Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Postcards From Buster

Any of you, who are regular readers, must by now know that one of my mantras is "the trouble with kids is adults". I firmly believe this.

Children are blank slates upon which, we as adults, project our own views on life. If we are clever enough, we are able to give our children the tools with which to have an open mind and to make their own decisions—within reason, when they are small, but with greater latitude as they grow into young adulthood. All any of us can do is pray that we have made wise choices by them and that they grow to be caring, loving, informed adults.

Many shows on television have helped us on this journey of growing and learning. The two prominent ones, that spring to mind for me, are Sesame Street and Mister Roger's Neighborhood. How my toes would curl when an adult would make disparaging remarks about Mister Rogers and how boring he was. Well of course he was boring to were an adult and his base was the pre-school set. I wonder how many of those bored parents realized Fred Rogers had a doctorate in Early Childhood Development.

Another thing both shows managed to do was to keep up with the times; adjust to the changing societal climate. But, above all, they tried to teach about diversity and how we could all get along, each respectful of the other and their point of view and how cooperation got many things accomplished. Sesame Street was particularly adept at sending this message and there was really not a subject that was not incorporated into the show. Different languages, people of color, people with different abilities and disabilities.

Those two shows were certainly the hallmark of PBS viewing for the younger set. Today PBS is home to a plethora of shows which appeal to the pre-schooler and those who are in kindergarten . The Children's Television Workshop has striven to bring quality programming to young children. One of the biggest blessings is, no commercials! With children spending on average 900 hours in school and over 1,000 hours in front of the TV, this, in itself, is a very good thing.

They have been able to be commercial free as they have had corporate sponsors who see to it that the money is available for air time. Many underwriters are private foundations. The public, as well, as supporters of their local Public Broadcasting Systems, have donated money and participated in PBS fund raisers. It is important to have access to this very vital part of television and well worth the $10. $20. $50 or even a $100 dollar or more, donation. The key word here is PUBLIC.

However, it seems now the winds of change are blowing, and I sense a pandering to many of the corporate sponsors. When a small group, with an agenda, and lots of money behind them can affect programming that I, in part, have paid to be able to watch, there is big trouble in River City. I am speaking specifically to an episode of a popular children's show, which PBS airs, "Postcards From Buster". .

Buster is a white rabbit who travels the country visiting areas in each state, reporting on customs, foods. landscape etc. When in San Francisco they visited Chinatown during Chinese New Year. Pretty innocuous stuff but educational and interesting. Certainly introducing, or reinforcing, geography for the younger set. However, when Buster's destination turned out to be a Maple Sugaring farm in Vermont there was a problem. This particular farm was owned and operated by two women. Suffice it to say that there was enough of a hew and cry that many PBS stations chose not to air this episode.

Now I will be the first one to say that there are certain things that I find offensive. And, certainly, there are many things which I would not like my children to see. This is where the inventors of the television were very clever. They made an off/on switch as well as a channel selector. These features have been put to good use in my house as I'm sure it has in many others.

Now a group who feel that Fear Factor, Desperate Housewives, Elimidate, Survivor, etc. are palatable TV fare and would not miss an episode, and whose television's selector knob has probably never hit the local PBS station's channel, want to decide for ME what is appropriate. Is there no end to this madness?

Let's face facts. Sooner or later, in this life, your child will find out that there are people in this world who are attracted to the same sex. Most of these people are loving, warm individuals and many are in committed relationships and also have children. I can almost guarantee that most of the children who would likely have watched that particular Buster episode would not have thought twice about those two women. And, if they had, shame on the parent who did not have the intelligence to answer their questions in an informed, adult manner.

As I accept the fact that you have a certain opinion, please give me the same courtesy. Watching people eat things which are usually on the menus of our 4 footed friends, or totally humiliating another human being are not high on my list of viewing pleasures I am not about to call my local station and whine about it. Please stop trying to legislate MY morality.

Unfortunately, about the only thing that does not have an on/off option is a small, bigoted mind.