Saturday, April 14, 2018

Against Mister Rogers

This post leans a little more political than what I usually do here, but I figure that Fred Rogers was a Presbyterian minister so it still vaguely falls under my umbrella. A couple of weeks ago, Boing Boing posted this article explaining that yes, there really are conservatives out there who hate Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. This particularly dumb segment from Fox & Frieds explains why. According to "experts" and "studies" that are never really cited, making kids feel good about themselves is a terrible, terrible thing.

Fred Rogers is the subject of a documentary and a biopic starring Tom Hanks, both out later this year. Though most Americans assume he's a national treasure, he's widely loathed by conservatives who center him in their myth of "participation trophy" culture.

I remember one columnist describing him as a saccharine man whose job was to help the education industry tell stupid children they were special—one of the more enduring impressions I got of American conservatives after moving here in the 2000s. (Another: turning on the radio to hear someone muttering, barely in control of his rage, about how much be hates bisexuals, intoning the word "hate" over and over. At first I thought it was a theatrical performance, a character in a radio play, but it turned out to be The Michael Reagan Show.)

Anyway, here's Fox and Friends complaining that young people are entitled and useless because Fred Rogers stressed the importance of love and its absence in their lives.

Now I want to ask a serious question here. Have any of you ever seen one of these mysterious "participation trophies?" Conservatives have been complaining about them since at least the late 1970's, and I've never seen one. I grew up in the 1970's and 1980's and loved Mister Rogers' Neighborhood as a small child, so according to this segment I should have been right in the thick of it. My kids have never seen these mythical objects either.

So I'm forced to conclude that if such things ever existed, either (A) they were isolated phenomena or (B) there was a ten-year period called the 1990's during which they were given out that abruptly stopped shortly after the year 2000. The question is whether either of those are more likely than (C) the idiots on Fox & Friends are basically just bullshitting. I have no idea how likely (A) or (B) is, but I know for a fact that (C) happens a lot.

UPDATE: One other possibility - over on FB, it was pointed out that this is apparently a common practice with extramural sporting organizations. I never played any sports, so that might explain why I've never seen one. Still, it should be clear that an extramural sporting organization with voluntary enrollment is a whole lot different than school that everyone has to attend. No parent who is against "participation trophies" ever has to enroll their kid in an outside organization that has them.

Of course, the idiots on Fox & Friends are going to conflate the two because they have an agenda to push. It also is entirely unclear to me how athletic trophies for participation make "stupid kids feel smart." Sports has nothing to do with that. In sports it's also pretty obvious who's good and who's not, so I don't think the "participators" were under any illusion that they were the best players in the league or anything like that.

Also, check out this article. It's a little cheerleaderish, but it also sounds like there's no evidence that participation awards had a negative effect on any of this coach's players. If you think about, there's really no reason why they should. It's not like a little piece of plastic is a great reinforcer for much of anything.

Technorati Digg This Stumble Stumble


Unknown said...

I saw these participation trophies throughout the 1980s and 1990s In Baseball, Soccer, and Football. I even knew kids who advanced to intermediate swimming class after not being able to complete the elements of the beginner class solely so they were not left behind. This even happened often in the 70s and 80s in public school for kids who did not have passing grades.

Scott Stenwick said...

Where did you go to school? I graduated high school in 1987 and my oldest kid started in the early 2000's, so I would have completely missed anything that happened in the 1990's. Still, conservatives were raving about them back in the late 1970's and I never saw one going to school in Minnesota.

Unknown said...

Link to an article by a coach who gave out participation trophies.

I vaguely recall getting one or two or seeing them handed out over the years, but I don't recall any specifics.

Scott Stenwick said...

Good article. Definitely worth a read, and it brings up the whole other point behind this article. Why do conservatives think this is such a big problem, anyway? I highly doubt that a little plastic trophy you can stick on a shelf is going to ruin anyone's life.