Against Mr. Rogers
If one thing holds this country together it is our love of Mr. Rogers. Old and young. Liberal and conservative. We all love the man. The Trolley. The Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Speedy delivery. All these things were a part of my childhood and those of most people that grew up in the USA. But it is the man behind it all that we all love. Mr. Fred Rogers. His gentle spirit. His love for kids. His patience. And most of all his daily reminder that we are all special. He liked us just the way were are.
Everyone loves Mr. Rogers. Everyone except Mr. Ungit. Welcome to Mr. Ungit's Neighborhood.
In Mr. Ungit's Neighborhood, I remind kids that they are not special. They are one of 7.6 billion people. A good chunk of those people grow up to be unpleasant asses. Most will turn out very average. Some will turn out to be monsters. At age five of whenever you are watching that trolley go around that track, there is no way to say which one of these people you will be. And if you think that just by your nature you are special, you are wrong.
Now, if you think Mr. Ungit's Neighborhood will ruin kids, stay with me for a moment. What happens when you tell an average kid that he is special? Well, he expects to be treated as special. Any sort of criticism comes as a shock. Further, his drive to become special will be noticeably absent. Why work your ass off to be special when you already are special? There is something terribly unhealthy about everyone going around thinking they are special. We are all special? Really? If you are special like everyone else is special, doesn't that make you not special?
I think that kids will be helped more by giving them an honest lay of the land. It is better to say, "Listen pal, mom and dad love you. God loves you. But no one else is going to love you unless you are lovable. You have to act a certain way. You have to take responsibility for your life. You have to do the right thing when no one is looking. And if you want to be special, you better do something special. Learn an instrument well. Study hard. Learn to speak well. Read a ton. Something. But you get no participation trophies in life. No one will clap for the guy that did nothing exceptional in life.
And.... that is okay. If you turn out not to be president or a famous author, that is okay. Most people won't. That is not the goal of life anyway. God is no respecter of persons. If you live a non-special life but love God and your neighbors, you will be better off in the end than a lot of celebrities. Don't take your lack of specialness to be a sign of failure or that something is wrong. Take it as the most likely outcome of life on this planet filled with 7.6 billion people. It's okay.
Mr. Rogers seemed like a nice guy. But I don't think it is nice to brainwash kids to think something completely false about the world around them. So....Hi neighbor, you are not special.
Note to any PBS Executives Reading: Yes, I will accept any offer to produce this show!