim to ownership of these works. However, the rich heritage of these programs, and the profound impact they had on multiple generations of American children deserved a wider audience…even if it was just grainy, small online translations of grainy copies of copies of off-the-air broadcasts. It was with no small surprise that I received a C&D letter from Sesame Workshop’s legal department shortly after Cory Doctorow linked to my site from boingboing. The monthly transfer rates from the site after his link (but prior to the Workshop’s letter!) confirmed that there was an incredible market for the material. I’m ever so glad that Sesame Workshop stepped up and reclaimed its heritage for itself! I was especially pleased to see your segments on the second DVD, and to see some (though limited) framing of the content in its original educational context.

Clearly, with a renewed interest in the show, it is everyone’s hope to whom I have spoken that Sesame Workshop renews the show in this millenium. The format and content will most certainly be different, but continuing the mission to help children read through positive cultural references without the heavy-handed moralism of many an educational television program could very well be a breakthrough. I wasn’t ever directly involved in the original production…but I sure would love to be involved in future work, if there’s a place for someone like me.

Again, I salute your efforts on Sesame Street, The Electric Company, 3-2-1 Contact and the myriads of other educational efforts that followed, both on and off screen. As I struggle to educate both children and adults alike, I continue to look to your pioneering work as a source of inspiration. I still think of your statement in the original Parents’ Guide released just as The Electric Company was set to air: “If television’s true potential as a weapon in the fight against reading failure is to be realized, the full range of television techniques and talents must be exercised.” And, just like your 8 year old granddaughter recently said – this show still is “REALLY good.”

Thank you once again for your hard efforts.

Joan Sarah Touzet

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