Tuesday, October 23, 2012

How to Get to Sesame Street...


Growing up we didn't have cable. We didn't have Nickelodeon or MTV, HBO or the like. We did have those few basic channels though, which were just enough for my parents to always catch Seinfeld, fuel our TGIF Friday nights, entertain us with Saturday morning cartoons when Saturday morning cartoons were still awesome, and then of course supply us with PBS for all of our favorite shows.

My earliest television memories are a mix of Sesame Street, Reading Rainbow, Mister Roger's Neighborhood, and 3-2-1 Contact. LeVar Burton and all of those amazing books were my world. I lived for the different stories I'd hear every time Reading Rainbow came on, my "to-read" list a mile long. I learned my ABCs from my parents and pre-school, but Sesame Street helped to reenforce all of those lessons every single morning. Mister Rogers and his always changing shoes and cardigan, Big Bird and his songs, the science projects on 3-2-1 Contact...these were all a huge part of my childhood.

It was a time when I'd measure time by my favorite shows. My "how long until we leave, Mom?" answered back with a variation of "one Sesame Street and one Mister Rogers honey." It was when I'd try and recite "a loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter" to myself to see if I could remember it too. It was Telly Monster and Grover, Oscar the Grouch and Kermit. It was the age of Lady Elaine and Daniel Tiger, of hearing that 3-2-1 Contact theme music and knowing I was about to learn something neat. It was seeing books come alive on Reading Rainbow and singing along while imagining that cartoon butterfly turning a scene out of my book into reality too. It's all of that and so, so much more.

So when I heard Mitt Romney say he wanted to cut funding for PBS, it upset me. While watching the debate I even stopped to rewind it, having a bit of a "say whaaat?!" moment. Let it be known that I am firmly in the Obama camp, but even so, after hearing this I knew I had to do some research before I totally and fully started disliking Romney more than I did. So I followed up, I watched him on The Situation Room, I realized that he meant exactly what he said. To be fair, I can understand where he's coming from, and I get the want (need) to cut the spending and borrowing. But it's beyond that.

Cutting PBS funding goes way past just taking away Big Bird. We all know Big Bird will be fine on his own. It's about taking opportunities away from areas that NEED that programming more than most of us can even comprehend. It's about taking that programming from rural areas where children may not get the same educational opportunities that kids in larger areas get. It's about taking that programming from kids who may not get to go to preschool, where the only "schooling" they might get as a toddler is in fact Sesame Street, or one of the other educational programs PBS offers. Yes, PBS will probably be fine if there was a cut in their funding. But things would absolutely change in how their service is provided, and I'd say it's safe to say that PBS would not be available to everyone if it was no longer a public access channel, as cutting funding directly affects those stations (some big, some small) that provide PBS to viewers.

I can't imagine a world without PBS and all of the wonderful people and things that were such a large part of my own development and growth. I think of Henry and our mornings- sitting around in our pajamas, eating breakfast while we watch Sesame Street. I think about the other day in the bathtub when out of nowhere he began singing a song about boats he had heard Grover singing that morning. And I think about watching Gordon talk to Elmo about how it's okay for boys to play with dolls- and watching them discuss gender roles and how it's okay to like what you like, regardless if it's a "boy" or "girl" thing. PBS is important. Education is important. And PBS is education for so many children. And although this may be a smaller issue than equal pay for women, a woman's rights to her own body, or marriage equality, in a way it could be just as big when you think about the ripple effect. Every action yields a reaction and quite simply, this will affect our children...and affect our children and you affect our future.

It's scary, really. I think about the bigger picture and it frightens me to imagine the loss of such a huge influence in so many kids' lives. I wholeheartedly hope PBS is always around and available to everyone, and I hope that every single child has the opportunity to visit the magical world of Sesame Street sometime in their lifetime too.

How about you? Did you grow up with Sesame Street and PBS? Did you have a reaction to Romney's statements? Or maybe you're on the opposite end of the spectrum- I'd love to hear from you too!

50 comments:

  1. I loved Sesame Street as a kid and hope they won't cut the funding. My favorite when I was a kid was always Oscar the Grouch- for some reason I always wanted to give him a big hug. lol I just had a baby and love that Sesame Street teaches lessons and they have a good way of sharing those morals/values.. and maybe things we as parents aren't clued into at the time.

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  2. I was SO into Reading Rainbow. I miss being a kid. <3

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  3. Where my boyfriend grew up all they had was PBS & one other channel. His dad still only gets PBS and every time we visit I'm blown away by the quality of the programming. The documentaries they show in the evenings are extremely interesting and informative. It frustrates me that Romney is so out of touch with the general population of America. PBS receives such a small percentage of the budget as it is. There are definitely more costly and less beneficial programs that could be cut back or restructured that would benefit the budget in a much greater way. Education is important, and we should treat it as such.

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  4. I agree with you Danielle about the TV issue, I'm not so in touch with the US presidential election, I try to read about it as much as I can though. This Romney character is so off track and out of touch I don't even know how he got where he is in the first place, who's voting for him???? Anyway, my point is, TV is, not only for underprivileged kids but all kids alike, a great source for education. We live in France and my daughter is learning French, she doesn't get TV much during the day, maybe 30 mins or so but it is so important that she watches a little. Its a great way for her to learn and understand. Shows like Sesame Street have such a great message in each show, they are educating kids not only on school smarts but life smarts too.

    Fingers crossed this Romney guy is "found out" to be the joke he really is.

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  5. You make such a good point and have explained it so well. Sesame Street was a huge part of my childhood, and even my mom's childhood! And you're absolutely right--it's available to everyone.

    It's been a while since I thought about Sesame Street and all that it's done. Thank you.

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  6. omggggggg 3-2-1 Contact!!!!!! also... my parents def did the "two sesame street's away" thing on long car trips, too! such a blast from the past!

    xx, kara

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  7. Beautifully put, Danielle. I'm not American, so I don't follow American politics to the extent that I would if I were voting. Then again, being just to the north, we still hear a lot about it. I think it would be a huge step backwards for your country if somebody like Romney became president.

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  8. I agree 100%. I loved all of the shows growing up, and now when I babysit I can see how much better the PBS Kids shows are than Nick Jr. or Disney. I also still love PBS myself! I love Downton Abbey, Upstairs Downstairs, Masterpiece Mystery, documentaries, and everything they offer.

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  9. My house was full of PBS in the mornings. Especially during the summer when we would stay at grandma's house. We must've watched all of the shows on there (and got lots of book recommendations from Reading Rainbow too!). I can't imagine defunding PBS. Now that I'm older I appreciate all of the other shows on PBS, and even a local PBS show ("Que Pasa USA?") that has become a local classic here.

    I am also an Obama supporter, but hearing Romney say things like he would defund PBS shows how out of touch he is (especially since it's such a miniscule part of the budget). I hope I have PBS around when I finally have kids and can share the world of Sesame Street and other great shows with them.

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  10. *sniffle*

    I re-watched the Mr. Rogers episode where he goes to the crayon factory just this weekend! Every show you mentioned had a huge impact on me, most notably Reading Rainbow. And I write this as there are a two dozen books stacked around my keyboard on my desk! Beautiful post, excellent points, and I agree!

    Now, I'm off to see if Reading Rainbow is on Hulu or Amazon!

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  11. I'm so glad you wrote about this. I couldn't believe my ears when I heard that. He thinks that's what needs to be cut to reduce our spending? That is such a small portion of our spending. I grew upon that programing and if your kids are going to watch T.V., I think PBS is a good one to watch. It's educational. My opinion of Romney went even lower when I heard that too. I think there are more things to cut out of our spending that would make a much bigger difference rather than an educational program for children.

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  12. I grew up on PBS. Actually it was the ONLY television my mom let us watch. No cartoons or anything else made it into our living room. It would be a damn shame to cut off this and other government funded programs like Planned Parenthood. Mitt is a spoiled rich bully.

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  13. My mom has pictures of me sitting on top of giant pickle jars (because I loved pickles) watching Sesame Street. Sesame Street and Mr Rodgers was such a huge part in my life and even an escape because my parents were going through a very bitter and very violent divorce (the military police being at our home was the norm). So I am taking Judah to the Million Puppet March in DC (Yes I love that we live so close and I can take him to these things) I want his mama to see that she is standing up for his right to grow up watching these shows on PBS. Now he will have a different childhood with two loving parents who think he is the best thing in the world, but I want him to see that he also has parents who will fight for things (like educational programs) that will help him.


    https://www.facebook.com/millionpuppetmarch

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  14. Danielle, I couldn't have said it better myself. I grew up loving Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street, and Reading Rainbow was my absolute favorite. I hope my future children will have a similar experience.

    Now, I still love PBS shows (hello, Nova, Masterpiece Theater and Downton Abbey!) and I also listen to public radio throughout the day. I wake up and drive to work with Morning Edition and The Takeaway and drive home with All Things Considered, On Point, or Tell Me More. On the weekends I listen to This American Life, A Prairie Home Companion, and RadioLab.

    I bring up public radio, because when Romney and other Republicans say they want to defund PBS, they're talking about all public broadcasting, not just of the televised variety. I believe public radio and TV would survive without government support (listener support IS their primary funding source, after all) but it would not be the same and it would no longer reach the areas that need it most.

    We don't have cable (though we DO have Netflix and Hulu+ so I watch more than my fair of TV!) and so public radio is my primary source of news and I really, truly value the way news and ideas are presented and discussed. I can't imagine my life without public radio (not just NPR, but also PRI, APM, and wonderful locally-produced shows across the country; local "NPR" stations usually play a syndicated mix of all the above).

    So, I cringe whenever Republicans threaten to defund public broadcasting, as if that's a source of our economic woes. It's such a small portion of the budget, while we spend trillions on unnecessary wars and prioritize keeping taxes on corporations and the ultra-wealthy low, because of the false, disproven notion that it somehow trickles down. Point is, defunding public broadcasting won't accomplish a damn thing.

    Apologies for the rant on your blog, but this subject is near and dear to my heart. Thank you for not being afraid to state your opinion publicly and bring a bit of politics into your blog. This election is a big deal and now is not the time to stay silent. ;)

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  15. I spent days being so angered about the possibility of PBS funding being cut. I knew in my heart all the emotion of growing up on a farm in the middle of nowhere Ohio and having only PBS to watch. I remember going to school and watching Reading Rainbow. When my single mother was working I remember 3-2-1 Contact (which I had forgot about - it was sooo good!)was on when I got home from school. Point being you took what was, to me, just a rush of emotion and you put it so beautifully into words and what it would really mean to so many kids who need it the most. Thank you for this beautiful, intelligently written post.

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  16. PBS is near and dear to me, too. Layne noted that public broadcasting in general is up for cuts, which is so scary - actually everything she outlined really is eye opening and sad.

    Another item up for cuts is the entire National Endowment for the Arts - all funding would go away. Many people don't know everything that the NEA does, but for someone who works in the arts, it's a very, very scary and sad prospect to see it on the chopping block.

    It's infuriating to me that Big Bird has become a mere joke of this election cycle to some people. As you've said, he stands for so much more than just a feathery costume!

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  17. We had cable growing up, but we weren't allowed to watch most of the channels (thanks, mom!). ha ha We were however allowed to watch PBS (again.. thanks, mom!) and my kids watch PBS now as well. It does hurt to think that someday I may not be able to say that. :(

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  19. Right there with ya, Danielle. It's fun to be a kid of the 80's, reminiscing about the various PBS shows with friends---we learned SO much from shows like Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood! Those programs were valuable learning tools for us, and I have vivid memories of "a-ha!" moments that I got from watching said shows. It's quite clear that Romney is not focused on education--he never brought it up on his own accord (I love that Obama is so pro-education!), and he obviously sees no merit in giving the public affordable and valuable access to televised education. My childhood was defined on what I learned and how I learned it/put it to use, and so much was from PBS programming (does anyone remember Mark Kissler's drawing lessons??? I loved that guy!). I want my son to grow up with the same. To cut funding to PBS is a threat, and not only that, but so completely ignorant! Gaaaaaah, that Romney is a moron!!!!

    I, too, am proud to say I'm in the Obama-camp, for so many reasons. Like you, I'm a teacher turned stay-at-home-mom, so one of the biggest reasons I adore Obama is that he's in-touch with educational issues in America; he actually wants to see the field improve and succeed, thereby creating more skilled and intelligent citizens for our country.

    Crossing my fingers for another 4 years with Obama. This neck-in-neck race is giving me heart failure.....! ;o)

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  20. My parent's used to do the measuring of time during road trips with the whole "we have about two episodes of Sesame Street left." I even use it with Jack now. I can't tell you how big it made me smile reading that your parents did it too.

    PBS is such an icon when it comes to childhood. I can still remember things I learned while watching it as a child. I was even ahead of my class in English because I had watched Wishbone and decided to read the books he acted out. It was because of PBS that I was so excited to get a library card and fill my arms with books every week. It helped spark a love of reading that I think is invaluable for any child.

    When I heard Romney's comments on cutting funding for something that does only good- let's just say it was the straw on the camel's back. I highly disliked the guy before, but now I loathe him. I don't know how anybody who values people's rights, educations, or jobs would allow this man into office. It absolutely baffles and inflames me.

    Thank you so much for writing this. I think it's great to open up dialog about topics like this.

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  21. I'm probably the only one of your readers that is republican and voting for Mitt Romney. But I grew up on Sesame Street too and I loved Reading Rainbow even when I got older and we would watch it in class instead of doing work. I don't want to get to political because everyone has their own opinions and I respect them, like I hope everyone respects mine. But do you realize on Sesame Street merchandise alone they make over 60 million dollars a year. That is just one of the many shows on PBS. So if Romney did cut founding to them they would be ok. Some private backer would come in and sponsor them or they would have to shell out their own profits (God forbid) to fund their own show. PBS will be ok. Mitt Romney just wants to get rid of the unnecessary government spending especially for people and companies like PBS that could stand on their own without government help.

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    1. I was going to write this... But you said it better:) I don't think many really understand. That just hear "get rid of PBS=Romney is a bad guy"

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  22. It is so petty of him to address PBS, funded by less than one thousandth of one percent of the National budget. Could he seriously not come up with a better scapegoat for our budget crisis?

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  23. What makes me upset is all of the talk on "cutting unnecessary government spending", but when you really look at it, public programming counts for the teeniest, tiniest percentage of the federal budget. It's so minuscule. I mean, really, Romney? Of all the ways to cut spending to help our hurting economy, you're going to find the smallest thing and cut THAT? I will never understand. And, yes, it's a smaller issue compared the plethora of issues out there, but if they can cut things like PBS... what else can they take away, you know?

    Romney is a shady, SHADY businessman who's put a lot of companies in massive debt over the course of his career (and has profited from it) - I am so scared of what he could do to this country. This presidential race is giving me high blood pressure. ;)

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  24. Exactly. I wish I could be brave enough to voice my political opinion on my blog. Mitt is scary. If he wins, it will be the end. After all, 12.21.12 and all.. I'd like to write in Ron Paul in the ballot box. But, choosing a third party scares me when so many people choose between Romney and Obama. I'll most def go with the lesser of the two evils. Gobama.

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  25. I loved PBS and my daughter does now, but I think tv shows are the least of our worries! .. How about the millions of children who are dying from abortion?! That alone is all I need to know when voting for someone.

    Sorry but you opened the door..;)

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    1. Children don't die from abortions, they die from disease, neglect, and fatal accidents.

      Fetuses and embryos die from abortions.

      Just a little knowledge being passed from one anon to another! :]

      Now, back to Sesame Street...

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    2. If we were to find an organism on Mars we would say 'we found life on Mars' but a tiny organism in a woman is not considered life to many people! I just
      Don't get it. Especially those who have children of their own.. Sad
      I understand that there are some who have had an abortion and certainly carry guilt, but there is forgiveness-- now just realize the truth!:)

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    3. Oh, I completely understand.

      We are all entitled to our own beliefs and opinions. I was just correcting the vocabulary on your statement as the word "children" was being improperly used when referring to abortion.

      I didn't mean anything else by my comment. I don't feel the need to tell anyone else what/how to believe.

      Although I do think that if we are responding to anything here it would be the subject Dani is discussing. If we do otherwise her comments would be insanely crowded!

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    4. Embryo and fetus in Latin and Greek mean 'young one'.... Just a little info:)

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  26. I too grew up on Sesame Street - in Australia though. I spent part of my childhood living in a remote town where we only had signal for 1 channel and thankfully Sesame Street was on there. I have to confess, being new to this country, I don't know much about American politics, but I do know that if access was cut in Australia (where there are a lot of rural towns with limited choices already), a lot of people would not be happy!

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  27. I think I'm going to be a little brave here and publicly disagree with one of my favorite bloggers. I'm not a "Romney Person", but personally I believe in cutting everywhere- military, welfare, and yes, PBS. We are 16 trillion dollars in debt and it's really at the point where every penny counts. If Sesame Street and PBS can make it on it's own, why spend money we don't have? I'd rather leave my children with less debt than with Sesame Street (which isn't going anywhere either way). I remember loving Sesame Street growing up, but I don't think it (or any TV show) will play as big of a role in my daughter's life. Her doctor told me about a study that shows your brain activity while watching television is the same as when you're asleep. He didn't introduce a television in his home until his youngest child was 8 years old. I thought that was great advice. I'd rather encourage learning in other ways. I don't care what your income level is, there are other ways to teach your children besides sitting them in front of a television. There are head start programs for low income families in almost every county in the country if you don't have time for your kids.

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  28. I try to be understanding of people who worry about the "millions of children who are dying from abortion" and will, therefore, vote for Romney. But what about the MILLIONS of children LIVING in poverty? What about their healthcare/education?
    Sesame Street may seem like a silly waste of money but for many children it can be much more than a TV show. Viva La Big Bird!

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  29. This is a great post. I totally watched exactly the same shows. I recently had to school my husband on the amazingness of Reading Rainbow & "the Bloodhound Gang" mini mysteries it included! :)
    It had a nice string of reminiscent comments, too. Until the pro-lifers took it off on a tangent. Gotta love how they feel the need to hide their identity while taking such a hard stand about their beliefs.

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  30. Obama cut spending for NASA, but you're upset that Romney wants to get rid of Seseme Street? (Of which they'll be plenty of videotapes and re-runs?)

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  31. Every President for the last 30 years has cut public broadcasting funding, fyi. It's not new. But no one will admit that.

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  32. Although I'm not American, this totally breaks my heart. I can't imagine my life (even as a Canadian) without PBS. I've never had cable, not until I was an adult, and PBS was all I had. I also grew up with all those TV shows and can't imagine I'd be the same without them, especially because we weren't well off enough to afford anything else at the time. Great post, Danielle!

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  33. I am a Romney supporter but I agree with your thoughts on the PBS funding! I also just wanted to say, I love how you were able to state your beliefs in an eloquent way (which you always are, but seriously!) and are able to not make anyone else feel alienated if they disagree with you. You are such a great writer. Thanks for bringing some much needed nice-ness to the debates and being able to state your beliefs without shoving them down people's throats.

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  34. I am a Romney supporter and fully support the defunding of PBS. My parents were firmly anti-television, my mother even refers to it as the idiot box. I don't believe in the idea of "educational programming" because sitting your child in front of a television has to be the laziest excuse for parenting OR teaching I have ever heard of. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly suggest no screens for children 2 or younger and highly limited (maximum of 2 hours a week) for older children. It enhances a sedentary lifestyle and will stall a child's neurological development because they synaps function at a level lower than sleep when watching television. It's fine if you think T.V. is okay for your own child, but don't fool yourself into thinking it is educational. It is entertainment without the benefit of mental stimulation or physical exercise.

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  35. If you disagree with this article so much and you're going to be all high and mighty about it... I think you should at least have the guts to not post your opinion as "Anonymous"!

    Oh and Danielle - You rock! Thanks for putting your name on what you believe in. And for doing it without tearing other people's beliefs apart!

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  36. Really? This is the issue that determines your vote? Not the economy, or foreign policy, or...any of 100 other things? Wow...

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    1. Yes, that's exactly what she said.

      Danielle, a former English teacher and multiple degree holder, is voting solely on the candidates stance on Elmo and Big Bird.

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  37. I have the best memories of sitting in my grandmas living room, with my cousins while our parents were off at work, watching Sesame Street when I was a kid. I didn't watch the debate, but I heard about this issue and I was confused that it was even an option or that it was brought up.

    Also, I don't know about everyone else here, but I'm pretty sure I read that you are "firmly in Obama camp" (and have mentioned it before I believe) so I'm not going to skim/overreact and accuse you on voting based on this issue alone. My god.

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  38. I was never a Sesame Street kid, definitely Mister Roger's though! My mom even cried when she heard about him passing away. I don't understand much about politics and I'm at a loss of where to start. Especially since you can't believe everything you see and hear. Sigh.

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  39. A lot of small cuts add up to a lot of money in the end. I love PBS, but cutting the funding wont make it dissapear. As a previous poster said, there are plenty of reruns that can be used, and I dont see the problem w. them making money the same way other channels do. Run ads. Yeah sure I will have to buy my Anne of Green Gables, but since I enjoy it, I will pay for it. If you enjoy the channel, then you can always donate to it personally. And also as a previous poster had mentioned...Obama cut NASA for crying out loud, that is a much bigger deal than PBS.

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  40. Although I'm also one of those moms that keeps tv off when my daughter is around (she is 15 months), I most definitly agree, Danielle. As a french canadian, bigbird and elmo taught me english! This is the type of quality programming I want my children to watch when they do watch tv! I cannot even beguin to believe how influencial Romney is when really... he`s pretty much against the people he is claiming he will democratically represent. I mean I understand your country is going through an economic crisis but isn`t it because of the politics of men like Romney? I really, really,really love visiting the US, you guys have a great and beautiful country and are so welcoming too. It saddens me though that politicians like him make health care and public funding of ressources for communities sound like radical communism. Are libraries really that revolutionnary? I don`t see countries like Canada or Sweden or other more socially focused countries on the verge of bankrupcy so this, to me, is definitly ideological. There`s just no way justifying what happened with the banks and the payouts they received and ever beguin to imagine balancing that out with cutting PBS's public funds. Politics are all about choices and what a society values. This happens all over the world, but it's so sad to see an evil powerful man getting to his means by convincing the people he is working AGAINST that their enemy is themselves and then actually getting their support.Just my two cents :)

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  41. I grew up with PBS as an addition to my educational upbringing as well. Even when I started student teaching, I turned to PBS for their awesome online resources. I can't imagine a world without PBS - they offer so much, to people of all ages. Did you see the video of Mr. Rogers speaking to members of the US Senate back in 1969, asking them not to cut PBS funds? Its a bit lengthy, but worth watching. Here is the YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXEuEUQIP3Q

    The funding that is given to PBS is minimal, so cutting it wouldn't change much regarding the debt situation. I can't wait to see what happens with the Million Puppet March!

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  42. Cutting educational funds just does not make sense to me. Like many have already said, cutting an area that would minimally give back to the debt also does not make sense. Fingers crossed that PBS defunding does not occur.

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