July 6th, 2007
Now we have a Very Smart and Very Learned Man (you can tell because he's got "Professor" in front of his name) blaming Mr. Rogers and his "you are special just by being you" message for creating the self-entitlement generation.
Absolute hogwash. So much, in fact, that I had to comment on the WSJ forums (and self-editing a bit when I repost it here.) It started as a response to someone's comment about how come this wasn't written while Mr. Rogers was alive, because it's "a tad difficult to expect a response from the man."
[The article couldn't have been written then] because Mr. Rogers would have delivered an passionate, reasonable, quiet defense which would have addressed every single point and gently, but firmly, rebuffed what could be rebuffed. Don't think I'm not still raging mad. I just kept the obscenities and invitations to taste curb to myself.
More to the point, he'd have completely shot down this "blame" (Yay for the blame game! Can't be my fault, blame someone else!) and helped point us towards what we could to do help.
Not sit around pointing fingers.
Obviously the article couldn't have been written when Mr. Rogers was alive, because it would have been useless and all involved would have failed in making their point. So instead, we fall back on rhetorically stacking the deck. (this is as close as I got to accusing the author and professor of kicking a dead man because it's easier, and that's part of what got me so mad in the first place.)
Mr. Rogers' message "You are special just by being you" meant "like yourself for who you are." It's not his fault Parents Who Know Their Wunderkind Are The Most Incredible In The World have distorted his message and run with it.
Their attitude disgusts me, but not as much as the attitude of the article and Professor Chance. I was incensed when I read the piece. I mean, I was furious. I was ready to come on over and start swinging and holler and stomp and scream "WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!! AND I'LL SOCK THE NEXT GUY IN THE MOUTH WHO THINKS OTHERWISE!" but then I remembered Mr. Rogers wouldn't have done that. Mr. Rogers may have felt angry if he'd read that, but he would have been the first to say that it's okay to feel angry sometimes. It is not okay to act out towards others that way.
Mr. Rogers taught compassion, respect for oneself and for others, and the power and wisdom to recognize one's own mistakes and take responsibility for them. And if all you can get out of that is "he taught a generation of kids self-entitlement", then perhaps you should take an inward look and wonder if you may be projecting a bit of your own feelings of self-importance and entitlement (or lack thereof) onto that.
I find that people who criticize the desire to build up self esteem in others don't really understand how it works. I truly believe that they're mad because someone else has something that they don't. Maybe someone should tattoo on their heads esteem <> entitlement!
My mom, who used to be a child psychologist, kept explaining to me when these hand-wringing articles came up that the authors had no idea what self-esteem was; they confused it with narcissism or unearned egotism--but true self-esteem is earned; the job of parents and people like Mr. Rogers is to give kids the opportunity to earn it.
Indeed, that article seems to conflate a number of different things, but still puts it all under Mr. Rogers. Fooey on them.
A few weeks back, the New York Times had an op-ed about some parents who killed their baby by feeding them only tomato juice, and the headline was "Vegan Diet Kills Baby". Um, okay...
Even the generally good pubs screw up big-time sometimes. And with opinion pieces, all bets are off.
When people claim that Mr. Rogers' "I like you just for being you" encouraged lazy feelings of entitlement, I remember how he'd have people with various special talents or professions appear on his show (astronaut Al Worden, puppeteers and opera singers, a boy who could ride a unicycle), and he'd always be sure to ask them about how much hard work and patience it took to get that good at it. Then there was the little film he showed once about his exercise routine--he swam laps early every morning to stay in shape, and he described it as a promise he'd made to himself.
The lesson that you don't get amazing abilities for free was definitely there.
Does the Wall Street Journal need to troll for hits, or are you saying this guy just wanted to piss in the biggest bowl of cornflakes he could get?
When I read this I could hear my high school history teacher's voice in my head saying "where's the evidence?" Seriously, how do they pin this on Mr. Rogers? When did Mr. Rogers encourage kids to call their parents by their first names? What the hell?
/me reads Spatch's post, then reaches over and pats him on the head.
I'm sorry, honey. No one is going to listen to what you're saying about all of this.
Because you're being logical and making sense.
You really need to stop that.
Y'know, these days, you're damned if you DO make children feel horribly about themselves (i.e. like children), and now, you're apparently damned if you make them feel GOOD about themselves.
People today need to get over themselves and start fighting causes that are worth something (i.e. Professor Very Smart and Very Learned Man).
Yeah. Mister Rogers' message was one of "accepting reality with compassion." Not "lying to yourself and others about what you are."
It's all about being who you are in the world, and seeing HOW you can be in the world, and loving yourself for what you can do, while recognizing limitations. Working to overcome those limitations where you can, but not beating yourself up for being human.