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Rubbish Re Rogers

By admin Published: July 5, 2007

Jeff Zaslow in today's Wall Street Journal tried to blame some of the ills of modern youth on Fred Rogers. He's full of beans. ...

You can find Zaslow's entire column here. Here's the essence:

Don Chance, a finance professor at Louisiana State University, says it dawned on him last spring. The semester was ending, and as usual, students were making a pilgrimage to his office, asking for the extra points needed to lift their grades to A's.

"They felt so entitled," he recalls, "and it just hit me. We can blame Mr. Rogers."

Fred Rogers, the late TV icon, told several generations of children that they were "special" just for being whoever they were. He meant well, and he was a sterling role model in many ways. But what often got lost in his self-esteem-building patter was the idea that being special comes from working hard and having high expectations for yourself.

Zaslow goes on to say Rogers "has been targeted for re-evaluation," with "some" educators and researchers (unidentified save for Chance and an anonymous Yahoo poster) "revisiting the language of child ego-boosting." Rogers's insistence to children that they are special is seen as a source of narcissism in college students, with Rogers, in Chance's words, "representative of a culture of excessive doting."

Now, Fred Rogers was someone I knew slightly, and whom I admired considerably. Both my sons watched him when they were young. And nowhere in the Rogers canon do I recall that being special was offered as a reason for entitlement. Fred believed in achievement, and discipline, and trying your best to succeed.

The book The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember, a collection of his fundamental ideas, includes an entire section on "The Challenges of Inner Discipline." Some selections:

-- Imagining something may be the first step in making it happen, but it takes the real time and real efforts of real people to learn things, make things, turn thoughts into deeds or visions into inventions.

--What makes the difference between wishing and realizing our wishes? Lots of things, of course, but the main one, I think, is whether we link our wishes to our active work. It may take months or years, but it's far more likely to happen when we care so much that we'll work as hard as we can to make it happen.

-- I like to swin, but there are some days I just don't feel much like doing it -- but I do it anyway. I know it's good for me and I promised myself I'd do it every day, and I like to keep my promises. That's one of my disciplines. And it's a good feeling after you've tried and done something well. Inside you think, "I've keep at this and I've really learned it -- not by magic, but by my own work."

--There is no normal life that is free of pain.

--Often out of periods of losing come the greatest strivings toward a new winning streak.

Maybe Zaslow should pick up a copy of the book. And rethink the half-baked theory he gave space.

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