Did Pee Wee Herman Get it Right?

Ever caught that early Woody Allen film, Sleeper? It’s classic Woody in which he plays a health food store manager who is voluntarily frozen…then brought back to life in the future by anti-government radicals in order to help them try to overthrow their current oppressive government. (Remember: this film was made in 1973. Nixon, the war in Vietnam, Nixon???)

The screenplay is loaded with memorable dialogue. Among my favorites is the scene where a doctor examining Woody explains that there was a time when medical science believed that eating fresh fruits and vegetables was good for the body. Now, however, discoveries confirmed that eating Tootsie Rolls and Snickers (or something like that) was the real key to maintaining optimum health. Given our current focus on stemming obesity in the U.S. this may not seem so funny, but I dare you NOT to laugh when you watch this scene.

With absolute truth being hurled at us 24/7/365 by every new device delivering media, the idea of everything old being new again resonates with me. This is especially true after I listened to a presentation about the new thinking on preparing people to secure meaningful employment.

It seems that with all of our emphasis on S.T.E.M. readiness, some thought leader (no doubt timidly) introduced the idea that what today’s job seekers also really need are “Soft Skills”. Soft Skills trainings are where people can learn things like good listening, kindness, friendliness, empathy, respect, creative thinking, positive body language, team work, good humor, manners, and a host of other attributes designed to make them more likable. What?!?!

No wait, seriously, I see a HUGE opportunity here to save a LOT of valuable Federal and State training dollars simply by exposing these job seekers to multiple re-runs of Pee Wee’s Playhouse. Pee Wee’s character (NOT the actor) had all of these attributes. Too weird? How about the tamer Sesame Street? Dear Mr. Rogers, you left us too soon!

On second thought, what if we give all of the arts educators and practitioners in our statewide community the respect and resources they need to regularly expose students to arts experiences–the kind that help to develop the indelible qualities kids will need to succeed in whatever they do?

Making the Arts essential in K-12 curricula is the S.T.E.A.M behind S.T.E.M., and will help to inspire the next generation of creative, kind, collaborative, empathetic, humorous, respectful, friendly, problem-solving, team-working and likable members of our workforce. Are you with me, friends?

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About Sharon Baker

Sharon Baker’s creative expertise and life long interest in advancing social justice through critical storytelling have been the driving forces behind TELEDUCTION's success since its expansion to film and television in 1982. Expert in the art of the interview, she has documented the struggles and achievements of people in neighborhoods throughout the US, and in settings in Africa, China, Central America and elsewhere, tapping into the humanity of her subjects from the powerless…to Presidents. Her titles include Cartoons Go to War, Whispers of Angels, With All Deliberate Speed: Brown v. Board, Estamos Aqui and Why I Write. TELEDUCTION programs have been broadcast via American Public Television, The History Channel, The BRAVO Network, National Geographic Worldwide, and are in educational distribution throughout the US. Sharon’s extensive experience as a producer, director, writer and photographer has netted her prestigious industry awards Emmys, National Gabriel, bronze and silver Chris Awards) and Palm D’Or at distinguished Film Festivals, including the Heartland International Film Festival(2011).
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