Can Big Bird Fight Terrorism?: Children's Television and Globalized Multicultural Education

ISBN : 9780190903954

Naomi A. Moland
280 ページ
156 x 156 mm

Sesame Street has taught generations of Americans their letters and numbers, and also how to better understand and get along with people of different races, faiths, ethnicities, and temperaments. But the show has a global reach as well, with more than 30 co-productions of Sesame Street that are viewed in over 150 countries. In recent years, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has provided funding to the New York-based Sesame Workshop to create international versions of Sesame Street. The programs teach children tolerance and democratic values, with the hopes of preventing terrorism and conflict. In fact, the U.S. government has funded local versions of the show in several countries enmeshed in conflict, including Afghanistan, Kosovo, Pakistan, Jordan, and Nigeria. Can Big Bird Fight Terrorism? takes an in-depth look at the Nigerian version, Sesame Square, started in 2011 in an attempt to build peace and counter the extremist messages of Boko Haram. In addition to teaching preschool-level academic skills, Sesame Square seeks to promote peaceful coexistence-a daunting task in Nigeria, where escalating ethno-religious tensions and terrorism threaten to fracture the nation. After a year of interviewing Sesame creators, observing their production processes, conducting episode analysis, and talking to local educators who use the program in classrooms, Naomi Moland found that this child-focused use of soft power raised complex questions about how multicultural ideals translate into different settings. In Nigeria, where segregation, state fragility, and escalating conflict raise the stakes of peacebuilding efforts, multicultural education may be ineffective at best, and possibly even divisive. This book offers rare insights into the complexities inherent in attempts to "teach" cosmopolitan ideals of democracy and tolerance and the ways in which such efforts may compromise peacebuilding in countries suffering from internal conflicts.


List of Illustrations
1. Introduction: Sesame Square and the dilemmas of peacebuilding in Nigeria
2. Learning on The Longest Street in the World
3. Imagining the Nigerian Audience
4. Can Kami Promote Ethnic and Religious Tolerance?
5. Can Zobi Build National Unity?
6. Can Big Bird Fight Terrorism?
7. Conclusion: Multiculturalism in a Multicultural World
Appendix A


Naomi A. Moland is on the faculty of the School of International Service at American University. Her research and teaching focus on cultural globalization, international education, global media, and peace and conflict. In addition to her projects on international children's media, Moland is conducting research on the cultural dynamics of the global LGBTQ rights movement. Her work has been published in peer-reviewed journals such as Comparative Education Review and Urban Education.