Now the Crazies are Coming for Mister Rogers

Fred Rogers spent decades making our children feel special. What a jerk.



 

Not many iconic figures were as widely respected during their lifetime and after their passing as Mister Rogers. You’ve got Jesus, sure. Mother Teresa, naturally. Roberto Clemente, absolutely. Each had his or her human moments, similar to those you or I might have had. Eat’n Park is out of Splenda? *table flip*

Windows reboots without asking permission? *table flip*

It’s got to be one of the most satisfying feelings.

Surprisingly, this is not a column about table-flipping. I’ll save that for the next time a Steelers player is arrested.

Back to my current topic: Despite human moments, Mister Rogers, Mother Teresa and Roberto Clemente are on the short list of humans widely revered for their goodness, generosity and love. Saying bad things about any one of them is an activity partaken in by those who would readily punt a baby panda holding a baby penguin.

You can add Fox News to the list of “panda punters,” as the network’s morning-show team — recorded on a 2008 video that has recently become viral again — once spent six minutes calling Mister Rogers an “evil, evil man.”

Why? Because he spent his life telling kids they were special. What a colossal jerk.

The logic of this occasionally levied Mister Rogers criticism goes like this: “If everyone is special, then no one is special. Mister Rogers is why American children are floundering in school and life. They’re entitled, lazy brats who think they’re special just for getting out of bed in the morning.”

After age 3 or so, kids have their entire lives to understand that they have to work hard to be “special.” They’ll likely spend their time in Little League and dance classes learning from (often) overzealous coaches, instructors and parents that they need to be more special. They’ll hear from bullies that they’re “nobody special.” They’ll be looked at as lesser humans whose opinions don’t count for much and whose words are worth only a half-listen coupled with an absent-minded nod.

I’m guilty of that, too. I’ve been known to bust out the half-listen and absent-minded nod as I hear, “The Yeti could be real. The bones could be up on Mount Everest somewhere, and that’s why they haven’t been found. Is Bigfoot a Yeti? Justin Bieber is so annoying.”

Suddenly, I’m hearing Charlie Brown’s mother, and my head is nodding up and down like a discarded Joel Hanrahan bobblehead.

Kids grow up knowing they’re low on the totem pole. Choices are limited. Freedom to just be is tempered by cultural restraints. They’re placed in boxes: “You are a girl. You will like pink, purple and these three aisles in Target. You will get the ‘girl toy’ at the drive-thru. Get in this box that I have bedazzled for you; it’s filled with Barbie dolls and Hello Kitty press-on nails. And you are a boy. You will like sports, NERF guns and armpit farts. Here is a box of dirt and worms. I buried some Matchbox cars and G.I. Joes in there. Hop in.”

But what about the girl who wants to play with dirt instead of Barbies? Or the boy who wants to play the violin instead of third base? They’re special, too, and that’s what Mister Rogers was telling us as children. He was saying, “Screw the box!” Jump out of its cookie-cutter confines and run free to whatever your heart loves because doing that is what will make you special — embracing and accepting you.

A row of girls in pink boxes and boys in dirt boxes is not special. Adolescents who feel loved, appreciated and valued for who they are, outside their boxes, end up being special adults. Not lazy and entitled.

Mister Rogers never said, “Who cares if you flunk out of school? You’re special!” He said, “It’s OK to be who you are — because who you are makes you special.”

Kids who watched Mister Rogers growing up aren’t whining to their parents, “It’s just a few F’s. Mister Rogers still thinks I’m special.” They’re not playing the Mister Rogers card when the chips are down and their parents are glaring at them for whatever havoc they’ve wreaked with a Sharpie. They’re not 35-year-olds sleeping until noon in their parents’ basements under the comforting quilt of “Mister Rogers thinks I’m special.”

The American education system is the reason many Chinese children outscore ours. Trying to blame one bit of it on the legacy of Fred Rogers?

*table flip*


Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in May

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in May

The month's best bets in The 'Burgh.
Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2016

Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2016

The list of the regions's 687 leading physicians across 80 specialities.
Making The Rounds: What It Means to be a Doctor in Pittsburgh

Making The Rounds: What It Means to be a Doctor in Pittsburgh

In a city known for world-class care, a life dedicated to health is rewarding, challenging, and innovative at every level — from med school to the board room.
Why Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay is Cornered

Why Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay is Cornered

Can McLay reshape the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police in his polite, communication-heavy, community-friendly, racially sensitive, 21st-century image?
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Short Notice: Lauryn Hill Coming to Pittsburgh Wednesday

Short Notice: Lauryn Hill Coming to Pittsburgh Wednesday

It will be the singer's first Pittsburgh show in 17 years.
Pittsburgh Comic Shop Owners Prepare For Free Comic Book Day

Pittsburgh Comic Shop Owners Prepare For Free Comic Book Day

For comic book fans, it's the equivalent of black Friday, only much more fun.
Ross Photographer's Out of This World Picture To Be On Postage Stamp

Ross Photographer's Out of This World Picture To Be On Postage Stamp

The stunning photo of a star trail around Mt. Rainier took two hours to shoot.
Is PUC Going Overboard With Its Punishment of Uber

Is PUC Going Overboard With Its Punishment of Uber

Governor Tom Wolf, Mayor Bill Peduto, and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald say the PUC went too far when it fined the ride-sharing company $11.3 million.

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our new, daily e-newsletter is curated by the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine and is designed to give you the very best Pittsburgh has to offer -- delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign me up!
* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in May

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in May

The month's best bets in The 'Burgh.
Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2016

Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2016

The list of the regions's 687 leading physicians across 80 specialities.
Making The Rounds: What It Means to be a Doctor in Pittsburgh

Making The Rounds: What It Means to be a Doctor in Pittsburgh

In a city known for world-class care, a life dedicated to health is rewarding, challenging, and innovative at every level — from med school to the board room.
Why Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay is Cornered

Why Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay is Cornered

Can McLay reshape the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police in his polite, communication-heavy, community-friendly, racially sensitive, 21st-century image?
The Eaglets Have Landed

The Eaglets Have Landed

The bald eagles nesting in Hays once again have given birth to a new generation. We take you into the nest to see how quickly the two chicks are growing.
Review: Justin Severino Knocks It Out of the Park With Morcilla

Review: Justin Severino Knocks It Out of the Park With Morcilla

Severino's follow-up to Cure is already winning national accolades.
Edit Module

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Short Notice: Lauryn Hill Coming to Pittsburgh Wednesday

Short Notice: Lauryn Hill Coming to Pittsburgh Wednesday

It will be the singer's first Pittsburgh show in 17 years.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

Kennywood Park opens soon and new this season is the return of the famed whale at the entrance of Noah’s Ark. In the name of science, PittGirl paid an early visit to test the squishiness quotient of the whale's all-important tongue.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Time to Get Your Garden Growing

Time to Get Your Garden Growing

The May Market at Phipps Conservatory in Oakland is the largest seedling sale of the season.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The Best 6 Places to Get a Cup of Tea in Pittsburgh

The Best 6 Places to Get a Cup of Tea in Pittsburgh

The quiet rise of Pittsburgh's tea scene gives us a few favorite gems.

Comments


Lawrenceville's New, Different Nighttime (and Morning) Destination

Lawrenceville's New, Different Nighttime (and Morning) Destination

The Abbey on Butler — part coffeehouse, part restaurant, part bar — could prove to be a major Lawrenceville destination.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Pirates Still Searching For Response to Arrieta-Caliber Dominance

Pirates Still Searching For Response to Arrieta-Caliber Dominance

The Bucs’ wild-card failures the last two seasons have cast a shadow of doubt if not impending doom over a season that otherwise ought to be ripe with promise.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Welcome Warm Weather with This Bright Summer Shift Dress

Welcome Warm Weather with This Bright Summer Shift Dress

Local fashion line Kelly Lane has the perfect dress to kick off your summer style.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Captain America: Civil War is the Best Marvel Flick Yet

Captain America: Civil War is the Best Marvel Flick Yet

The superhero throwdown caps a hot streak for the comic studio. Plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Finding Sunshine on a Rainy Wedding Day in Pittsburgh

Finding Sunshine on a Rainy Wedding Day in Pittsburgh

You don’t always need blue skies and sunshine to have a beautiful and memorable wedding. One couple shares their advice on making the most of a rainy wedding day and what to do when the forecast is less than ideal.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
A Far From Ordinary House Tour in Wilkinsburg This Weekend

A Far From Ordinary House Tour in Wilkinsburg This Weekend

The Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation hosts a one-of-a-kind house tour on May 7.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
A Week of Education for Adults & Children Alike

A Week of Education for Adults & Children Alike

Remake Learning Days, a program offering new and future-forward educational experiences, is set for various spots throughout the area.

Comments