27 January 2005

Education Secretary vs. Buster

    The price of the democratic way of life is a growing appreciation of people's differences, not merely as tolerable, but as the essence of a rich and rewarding human experience.
      -Jerome Nathanson
For her first act as the new Education Secretary, Margaret Spellings chose to condem PBS and the WGBH produced childrens show "Postcards from Buster."

As I have two children, I am familiar with the show, a spin-off from Marc Brown's "Arthur." Buster is Arthur's best friend who sometimes travels with his father, an airline pilot. "Postcards from Buster" has Buster traveling around the world learning about people and places. One episode I remember had him in the Seattle fish market where they throw the fish around. It's a good show.

The new season features an episode entitled "Sugartime!" Here is the synopsis:
    Determined to avoid last year's Mother's Day fiasco, Buster sets out to find Bitzi the perfect gifts. Buster finds them with help from Emma and Lily: cheese from a dairy and maple candy from a sugar shack. Before leaving town, Buster says goodbye to winter and hello to spring with the girls' families at their annual Christmas tree bonfire.
So, why is Spellings up in arms? The family Buster visits has two moms. At one point, you see one mom saying "Hi," to the other, who is making out the grocery list. Later we see them having a meal together with some friends.

Here is the story about Spellings' letter to PBS. The letter is pretty chilling, and wraps up with this:
    You can be assured that in the future the department will be more clear as to its expectations for any future programming that it funds.
Now it is worth noting "Postcards From Buster" has featured all kinds of families. It has shown children living with their grandparents and children who are Muslim, Mormon, and evangelical Christian. Nonetheless, PBS will not be distributing this episode to its stations, and WGBH has postponed airing of the episode.

I have written the following to my PBS station, WHYY:
    To whom it may concern,

    I am a member of WHYY and have been for many years now. My family enjoys and is enriched by the programs you air. These programs have helped my two children learn about math, science, reading, and history. They have also learned about the diverse cultures in our nation and our world. This is why I am writing this letter.

    As a member of WHYY, I am asking you to air the "Sugartime" episode of "Postcards from Buster." I understand there is controversy surrounding this episode. However, PBS programming has always helped inform children, dealing openly such issues as single parenthood, divorce, the death of a loved one, and AIDS. I firmly believe we would do a disservice to our children to pretend this lifestyle does not exists.

    I hope you can give this issue the serious consideration it deserves.

    Yours truly,
    Andrew [...]
I hope you'll consider sending something similar to your PBS station.


Sharon GR said...

Sent my letter today.

Jeri said...

I can't understand why these people think that in a world riddled with crime, child abuse, drugs, and pollution, the worst thing that can happen to a kid is that he might grow up not hating gays.

If they put half the effort and money they put into this campaigns to solve real problems kids face today--oh wait, no, that would require them to learn about reality. Silly me.

Thanks for shedding light on this, Andrew.