Return Mr. Rogers!
Word is finally getting around town that Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood is off the air. Yes, the powers-that-be at Channel 6 (KVIE) decided, right after Labor Day, to call it quits on the most innocently erudite children’s morning program that ever existed.
Say it ain’t so!
You remember the late Fred Rogers? An ordained Presbyterian minister, he rose to become an American icon for spending 30 years on the public airwaves teaching pre-school children—at a deliberately slow pace—about life, friendship, curiosity and patience. He won four Emmy’s for stepping off the porch into his home, changing from his “work” clothes into a zipped cardigan (now in the Smithsonian), welcoming his young visitors with a wide smile into a “beautiful day in the neighborhood.”
Compared to the manic cartoons and hyper-frantic pace of most children’s programming today, Mister Rogers offered peace and safety, love and respect. But somehow, he’s no longer welcome on the public airwaves in Sacramento. Supposedly, the program wasn’t getting good numbers, i.e., a large enough audience. Hmm. We thought public television was supposed to be a place where quality counts more than quantity.
Speaking recently at UC Davis’ Mondavi Center, author and child advocate Jonathan Kozol told an anecdote about riding on the New York subway with Rogers to the Bronx to attend an after-school program. A child named Mario b-lined across the room, said Kozol, kissed the cultural icon on the forehead and said, “Welcome to my neighborhood, Mr. Rogers.”
Yes, welcome. Mr. Rogers had reached that kid in the Bronx, but it could have been a million places. Oak Park or Land Park. East Sacramento or Del Paso Heights. Anywhere where there are kids who need to learn the basics, to feel safe for a time … to find out about that beautiful day.