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Well, as most of you know by now, Big Bird is on lock-down. That’s right, Sesame Street’s new “Little Children, Big Challenges” educational kit provides parents resources to help children cope with the incarceration of a parent.

This is both bold and timely, given the close to 2.7 million children who currently have a parent in prison, and the disproportionate number of African Americans who contribute to those numbers.

Sounds like a positive program.

Well not so fast say some people who argue that this effort promotes the ‘normalcy of having a parent in jail’ and therefore could send the wrong message to the same disadvantaged populations it is trying to help.

In other words, focusing too much attention on this harsh reality may, according to some, actually encourage it.

So I guess the question is whether Big Bird is helping or hurting?

One thing is for sure, the problem is here – whether we choose to address it or not 2.7 million children are affected by either mommy or daddy not being present in their daily lives because of incarceration, and this is a challenge.

Such questions and tensions over whether an alleged remedy is part of the problem are far from new. Just think about the traditional debate regarding sex education for teens and whether it actually deters pregnancies or promotes sex.

And once politics and ideologies get involved, these debates often become less sincere.

That said, to my thinking, it basically boils down to this fundamental question: Is the cost of not doing anything greater than the potential pitfalls of doing something…?

You see, once you put it in those terms, the answer becomes clearer. We’ll have to wait and see how he handles the issue, but I’d much rather have Big Bird guiding parents on how to address the emotional needs of children than Big Ostrich sticking his head in the sand and acting like the problem doesn’t exist.

Yes these issues are complex, and an appropriate solution is needed but we certainly can’t do nothing and magically expect the problem to go away.

I’ll leave you with this from anthropologist and author Margaret Mead:

“The solution to adult problems tomorrow depends on large measure upon how our children grow up today.”

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