Mr Rogers is an American institution. For decades he wrote and hosted a benign children’s television show where he delivered a simple message about self-esteem and the difficulties of growing up. He dealt with children’s emotions and anxieties and re-assured them that they were “special.” Now he is being accused by Fox News of being evil because he delivered a false message and now a whole generation of children have grown up into adults who expect success in life even if then have not earned it.
The Fox analysis is based on the comments of a finance professor from Louisiana State University, who was complaining about the fact that more and more students where asking for their papers to be regraded to a higher level. Prof. Don Chance said, “They felt so entitled, and it just hit me. We can blame Mr. Rogers.” In contrast, his Asian students who didn’t watch Mr Rogers saw their B’s and C’s as an indication that they must work harder. He wishes more parents would offer kids this perspective: “The world owes you nothing. You have to work and compete. If you want to be special, you’ll have to prove it.”
I have a lot of sympathy for this but equally, the finance professor does not know what he is talking about. Asian students have a totally different mindset to their Western counterparts and its nothing to do with Mr. Rogers. I have the same students coming to my door in the UK asking for the same re-evaluation. They have never seen Mr Rogers either or endured the whole self-esteem ethos that is so prevalent in the US.
I think that there is something wrong in the way that we have created a culture of evaluation where targets have to be met. As soon as you set a target, you get inevitable grade inflation. In fact, grade inflation is one of my major concerns as it is distorting the whole of the educational system. Every year, schools are churning out more and more students with top grades and we are no longer able to distinguish between the very best and the mediocre. And of course, a student who has been getting A’s at school finds it difficult to accept when they get a low grade at University.
It’s not Mr Rogers to blame but I do agree with the gist of the piece. Or maybe I am turning into a grumpy old professor too.