Monday, June 20, 2005

...But you don't have to take my word for it.

Consider this your throat-clearing "ahem" and your spritz of Binaca. I'm getting up on my soapbox and I'm not gonna stop yapping until every last person reading has gone here and written a letter to their representatives urging them not to cut funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

It's not just some online petition for you to add your name to (though they do have a couple of those as well). These people are great--you write an actual letter to your representative and they'll hand deliver it for you. It makes a huge difference when a politician receives a physical letter at their office door instead of just an e-mail, or a signature on a petition. But it makes an even bigger difference when they receive a thousand letters in the mailbox.

The deal is, Congress wants to cut almost $200 million from Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which funds PBS and NPR. Kenneth Tomlinson, the Bushie head of the CPB, has been on a liberal witch hunt since Buster had two mommies on his show. Despite polls showing that eighty percent of Americans believe that public broadcasting is fair and unbiased, conservatives seem hellbent on tearing down what they perceive to be government sponsored liberal propaganda.

If you have ever driven around listening to NPR because commercial radio was playing that gross 50 Cent candyshop song again, you have to write a letter. If you ever loved Mr. Rogers so much you were willing to watch his show despite the fact that every monster in your nightmares had Lady Elaine's face, you have to write a letter. If you know the name of Bert's pigeon, you have to write a letter. If you too can make yourself cry by thinking of that one time when Lavar Burton spent an entire episode of Reading Rainbow searching for ice cream and when he finally got two scoops of vanilla on a sugar cone it fell onto his shoe, you have to write a letter. If you learned to sound out words because of the two-headed monster, you have to write a letter. If you know how orange crayons are made, you have to write a letter. If you ever heard Miss Molly say your name at the end of Romper Room, you really, really have to write a letter.

Given the state of public schools in the US, it's a miracle any of us are literate. PBS is the reason I care about books. I can draw a straight line from watching Reading Rainbow on the orange carpet in my old living room to wanting to be a book editor. PBS not only taught me to read when I was four, it taught me to love writing, love learning, and to think about things on a grander scale. I'm not saying I was always enthralled watching Masterpiece Theater, but I watched it, and it made a difference.

Once, during my senior year of high school, someone brought up Sesame Street during a discussion in AP English. My class was filled with the smartest kids in my grade, though I was definitely on the low end of their bell curve--I could hold my own in AP English and History, but in Honors Physics I was passing through sheer probability. You fill in enough Cs on an exam and it's bound to be the right answer at least SOME of the time. Anyway, I think it was this kid Scott who brought up Sesame Street. All of the educational PBS shows in New York were sponsored by the same foundation, and they broadcast the same thank you message after every episode of a children's program. Scott jokingly mentioned the phrase ...with support provided by the Helena Rubenstein Foundation...

And in perfect Pavlovian fashion, the rest of the class blurted out ...a longtime supporter of outSTANDING children's television.

If the entire Yorktown High School AP English class of 2000 watched enough Sesame Street and Reading Rainbow to have that message programmed in their collective subconscious fifteen years later, there has to be some correllation between PBS's educational value and academic success.

The proposed 45% budged cuts would bankrupt the public broadcasting system. Without it, educational programming for kids would go right down the shitter. National Public Radio would be out--and without that, is there any hope to ever, ever hear a song that isn't by 50 Cent? Public broadcasting is the only way for the majority of Americans to see a ballet, go to a broadway show, or hear a symphony orchestra perform. The idea that all this can be taken away because it also teaches tolerance and equality is sick.

Please, please, please, please write a letter, and cross your fingers, and change your sweaters and sneakers, and don't forget to feed the fish.

This has been brought to you by the letters F, U, and W.


Blogger Rebecca said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:09 AM  
Anonymous Rebecca said...

In pre-calc, my friend Devin and I realized that we could already do an entire two week-long lessons of homework because of Square One on PBS.

I sent a letter last week, but thank you for this entry.

11:09 AM  
Blogger What'sHerFace said...

SQUARE ONE! I cannot even explain in words how emotionally involved I was in "Mathnet."

11:14 AM  
Blogger DMo said...


Thanks very much for adding this post for your audience of millions to consider.

Despite having an amazing weekend, this has loomed in the back of my mind. Good or bad, I have a personal stake in this shit and it's truly bewildering.

11:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

People always throw around the word "biased," but they don't seem to realize that, if one prescribes to relativism like I do, EVERYTHING is biased. And who gives a shit? Not me, that's for sure.

That being said, I don't have much of an opinion on public broadcasting either way, although Reading Rainbow is the shiznit. But for every Reading Rainbow, there's a Garrison Keillor. Blaarrg.

12:48 PM  

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