‘Sesame Street’ Is Highlighting a Forgotten Skill: Failing
The message of the show’s 50th season is that it’s okay to make mistakes. It couldn’t come at a better time.
In an upcoming episode of Sesame Street, disaster strikes: Rudy, the brother of muppet Abby Cadabby, messes up a drawing he’s been working on and gets very upset with himself.
But this is Sesame Street, so, thankfully, the story has a happy ending: Alan, the current owner of the show’s gathering place Hooper’s Store, encourages Rudy not to give up. Eventually, Rudy gets inspired by his mistake and creates a new picture.
The episode—designed to teach that messing up is okay, but giving up is not—is in keeping with the curriculum focus of the show’s 50th season, which begins airing on November 16: “Oops and Aha!: Embracing the Power of Possibilities.”
“Today’s preschool kids are under an unprecedented amount of stress and pressure,” Rosemarie Truglio, Sesame Workshop’s senior vice president of curriculum and content, said in a statement. “That result-oriented mindset can make kids afraid to take even the safest risks — never trying to pour their own milk for fear of spilling it.”
The issue is a timely one. One recent study found that perfectionism — which has been linked to pathological worrying, depression, social anxiety, and a host of other psychological issues — has become increasingly common in young people over the past couple decades. And perfectionism that takes root in childhood has long-lasting consequences for motivation and learning: One 2014 study, for example, found that young adults who had developed a fear of failure early in life were more likely to chase accomplishments for the ego boost, rather than for their own personal growth, and more inclined to cheat along the way.
But give kids room to fail a little now and then, and research suggests they’ll turn out more curious, more resilient, and more willing to work to better themselves. A study by Stanford University researchers found that a kid’s intelligence mindset—in other words, whether they believe intelligence is a fixed trait or one that can be improved with effort—is connected to the way their parents think about failure.