March 22, 2013

Happy Belated Birthday Mr. Rogers

This past Wednesday (March 20th) would have been Mr. Rogers' 85th birthday.

Like most of my readers and fans, I grew up watching educational programming on PBS. Whether Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, Reading Rainbow or Sesame Street, I was always guaranteed free, high-quality, educational programming every single afternoon.

As a parent, I can now look back on those memories with a new-found sense of admiration and respect for the mission of PBS and Mr. Rogers.  At absolutely no cost to my parents, my sister and I were able to extend our learning beyond the classroom and into our home.

It is no secret that the educational system in this country is failing.  All of our various attempts to diagnose and address the problem have only resulted in clouding our vision and further complicating an already dense and complex issue.

I am not qualified to speak on our nation's educational crisis in any profound way; I leave the debates to the educators and policy makers.  Nevertheless, I cannot help but believe that we have turned away from the answers that are right in front of our collective eyes; that we are ignoring the solutions that have worked in the past.

In 1969, Fred Rogers appeared before the United States Senate, defending the value of PBS and arguing against the 50% cut to their funding proposed by former President Richard Nixon.  His speech is direct, eloquent and passionate and elucidates the value of PBS and their programming.

(Here is the 7 minute video.  Please watch it.  It is well worth your time.)

You see, the true value of PBS and their programming was not just the actual academic lessons they taught.  Yes, I was able to practice my alphabet, my phonics, my math and a host of other educational skills through the help of the Muppets and their friends.  However, the reason PBS remains truly priceless is the lessons that lay underneath the obvious ones; Big Bird and Snuffy taught me the value of friendship; Levar Burton taught me to truly love reading; and Mr. Rogers always reminded me that I was special and that he liked me "...just the way you are."

PBS worked in concert with my existing team of educators and parents.  Their programs taught me to embrace my curiosity; to expand my knowledge; to simply fall in love with learning.  They did not attempt to replace my classroom work nor to substitute the love of my parents.  However, for those children who were not lucky enough to have great schools in their neighborhood or for those children who were not fortunate enough to have great parents in their homes, PBS did the best that they could to address both their educational and emotional needs.

We owe it to our children to continue to work towards solving the educational crisis in America.  PBS did not contact me in any way nor do they have any idea that I wrote this post.  As a father and an employee of a national education nonprofit, I sincerely believe in the mission of the PBS Foundation and hope you will join me in supporting their efforts.  Please follow this link to donate directly to your local PBS station: Support the PBS Foundation.

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