Monday, May 3, 2010

Blaming Mr. Rogers: A Critique

Blame it on Mr. Rogers

okay, my awesome friend Shyla posted the above article on facebook this morning. It isn't a bad article or terribly bad theory, but I have issues with it. Basically, LSU finance professor Don Chance claims that the overwhelming sense of entitlement among young people today is due to Mr. Rogers inundating them with "you're special just the way you are" messages. He says that it's all just a part of the ego-boosting aimed at children and the upsurge in "His Majesty, the Fetus" rhetoric from the pro-life groups. Again, not a completely flawed theory, at least when it comes to the ego-boosting and pro-life parts, that is. My main issue with the Mr. Rogers part is that it seems to be just one more way to take attention off of the fact that many parents are simply not teaching their kids how to act. Not only that it de-emphasizes all the good that Mr. Rogers did. Let me explain...

As pathetic as it may sound, as a child of Mr. Rogers-watching age, I was told very little that I was okay as I was. I had little evidence to assume this even without verbal cues, and Mr. Rogers was, somedays, the only person that actually claimed to like me for who I was. I had few friends, and as most of my current friends know, a terrible and usually not present mother. For kids like me, Mr. Rogers provided, if not perfect self-esteem (because let's face it, he was on TV and not entirely invested in my life), a seed of self-acceptance. Yes, I was weird and the biggest geek I knew, but that was okay. I know I was not the only kid for whom Mr. Rogers provided this...

"You're special." On the Yahoo Answers Web site, a discussion thread about Mr. Rogers begins with this
posting: "Mr. Rogers spent years telling little creeps that he liked them just the way they were. He should
have been telling them there was a lot of room for improvement. ... Nice as he was, and as good as his
intentions may have been, he did a disservice."


Even if Mr. Rogers did tell us that we were special the way we are, the entire show was about how to be a better person. Caring, compassion, empathy--these were constant themes. We may be special just the way we are, but we still needed to learn empathy and how to care for others.

That aside, we are living in an age in which children are the all-important and media and culture at large are blamed for everything. Take Columbine. Who was the first to be blamed? Not parents for not realizing the kids had problems, not bullies who caused the problem, but Marilyn Manson--a singer whose music the adults didn't understand and who is different enough to be easily targeted. When a kid does anything--take a gun to school, beat someone up--it is the video games and movies that are blamed. Now, I'm not saying that media and culture don't have any effect. Obviously they do, but think about this. If parents did not expect TV, movies, and video games to babysit their kids, maybe they wouldn't absorb the influences so fully.

One example that Chance points out in the article is calling adults by their first names. Now, maybe this is a regional thing, but I was never allowed to simply call an adult by their given name. When a friend's mom told us to call her by just her name and not Ms. (first name here) and I said it in front of my grandmother, she proceeded to bawl me out. I was to call people Mr. or Mrs. and their last name, or at the very least Mr. or Ms. and their first name. Just a first name was considered the height of disrespect. But apparently other places this isn't as stringently enforced...

But all of this can't be simply the fault of Mr. Rogers. After all, it's only a half-hour show. There are 23 1/2 other hours in the day in which kids can absorb other influences. Maybe parenting should be one of them...

1 comment:

xprophecyofdoomx said...

I agree. The idea that you don't have to be anything other than what your are, or accomplish any particular thing, in order to be loved and valued, is quite a startling realization to some folks. So much emphasis is placed on what a young person has to do in order to be a success in life, I don't believe enough emphasis is places upon that fact that you can be okay just as you are, too. I'm not sure that I've experienced the mass acceptance of everybody that is described in the first artical.