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A Love Letter to PBS

A simple voice of support for PBS and all that it does for our children and ourselves. (For how else would we get breakfast on the table?)

By now we’ve all heard that Mitt Romney would cut government federal funding to PBS if he were elected president. While I admit I almost wanted to turn the channel when I heard this, I did reconsider and continued listening. The fact is, whether we re-elect President Obama or whether we elect Gov. Romney next month, there will no-doubt be cuts in spending coming our way – controversial, difficult cuts that could hurt many in all sorts of foreseeable ways. This letter could be written about any one of thousands of possible beloved programs on the chopping block.  But, this love letter is for my beloved PBS. 

I write this letter as a parent of twin toddlers. Let me paint you a picture of our morning, as I’m guessing it’s a familiar one. Up at 7:30, I am greeted by smiles (usually) and four hands reaching up at me from cribs on opposite sides of the room (thank goodness they have not yet figured out how to climb out of them). There is often an eager “Mama, up?” and they happily tell me about their night, how they heard the “choo-choo” outside this morning, or how they want to turn the fan on and off 100 times. All is well with the world until they remember it is breakfast time. Then, in an instant, the meltdown(s) begin. 

One cannot change two diapers, negotiate clothing options, gather all the blankies, Elmos, and assorted books (that we must have) and get two 20+ pound toddlers down the stairs fast enough.

And, then…one has to actually make breakfast. Meanwhile, my sweet little cherubs have turned into ravenous beasts who cannot wait one more second for their milk, bananas, and "wa-kuls." My house sounds about like a lion’s den, until…click.

George.

Thank goodness for that curious little monkey.

Silence. 

Two pacified brothers sitting side-by-side, blankies and Elmos in arms (one thumb in mouth), watching George on his latest adventure. 

Milk poured. Bananas sliced.Waffles toasted.

Could I manage to make breakfast each day without PBS? Sure. I could probably turn on any number of cartoons and get a similar result. However, when I turn on PBS, I breathe a double sigh of relief – one for the cherished moment of peace in an always hectic morning and a second for the peace I feel knowing they are not just staring aimlessly at the screen, but that they are learning and spending quality time with their dear friends.

Really, isn’t Elmo every child’s first BFF?

I could rattle off a list of achievements my children have reached with PBS. I could tell you how the first time “Big Brother” said his own name, it was when he proudly shouted it out to Super Why. I could tell you how “Little Brother” started singing “go-go-go” (on an adventure) before he could walk. (He was a late walker and an early talker, but still don’t tell my pediatrician as we obviously broke/break the no TV before 2 rule at our house). I could tell you how our favorite books are any and all with Elmo, Big Bird, George, Clifford or Arthur gracing the pages. I could tell you how one of my favorite parts of our morning is when “Big Brother” hops off the couch to do his morning exercise with Coach Hooper. Or, I could tell you how I get seriously sentimental when Daniel Tiger puts on that nostalgic red sweater.

But, instead, I’ll simply say that I know my kids are growing and learning with PBS.  Not only that, but I believe that these programs are helping to foster a real love of learning in my children, just as they did in me when I was a child. (My kids are giddy about a Super Hero whose most awesome power is the ability to “look in a book” and read…how fantastic is that?) 

So, while I know there are countless good and important programs that may find themselves losing precious funding, I will offer my voice in support of keeping that 0.012% of the federal budget  for our children’s first friends, for our own fond memories, for the love of learning, for early education, and for PBS. 

-Holli is a full-time stay-at-home mom and a part-time tutor.  In her spare time (aka, nap time) she blogs about family and life with twin toddlers at Full Hands, Full Hearts.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Genevieve Herring October 06, 2012 at 11:59 AM
PBS is almost entirly privately funded. Having you seen at the end of most programs how this show was funded by this or that foundation? Government funds very little of it.
Christine October 06, 2012 at 01:29 PM
According to PBS's own website, government funding accounts for between 15% and 50% of a PBS station's funding. While I agree there are many worthwhile programs on PBS channels, the tax payers simply cannot continue to fund everything. The author appears to use her local PBS channel as a babysitter (as a mom I understand the inclination to do this), but a DVD would achieve the same end. We cannot expand government's authority and spending everywhere. The Constitution enumerates specific powers of the government and that's all they should be. I feel the way the author does about the library, but I completely understand cuts must be made everywhere. I am willing to pay out of pocket for services that will lose funding that I cannot live without. Mitt's cuts aren't even enough. We stand on the edge of a precipice. Economic collapse is CERTAIN if spending doesn't change. Isn't it worth it to give up something in order for your kids to have some kind of unfettered future? One free of staggering debt?
Denise Williams October 06, 2012 at 02:24 PM
Well said, Christine. I, too, love PBS and actually support them with donations. I'd be willing to support them more with direct donations, as would most subscribers. Honestly, the primary reason I haven't given more in the past is because they receive tax dollars. I remember when Seseame Street began, I watched Mr. Rogers, Electric Company and Zoom as a child; as an adult, I love their music programs and concerts, Antiques Roadshow and so many of their programs. However, I don't think the government should be subsidizing PBS or any of the Arts in this economic climate. I would rather see PBS completely cut from funding than even more drastic cuts in a long list of other programs.
Holli Long October 06, 2012 at 07:08 PM
Hi Christine. Thank you for your comments. While government dollars account for 15-50% of PBS funding, it accounts for only 0.012% of the federal budget (as I metioned). Without this relatively small subsidy (in terms of the federal budget as a whole), it is likely that PBS would have to turn to advertisments like other channels. In addition to the educational programs PBS provides, I also really appreciate that there are no "commercials" between programs, but rather songs, matching games, pattern recognition activities, language building skills etc. If I were just using PBS to babysit my children as you suggest, I would not care as much what they were watching. However, like Denise, I too support PBS with donations because I value what they add to early education, not only for my own children, but for all children. I would also hate to have to see them move to cable as that would restrict many children and families from having access. So, yes, I completely agree that we need to do something about spending in this country. However, my point in the article was just to voice support for a very high value (and low cost) program. As I said, I'm sure many articles could be written in support of any number of programs supported by fedreal dollars, this just happens to be one close to my heart as both a mother and an educator. Thanks, again.
Holli Long October 07, 2012 at 07:24 PM
We also love the public library and typically spend one or two mornings a week there. However, the comments made this week were about PBS. Had they been about funding for our library, my letter might have had a different title. What a shame it would if we didn't have "free" access to books. (Yes, I know we pay for them with tax dollars...but you know what I mean.) I just hope that when cuts are considered, priority is given to programs such as PBS (and the public library system) which contribute so much to early childhood and have such far-reaching benefits for the future of the country.
Barb Wolcott October 08, 2012 at 01:45 AM
So what, we should fund more wars??
Jeffrey Crane October 09, 2012 at 05:45 PM
It is not a necessary subsidy. If it rings so close to your heart then pay for it. The statement is said all to often that "it is only" a small fraction of the federal budget. Well add all those programs together and it becomes real money. I cannot imagine you attend to your household budget in the same fashion. It's easy when the critical mass of all taxpayers pay a subsidy, it then acceptable. We should do away with the subsidy and ask those that want the programming to up thier support in the way of thier dollars.
Holli Long October 09, 2012 at 06:10 PM
Hi Jeffrey. Thanks for reading. As I mentioned in the previous comment, my family does support/pay for PBS. (Both through yearly donations and by participating in WTTW's local fundraiser as seen in the picture with the article.) I think it would be a shame to see it become available only to those who are able to pay, though, since it is such a valuable resource for families, and since it makes a real difference in early childhood education...something we can all likely agree is a necessity. A couple quick info-graphics showing how PBS makes a real difference in terms of education: http://valuepbs.org/education.php http://valuepbs.org/kids-and-parents.php I just feel that for about $1.50 per person, we get a lot of bang for our buck. Not sure how we could better spend such a small amount and get a greater return on education is all. Yes, cuts need to be made, but seems silly to cut such a cost-effective, quality program with proven results.
me October 09, 2012 at 07:54 PM
There is no reason on earth for taxpayers to be funding any tv network or show. Especially one like Sesame Street, which brings in $400 Million a year in merchandising sales of such items as Elmo dolls. They need a taxpayer subsidy why? If it can't stand on it's own, it should not continue. That makes as much sense as giving farmers agriculture subsidies when commodities prices are at all time highs. And we have to borrow the money to pay for it!
Christine October 11, 2012 at 05:53 PM
One PBS executive earns well over $600,000 per year. If we keep saying, "Cut! Just not my important stuff!" we'll never get anywhere. EVERYTHING needs to be cut. And media use by young children has all sorts of negative consequences, even when it's "educational programming". http://www.center4research.org/2010/05/young-children-and-screen-time-television-dvds-computer/ I discussed the library to present an analogy. We all have pet projects and services we love. We cannot afford to continue paying for all of them. Wake up, America!
Olddeegee October 11, 2012 at 06:03 PM
You just don't want poor kids to be able to read and eventually vote. Again, the federal funding helps rural and poor areas mostly. The bulk of PBS programming is self funded, yet poor areas need the additional funding. This is just an attack at an ideology. Cancel a few bombers or fighters. Our military out spends all go the world combined. Stop wasting money building high dollar weapons systems that are designed to fight the cold war.
Tim October 11, 2012 at 06:22 PM
So Christine, when are you going to speak up to have YOUR tax deductions cut? Have kids? No more dependent deductions for you. Have a mortgage? No more interest deduction for you. Go to Church? Let's start actually taxing them, since they have no problem using their untaxed income for their own personal gains in building bigger and more extravagant structures and golden thrones. NOTHING needs to be cut, except the defense budget. That's it, and that's what all this nonsense you are being told is trying to avoid. What EXACTLY are you going to lose by not paying for weapons and materials that will never even be used? http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2012/10/09/army-to-congress-thanks-but-no-tanks/
Earnan Drummann October 13, 2012 at 11:13 PM
The three hundred million dollars thrown at PBS would be better spent buying diapers and immunizations for the truly needy. And don't bitch at me if my numbers are off. If they are, it's still more important to give healthcare to the truly needy than it is to toss money at television programming, just so mommy won't be stressed when her kids wake up so inconveniently at 7:30 AM. What a bunch of crybaby baloney.
Earnan Drummann October 13, 2012 at 11:15 PM
Again Christine, nice work.
Holli Long October 14, 2012 at 01:21 AM
Hi Earnan. I completely agree with you that, in the hierarchy of needs, food, immunizations, and diapers come first. However, I feel that education is not too far behind on that list of priorities. Again, my point in the article was just to highlight the fact that I the federal money given to PBS goes to a worthy program, not to say that others aren't equally worthy. (My above comments in this thread also speak to the quality of PBS in terms of its value to early childhood education.) A civil debate of the politics of the topic is always welcome...
Earnan Drummann October 16, 2012 at 01:42 AM
Holli, I know you you mean well and I do, too. Politics, schmolitics. With all intended civilty and respect, my vote is to have PBS users pay for PBS, it's for the wealthy. You and I are from different generations. I promise you that if your television was shut off one day you could throw a shoe-box on the floor and your kids would have more fun playing with that than they would watching a television. Give it a try sometime. If you are wealthy enough to own a computer and have an internet connection, then Big Bird is FREE and you don't need PBS. PBS isn't for the poor. PBS is for the affluent. Poor people cant afford computers and cable TV. Have you ever been so poor that you couldn't afford television? I HAVE. What good did PBS do me then? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTvhKZHAP8U
Holli Long October 16, 2012 at 02:12 AM
Again, Earnan, I agree with you. While we may be from different generations, I also know the value of a good old cardboard box. Making drums out of pots and pans is another favorite.
Earnan Drummann October 17, 2012 at 12:10 AM
Holli, thank you. I just get all riled up when I see the salaries of the executives at PBS, and the taxpayer money that goes to PBS, when we have so many local children that could benefit from that money. In Morris, IL--if the Charity "We Care" had even 0.012% of the PBS budget, they could feed 72 families for a month (leave the math alone; you got my point lol.) I'm not undermining PBS because it's maybe a progressive favorite. I'm undermining PBS because they outlived their impact. Whether one is an advocate for the needy or an advocate for the environment, don't forget Education 101: think globally, act locally.

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