What Mitt Romney Could Learn From Sesame Street

Last night, students around Sarah Lawrence campus passed around a few joints and watched the first Presidential debate. While even the most ardent Obama supporters will have to admit Mr. Romney talked circles around the president, the former Massachusetts governor still managed to write the Onion‘s headline for them in an attempt at making another stilted joke.

Despite professing his admiration for Big Bird, Romney included defunding PBS among his spending cuts.

 I like PBS, I love Big Bird… But I’m not going to — I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for.

 

This is especially tragic, not only because PBS brings free educational programming to millions of Americans and has served our country for over forty years, but also because it seems like Mitt could probably still learn a thing or two from Big Bird and Co.

 

If Mr. Romney tuned in to PBS more, he might get a lesson in waiting your turn and not talking over other people. He could pick up some basic addition and subtraction, too, to work on balancing his tax plan. And of course, the importance of telling the truth rather than stretching the facts for the sake of a good story.

 

Most importantly, Mr. Romney could learn about sharing. In the first moments of the debate, he spoke about meeting a new mother who just lost her house, and who begged him to do something for people like her. Instead of health care vouchers, a gutted education budget, and a tax plan shrouded in mystery, Mitt might have offered one of his six homes to the family. Romney seems reluctant to share in general, denying the majority of Americans the gifts he takes for granted.

 

The president seems to have graduated from kindergarten already, counting his favorite classes as “math, common sense, and history”, but he could stand to watch a few Sesame Street episodes himself. Like maybe the one about standing up for yourself to bullies. Mr. Obama was playing the polite older brother all night, serenely allowing his opponent to gobble up airtime while shooting Jim Lehrer long, suffering side-eyes.

 

When I started working as a homework tutor for primary school kids, I was immediately humbled by their mastery of so many of the basic lessons I’ve forgotten. Last week I had a six year old teach me the Spanish alphabet, and I needed a 5th grader to clarify what “rounding” means.

It is easy to lose sight of the lessons we learned in pre-k as we bone up on Foucault and foreign policy, but what makes a community (or a debate or a presidential race) civil are the first things we learned: be nice, tell the truth, and keep your hands to yourself.

 

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