When you’re young, ideas run abound as you test your own limits, learn about the world, and understand your place in it. Information and experience are commonplace, but wisdom is much harder to come by.
Today, as we find ourselves entering the full swing of a uniquely challenging future for education, we take a look at five timeless lessons that we learned from the puppet-professors emeritus of “Sesame Street” University. So put on your thinking cap and take a walk with us down the hallowed halls of this prestigious campus.
Lesson 1: Laughter is the Best Medicine
By Dr. Elmo, M.D.
We’ve all been down before—mentally, emotionally, or existentially. Whether young or old, whenever we set expectations only to have them crushed by reality, we’re experiencing the growing pangs of disappointment. When faced with these moments, Dr. Elmo always steps in with a valuable lesson: laughter is truly the best medicine. A funny joke, a well-timed prank, or even Dr. Elmo’s specialty, tickling, are all rich ways to bring us healing and pull us back from the harsh edge of disappointment.
And Dr. Elmo’s stance isn’t without scientific merit: we now know the full range of the scientific benefits of laughter. For example, laughter boosts the immune system by decreasing stress hormones and increasing immune cell and antibody production. Laughter is also a natural calorie burner, with a healthy comedic life burning around 40 calories for every 10-to-15 minutes of laughter.
What’s more, scientists have discovered that laughter even helps you live longer—people with a great sense of humor are reported to outlive those with a more reserved laughter life. By these standards, it’s no wonder our red puppet professor has had such a timeless life—he’ll be forever young!
Lesson 2: One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure
By Professor Oscar T. Grouch, Ph.D. (School of Economics)
Every great story came from humble beginnings: The home that keeps you safe at night was once a pile of raw materials on undeveloped, wild land. You yourself were once a helpless infant, unable to feed, protect, or even think for yourself. But here you are in all your glory: reading words, making decisions, and leaving your mark on the world.
What if you were discarded before you had a chance to learn life? Professor Grouch, by occupying an unorthodox, albeit undesirable, position in America’s best neighborhood, showed us that life can thrive in humble places — all between grouchy musings and petulant positing.
Lesson 3: Knowledge is Power
By Professor Count Von Count (Dean, Statistics Department)
Before we ever learned how to balance our checkbooks, apply for a loan, or fill out an application for our own apartment, we first learned how to count. Numbers are behind nearly everything we do from science, to governance, to astronomy and beyond, with some mathematicians even regarding math as the language of the Gods. For a purple Transylvanian count, an existential and even sinister connection to numbers would make sense, but we’re just thankful he dumbed down his manifesto for the rest of us.
Some schools of thought (mostly the preschool ones) credit Professor Von Count for single-handedly showing us ‘1.’ He then upped the ante and introduced us to ‘2,’ and many of us weren’t ready. But he wasn’t done yet: before you knew it ‘3’ had shown up and changed the game. And with each new level (we promise we’re going somewhere with this) we learned a new dimension of possibility. We watched worlds unfold every time we lifted a finger and named it instead of referring to it as the more reductive, colloquial “this many.” With this foundation, we went on to learn addition, subtraction, and multiplication, until we evolved to our highest form and learned…taxes.
Professor Count didn’t just teach us numbers; he taught us that knowledge itself was the portal between what is and what could be. Some would say the Count gave us power over life and death. Or at least life and taxes.
Lesson 4: An Old Friend is Like Gold
By Professors Bert and Ernie (Co-Chairs, Department of Communications)
“Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, and the other is gold.” The relationship between Bert and Ernie will go down as one of America’s greatest on-screen bromances. On paper, the two muppets were polar opposites: Bert, a thick-browed, cerebral pragmatist, and Ernie, the boyish laissez-faire optimist. When Bert demanded a zig, Ernie giggled a gleeful zag.
Yet the two always found common ground, and they were always there for one another. Sure, they may have been goaded by some helpful hidden hands, but they were the prototype for friendship: after disagreements, after pride repeatedly reared its ugly head, even with a long laundry list of mistakes between them, they were always able to choose their longevity over their conflict du jour. And that, my friends, is what friendship is about. Be like Bert and Ernie: hold on tight to your friends. They may be the only ones who understand what it’s like when someone else is pulling the strings.
Lesson 5: There is Power in Passion, and Maturity in Moderation.
By Professor Cookie Monster (Leading Scholar in Muppet Psychology)
Fanaticism. It’s produced some of sports’ greatest moments, some of history’s worst tyrants, and some of our greatest lessons on the psychosocial behavior of humans. Fanaticism, at its best, produces unwavering loyalty and fierce commitment to an idea or outcome. At its worst, fanaticism produces addiction, obsessive-compulsive behavior, or maniacal group-think. School never taught us the difference, and not knowing has potentially disastrous outcomes.
Enter Professor Cookie Monster: The type of instructor who educates by practical example rather than by theory. In fact, the nutty, often chocolatey, ooey-gooey, perfect-with-milk professor teaches by only one theory, a foundational principle he derived from hours of research and thousands of trials: the only thing better than Cookie is More Cookie, denoted more formally as:
mC ≥ C
In practice, Professor Monster shows us both sides of fanaticism. On one hand, we watch how his obsession with cookies takes its effect on his focus, his relationships, and even his health (That eye condition? Recently diagnosed as an inoperable case of Adult-Onset Googly Eyes.). On the other hand, we come to admire and even rely on the Cookie Monster’s unwaveringly consistent penchant for all things cookie. Is Cookie Monster a crumb addict? A snackaholic? Or a sherpa to simpler times when monsters had cravings just like the rest of us?
Applications to the “Sesame Street” University Class of 2021 can be found by visiting HBO Max.
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