Mr. Rogers did not contribute to American narcissism.

July 14, 2007

Professor Chance picked on the wrong American Icon in his rant against narcissism.  Students that try to argue up their grades are really a tradition.  It’s nothing new.  Rudeness, vulgarity and disrespect are definitely societal problems.  However, Fred Rogers was part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Mr. Rogers didn’t hurt anyone by telling them they are special.  My thought on it is that it was more about people having intrinsic value as human beings.  Let me be specific: if people have intrinsic value, then they should not be abused or harassed or tortured or killed.  To me, it’s not about entitlement.  That’s an entirely different social ill.  Fred Rogers was far deeper than that.  His message was more global.  Look at how people treat each other across the world.  Look at the violence.  Rogers is so far removed from the petty social ills that Chance discusses, it’s not even the same universe.

Fred Rogers was a humanitarian who consistently worked toward furthering the causes he believed in his entire life.  He is a giant among those who would help others.  Frankly, if you are going to try to criticize him, you had better have better ammo than some glib accusation.  Then again, attacking an icon is a great way to get attention.

I have always believed that you need to work for what you get in life.  So I am no fan of the spoiled.  However, blaming a guy who is probably as close to a modern day saint that we’ve had in the last 50 years for negatively impacting our society is crazy.  Also, let’s look at another theme of his show: respect.  Each character, each person, everyone on Mr. Rogers Neighborhood treats everyone else with respect.  Do we have too much respect for one another today?  Also, in addition to teaching that people have intrinsic value, Rogers taught that you should recognize those who help you through life.  This is from Wikipedia:

“Daytime Emmys, the Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Rogers. The following is an excerpt from Esquire Magazine‘s coverage of the gala, written by Tom Junod:

Mister Rogers went onstage to accept the award — and there, in front of all the soap opera stars and talk show sinceratrons, in front of all the jutting man-tanned jaws and jutting saltwater bosoms, he made his small bow and said into the microphone, “All of us have special ones who have loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are. Ten seconds of silence.”[5]

And then he lifted his wrist, looked at the audience, looked at his watch, and said, ‘I’ll watch the time.” There was, at first, a small whoop from the crowd, a giddy, strangled hiccup of laughter, as people realized that he wasn’t kidding, that Mister Rogers was not some convenient eunuch, but rather a man, an authority figure who actually expected them to do what he asked. And so they did. One second, two seconds, three seconds — and now the jaws clenched, and the bosoms heaved, and the mascara ran, and the tears fell upon the beglittered gathering like rain leaking down a crystal chandelier. And Mister Rogers finally looked up from his watch and said softly, “May God be with you,” to all his vanquished children.”

That is about as far away from narcissism as one can get.

I submit to you that Rogers telling you you’re special is a voice of hope in a very violent and hostile world.  Rogers was a man of great humility and he commanded respect by his devotion to humanity.  Plus he turned me on to Cardigan sweaters and occasion specific shoes.  In all seriousness, Fred Rogers deserves more than Professor Chance’s criticism.

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One Response to “Mr. Rogers did not contribute to American narcissism.”

  1. Quora Says:

    Are there aspects of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood that early childhood educators find objectionable and/or misguided?…

    Nope, Fred did an amazing job and yes it has stood the test of time. His story itself is pretty wonderful. An ordained minister trying to live his belief of decency and kindness. > “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” is a long-time successful children’s show…


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