At the beginning of September as I was flying home from Chicago, I picked up the Chicago Tribune. On the front page there was this article: "PBS says: So long, Mister Rogers." In an extensive article, it describes why PBS has decided that very soon it will not longer air this program over its stations and the reactions of many people that have grown up on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood TV programs or their parents.
On the flight I became very nostalgic. I do not think that my nostalgia was over the fact that Mr. Rogers was a seminary graduate who was one of the best teachers of values to children. Neither, do I think that I was nostalgic because like Mr. Rogers I have a number of cardigans and my children think that I look either scholarly or funny when I wear them.
Being blessed with four daughters, we watched almost every episode a number of times. Not only did I become familiar with the episodes, but they filtered into my sermons together with other children's TV programs or stories that we read. Mr. Rogers was gentle, well-mannered, unchangeable in his mannerisms, creating an ideal world in which children could express themselves and be secure. They learned together with him as he experienced together with them their frustrations, fears, failures, but also their joys, their vision and their courage.
The people that had to bring this decision to the public had to use meaningless phrases such "The spirit of Mr. Rogers is going to continue," and to defend the fact that over the majority of stations, they have slotted Mr. Rogers at 6:00 AM in the past. When people were not buying the line, the argument was made that the local stations could, if, they wanted run the program on their own! Probably the most honest was one representative who said: "You just have to recognize inevitably the fact that this is an old program and appeals less and less to the market." Yet, there were no studies mentioned that showed this change in children's reaction.
What comes across in these public decisions is that adults make these decisions because they have concluded that they no longer like these programs. Other programs are being made that have a different style, a different content and a different moral value. Those people centered values in Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood will slowly evaporate and other values will replace them. The question remains if they are good, or even better, or if they simply reflect the market trend and the children of the future will be impoverished.