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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

I was as happy as...

...an autodidact in a library.

Elle and I spent an enjoyable three hours amongst the shelves today. The not very large children's room of the Johann Fust library is remarkable both for its coziness and its content. It's all about quality versus quantity. All the classics of great children's literature, the ones you see on The Well Trained Mind, or Charlotte Mason, or Great Books Junior lists are there in beautiful old hardbound editions. There are some good reference books available. Very little twaddle.

I've never had a chance to peruse the main stacks until today. Oh, man, they had Teaching Company tapes, video taped documentaries on ancient civilizations, the Fagles translation of the Odyssey and the Fitzgerald translation of the Iliad books on tape. Again, not a huge room, but packed to the rafters with great material.

With all that to choose from, what did I bring home? Lost in Translation on DVD. But I did balance it with The Children's Homer


I received an email from a friend a few weeks ago asking me to support a petition for continued government funding of children's public television programming. I ignored it, figuring it was one of those numerous outdated, inaccurate, annoying internet requests, like the one to send the poor cancer boy cards to get into the Guinness Book of World Records. Even if it was legitimate, which I find out now that it was partly correct at least as far as funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is concerned, I still wouldn't sign it.

What? How could I spurn the happy, furry faces of Elmo and Cookie Monster, or deny millions of children the chance to enjoy a visit to kindly Mr. Rogers's neighborhood?

Easy. The government doesn't need to be paying for this. I don't think they need to be paying for this anymore than they need to be subsidizing farmers or creating complicated international trade agreements. They need to be reducing the deficit and rebuilding our industrial strength. Besides, is it really education, or is it entertainment? The primary concern of the producers of those shows is not the children's welfare, it's the bottom line. Yes, contrary to what they'd have you believe, their job is to pull in the revenue just like any other for profit network executive. Public television always advertised through its brief dignified mentions of partners and corporate sponsors. Now it's less subtle with Chuck E. Cheese and Juicy Juice baldly hawking their wares directly to the kids.

To all those outraged parents begging or demanding federal support of these programs I would ask, "Are you a member? Do you financially support your local station?"

Please, put the public back in public television.

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