- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 15, 2001

Blame Big Bird

"My mother taught reading in a public school in a bad neighborhood … and she insisted that she never had a student who failed to learn to read… .

"This wonderful teacher was deeply shaken by 'Sesame Street,' which she saw as a threat to the education of American children. She believed that 'Sesame Street' undercut her efforts to teach her students, for reasons I believe are crucial to understanding the mounting wave of violence among our young people.

"First, she said, 'Sesame Street' was passive, not active. Kids just sat in front of the tube and watched; they weren't asked to do anything… .

"Second, 'Sesame Street' conveyed the utterly false message that learning was 'fun,' a form of entertainment… .

"Third, 'Sesame Street' presented its material in short segments, typically four to six minutes each. But real learning involves expanding the attention span of students, so that they can eventually concentrate for long periods of time… .

"It may well be certainly it's logical enough that the negative effects of TV on the brain might include an inability to distinguish fantasy from reality, and that some of the violence among our youth might be due to the … failure to develop the brain in a normal fashion."

Michael Ledeen, writing on "The Violence Thing," Tuesday in National Review Online at www.nationalreview.com

Friendly skies

"If you want to fly somewhere, you must start by being herded in and out, back and forth, up and down. First, you have to stand in line to get a boarding pass. That is to replace the ticket they just sold you. Then you have to stand in line to show your boarding pass. That is to prove you bought the ticket they just took away from you. That lets you stand in line to be checked for bombs.

"Next, you have to stand in line to give back the boarding pass they just gave you… .

"At this point, flying becomes a transformational experience. After performing several feats that could land you a job in the circus, you squeeze into your place, utterly transformed: legs locked together, knees tucked up, arms clamped tightly by your sides because this blubberhead next to you is hogging your armrest… .

"But never mind. You have found your corner of the can. Even if you do feel as if your head and tail have been cut off… .

"Finally, as you clasp your cross, star or economics book to your breast, this winged can races along the ground like some sort of confused bird trying to hurtle itself into the air. Thus you become airborne, relieved only by the thought that if it worked for Wilbur and Orville Wright, more or less, it will probably work for you."

Henry Mintzberg, from his new book, "Why I Hate Flying"

Hip virginity

"Today, more teens plan to stay virgins longer than anytime in the last 20 years… . According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 50 percent of high schoolers now graduate as virgins, up from 46 percent a decade ago. And while those four percentage points may not indicate the beginnings of a sex-free nation, they do represent the efforts of a highly orchestrated movement… .

" 'We've seen the sexual revolution come and go and sex lost,' says Leslee Unruh, the head of the world's largest chastity resource center, the National Abstinence Clearinghouse. 'Now we're seeing the sexual counterrevolution.' …

"[Abstinence] groups are aggressive about making virginity seem not only normal but hip, promoting the stories of some of the youngest, most successful … teen role models. So far, they've effectively linked their message to Britney Spears and her boyfriend, 'N Sync's Justin Timberlake; Jessica Simpson; and actress Leelee Sobieski as well as tennis stars like the Williams sisters and Anna Kournikova."

Vanessa Grigoriadis, writing on "Like a Virgin," in the April issue of Spin

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