Friday, October 5, 2012

Why PBS is Important

I opted not to watch the first presidential debate this week for three reasons:
  1. It wasn't going to change my mind at all
  2. I needed to grade papers and wanted to stay in a relatively good mood for the experience (otherwise, I knew my students would suffer the consequences)
  3. It would make me angry
Although I didn't watch any of the debate, I certainly heard a lot about them. Besides being pleasantly surprised by my students (who not only watched the debate but asked me questions about it and brought up points made by the candidates on education), I also heard about Mitt Romney's ridiculous idea to cut federal funding for PBS because of some misguided notion that the subsidy PBS receives is what is causing the nation's fiscal problems. 

At first, I thought this claim was a joke. For months, conservatives have talked up Romney's business sense. However, if he thinks that the money that PBS gets is really pushing the U.S. economy down the path of no return, then he can't be any good with finance, money, or budget.

Time, among other sites and news outlets, has noted Romney's bizarre (and likely ill-advised) decision to go after Big Bird by name in the debate. Romney has also sparked outrage from people ranging from the head of PBS to a (supposed) eight-year-old girl who wrote a letter voicing her displeasure. LeVar Burton, the former host of Reading Rainbow, has also criticized the move and called it "an attack on children" during an interview with Soledad O'Brien. Burton makes some excellent points on the issue:

However, my favorite defense of PBS comes from Mr. Rogers. In 1969, President Nixon wanted to cut the funding for PBS in half. In order to prevent this from happening, Mr. Rogers appeared before Congress. In a scene that would do Frank Capra proud, he uses his kindness, sincerity, and good sense to disarm the head of the committee and save PBS's funding.