Children’s Television Workshop and "Sesame Street": Carnegie Corporation of New York, 1966

Center for Strategic Philanthropy and Civil Society (Duke)



Case Study Sector


In the mid-1960s, children’s television programming was hard to find, with Captain Kangaroo as the only weekday show directed at the preschool audience. The Ford Foundation, the primary financial supporter of National Educational Television, was interested solely in adult “liberal education.” A couple of studies in the 1960s, however, would spark new ideas in the potential for television to educate mass audiences of children. One reported that it could cost as much as $2.75 billion to educate, in a traditional classroom setting, the country’s twelve million three- to five-year-old children who, at the time, received no formal education. Another, a Nielsen survey, noted that children under six watched an average of thirty hours of television a week.
In 1966 Carnegie Corporation of New York Vice President Lloyd Morrisett, who had long worked on the Corporation’s efforts in childhood development and was mindful of both the costs of preschool education and the prevalence of television among children, asked documentary film producer Joan Ganz Cooney whether television could be used effectively to educate young children. Cooney, intrigued, thought through the prospects of children’s educational television with Morrisett, and Carnegie Corporation agreed to fund a feasibility study that Cooney would conduct. Cooney presented the results of her study to Carnegie Corporation in October. In it, she suggested that a full-scale evaluation be conducted in light of the widespread viewing habits of young children.
The Children’s Television Workshop (CTW), the name devised for the entity that would conduct the evaluation Cooney suggested, and Sesame Street, CTW’s first program, were announced to the public in March 1968. . . .



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