Generally, when we think of the word “entertainment” we think about having fun and being amused. Contradictorily, when we think about the word “education” we often visualize quiet libraries, boring textbooks and drool professors. Yet these old stereotypes are anything but accurate. There is ample evidence to support the belief that if people are having fun then they are also more likely to remember the content that they are being presented with. Hence, entertainment can increase one’s capacity to learn.
Entertainment-Education is the term used to describe media that presents educational lessons in entertaining ways. In 1969 Sesame Street aired and thereby began a children’s television revolution where TV programs were used to teach children educational lessons, not merely occupy their time. Sesame Street was revolutionary for several reasons. Firstly, it captured children’s imaginations by having human cast members interact with “Muppets” that strongly resembled children’s plush toys. Secondly, Sesame Street used humor to teach basic counting and grammar lessons—something that had scarcely been done previously. Thirdly, Sesame Street appealed to both adults and children and thereby made it instantaneously popular for daily viewing. Sesame Street was also an integrated show that depicted actors and actresses of all races, creeds and socioeconomic backgrounds. In the days directly after the Civil Rights Movement this was uncommon for any television show, least of all one geared toward children. Sesame Street’s writers maintained a strong sense of moral duty to their viewers, hence many Sesame Street lessons were centered around important non-academic studies like manners, dealing with grief, and being tolerant of others. Clearly, Sesame Street’s tactics worked since the show has just celebrated its 40th anniversary and is still going strong.
Inspired by Sesame Street’s model, other educationally dedicated programs have found methods to keep young viewers entertained. Blue’s Clues presents each episode as a mystery to be solved via a number of “clues” which children must figure out as the program progresses over a half hour time slot. Veggie Tales features a cast of anamorphic vegetable characters that teach children about the importance of eating healthy. Dora the Explorer is a groundbreaking bilingual program that introduces viewers to both English and Spanish language. All of these shows include websites and social media channels that further engage viewers.
Each one of these programs is an examples of how entertainment can be educational and beneficial to young children. Television is not harmful to youngsters as long as the content being presented to them is age appropriate and academically accurate. Adults can also learn from entertaining media—hence the popularity of television genres like cooking shows.
The Internet is the new wave of Entertainment Education, with more interactive websites and YouTube tutorials coming into existence every day. It now seems like any information can be accessed and absorbed with a simple Google search. Although some people still view media and entertainment as subpar to traditional education and strictly academic subjects, the benefits of having fun and engaging media should not be ignored given their growing popularity and usefulness. People of all ages should view certain television and websites as learning aids and note the potential knowledge that awaits them with a few clicks of a keyboard.