Mark Schwehn on Mr. Rogers

Rogers Fred

Many readers of this blog will know Mark Schwehn of Valparaiso University from his book Exiles from Eden: Religion and the Academic Vocation in America. He is also the co-editor, with Dorothy Bass, of Leading Lives That Matter: What We Should Do and Who We Should Be.

Here is a taste of his Christian Century piece, “Why there is no quest for the historical Mr. Rogers”:

As with Jesus, accounts of Fred Rogers’s life and work vary widely. Very few among us had access to the real Rogers. We mostly have texts—both visual and verbal. And although the variations among these are worth pondering, not one writer to date has said something like this: Well, we really cannot be moved by Fred Rogers’s life or seek to emulate what he stood for until we can have sure access to the real Fred Rogers behind all of the verbal and visual representations of him.

Read the entire piece here.

21st-Century Kids Watch Mr. Rogers

Last weekend I saw the film A Beautiful Day in the NeighborhoodI went with my family and we all loved it.   As I left the theater, I asked one of my daughters if she thought the television show “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” might attract young kids today.  “Yes, definitely,” she said.  But my daughter is 22-years old.  What about the children of today who are bombarded with video games and other kinds of electronics?

With all this in mind, I was encouraged by Mary Pflum Peterson‘s recent piece in The Washington Post: “What happened when I showed vintage Mr. Rogers to my 21st-century kids.”  Here is a taste:

I had been crushed before by their lack of appreciation for the icons of our youth. I wasn’t going to let them do that to Mister Rogers.

So into my bedroom I retreated to watch Mister Rogers alone. And that’s when something magical happened.

Within a half-hour of my bingefest, our youngest two children, then ages 5 and 7, came to ask me to help them with some homework. They sat down on the bed beside me and peered at the television as I looked over their worksheets.

In the episode I was watching, Mister Rogers had gone to a restaurant in Pittsburgh to show his young viewers how restaurants work.

“Mommy,” asked my young daughter. “Who is that nice man?”

“It’s Mommy’s friend, Fred,” I explained.

“I like his voice,” said my 7-year-old son.

“I like his clothes,” said my daughter.

“Can we watch with you?” my son asked.

I was skeptical but nodded. And so it began.

I held my breath, waiting for them to tell me that the episode was too slow, to implore me to fast-forward to a moment when something more interesting happens.

I waited for them to abandon ship and seek out an iPad or a snack in the other room, to seize control of the remote and turn the television to the Cartoon Network.

But they didn’t do any of those things. And when that episode was over, they asked for another. And then, shockingly, another.

Read the entire piece here.