Big Bird vs. Classical Music
Tax supported media versus private media
In this Lens I describe the reasons why we should not support media with tax money, and show that alternatives are not only possible, but viable. I treat a number of different facets of this question, including what should happen to Big Bird, where to get your classical music outside of NPR, and other topics. Lots of personal opinion is included! I even discuss the pedagogy of children's shows!
Satisfying Your Classical Music Addiction
You don't have to listen to NPR
For decades, I listened to KUAT-FM. This is a local classical station, and it is part of the National Public Radio network. I became increasingly dissatisfied with KUAT for a number of reasons. First, their choice of music includes some really atrocious stuff. I'm sorry, but if it's dissonant and raucous, it's not music. They stick these compositions in at random, at unexpected times. This was such a turnoff that at least one of our children no longer listens to classical music at all. Second, they had a lot of talk. They had All Things Considered, which is a two hour program, full of propaganda for leftist political perspectives. They had other talk shows. Fortunately, budget cuts caused them to drop this program, but they still have NPR News and A Prairie Home Companion. At first, I didn't mind A Prairie Home Companion. That is before Garrison Keillor trashed President Bush on the internet, defaming him in ugly terms. When I wrote a comment calling him on it, they removed the comment. Also, for a time they carried BBC News. We know that has a slant, but at least it was interesting, and it gave us another perspective. Then they switched to NPR News. When I complained about their music selection, they said people like that music. Maybe the music professors do. They seem to be half crazy anyway; I watched what they teach. My mother took a music composition course, and they asked her to compose something with a tone row. That's as if that is the only form of music in existence, and it is by far one of the less desirable ones. Just because we have eras doesn't mean there isn't more to be said in classical and romantic styles, or even baroque, and these should be taught. Nowadays, there are lots of styles currently active, some of them very nice.
I don't know if anybody else likes these raucous, dissonant pieces or not.
KUAT employs students who are studying radio broadcasting, so the station is paid for in part by the university. But they would ask for around $50,000 in donations every time they did fundraising for a week. They usually got it or came close. They also get a chunk from the NPR pile. I told them I would donate when they stopped getting public funding.
The sad part is that KUAT is the BEST station in Arizona, from my perspective. KBAQ in Phoenix still carries All Things Considered and other talk programs. The classical station in Flagstaff is abysmal. Half their programming is talk. When I asked them about it, they said the Native Americans like the talk programs. So why aren't we teaching Native Americans to appreciate classical music? Surely, there is plenty of talk elsewhere on the dial. Traveling in Arizona was no fun, because half the time, I couldn't listen to the radio, because talking on the radio drives me bonkers, even when I AGREE with what is being said. And I'm sure NPR was more than happy to indoctrinate Native Americans into leftist ideas, because they want all non-whites kept on the political plantation.
For a little while, we listened to KUAT streaming audio on the internet, because we don't currently have a working FM receiver. One day, out of frustration, I started looking around. I tried different internet stations, but I finally found WCPE out of North Carolina. What a blessing that station has been! They don't receive any public money, or grant money, from anywhere. They are totally funded by private, voluntary donations. When I first started listening, they had a fundraiser in which they asked for $600,000, ten TIMES what KUAT had been asking for, and they GOT it. Since then, with a bad economy, I am sure they take in less, but they are managing just fine. They have over 200 volunteers, for one thing. This station started over 33 years ago, when they hand-built a transmitter and radio tower with volunteer labor, and has steadily grown. Last I looked, they had 4 or 5 streaming audio formats, and a satellite feed. The satellite system is one of the lesser known ones. They also offer their programming to ANY radio station in the United States, free of charge! They not only have about 11-12 repeaters in North Carolina and Virginia, but they have satellite radio stations. All programs are live-announced. And they have some very interesting announcers. Their music selection is totally heavenly with two exceptions. On Sunday evenings, they broadcast a couple of hours and sometimes during these hours they broadcast some pretty atrocious stuff. And they INSIST on broadcasting one composition by Aaron Copland every single day. Heaven only knows why. I have complained until I am blue in the face, but it does no good. They probably broadcast each of a small selection of his compositions more often than any other compositions, including those by Mozart! I used to be rather indifferent to Copland; now I actively detest him. But if you can get past those two problems, they are a total dream!
You can get WCPE anywhere in the world, through the internet. If you would like to check it out, go to their web site:
See, classical music doesn't even NEED public funding!
Two more stations that appear to be largely unaffiliated with NPR, both with fine, pleasing and beautiful music:
I don't know too much about the first one, but they appear to be independent. The second one is affiliated with the University of Southern California, so they get money from the university. They haven't seen the need to broadcast raucous, dissonant music, and I'll take what I can get!
Pedagogy is the science of teaching techniques.
We allowed our oldest child to watch Sesame Street and Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. I watched along with him. By the time he entered first grade, he was no longer interested, and neither were we. In spite of that, and the fact that both are aimed at preschoolers, our son reported that in public school, he was being forced to watch TV, specifically, Sesame Street. For that and many other reasons, we removed him from public school after only two months, and we never looked back. No one else went to public school. I'll tell that story in more detail another time.
BIg Bird, as everyone knows, is a character from Sesame Street, specifically a Muppet. All the Muppets try to be endearing, including the ones that aren't so nice. They SELL ideas to children. One of the complaints I have had about Sesame Street is the way in which it sells political and religious ideas I do not agree with, to children, who are unable to discern they are being propagandized and manipulated. All of this is done in the name of keeping children's attention (and with their quickly changing scenario, shortening the attention span and teaching children to require more intense stimulus to stay attentive). It is also done in the name of teaching children something.
I taught all seven of our children how to read, using my own method, based on phonics. All of our children are excellent readers, including those who had initial difficulties of one kind or another. What I noticed about Sesame Street is that the little commercials teach letter NAMES. This is highly confusing. A child cannot look at a word and say the names, and begin to have a clue what the word says. This is why I always taught the letter SOUNDS. The names can come later. This is one of many different problems I saw with the pedagogy of Sesame Street.
Sesame Street also has another problem. It teaches kids to like trivial music and silly visual images. Maria Montessori, the educator, said that young children appreciate and can discern beauty. Sesame Street has a golden opportunity to teach children to appreciate classical music. Last I looked, they weren't doing that. And the lack of exposure in the young shows. If I go to a concert, probably 90% of the audience is people over 50. For an organization that thinks classical music is important enough to subsidize, this is mighty strange.
I had equally serious problems with Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. For awhile, he had a story going among his puppets where one of them was trying to learn to speak French, and another was trying to teach him or her (I don't remember which). The teacher would pronounce a French word correctly, but the pupil would pronounce it incorrectly. The only problem was, the pupil was saying the incorrect pronunciation at least twice as often as the teacher was saying it correctly. Obviously, this meant that the audience was learning incorrect pronunciation. And you know how intense the French are about people who mangle their language!
Another problem I had was that Mister Rogers was constantly telling his audience that he thought they were great just the way they are. The problem I had was that he should have used this opportunity to generate self respect in children rather than just self esteem. He should have been conveying the message that because they were worthwhile just as they are, they should strive to do things that were in keeping with their worth. But he didn't do that.
So I wrote a letter to Mister Rogers. I complained about both of my concerns. He actually sent an answer. His answer? "You are being too didactic for me." That's exactly what he said and I quote. And of course, nothing changed.
Big Bird doesn't need government funding. The toys are selling so fast that they are making a pile of money. The top executives make an insane salary. Instead of trying to keep government funding, let's take Big Bird off welfare. Welfare is for those in need, not for the filthy rich. I think Big Bird definitely qualifies! As filthy rich, I mean.
The photo is used under the Fair Use Doctrine.
What has happened to our culture?
This book is an excellent analysis of why our culture now accepts the use of tax money to promote destructive ideas through public media. I especially recommend this one. Be aware that this is no lightweight discussion. Schaeffer goes into great detail in a scholarly fashion, showing why we have developed a post-Christian mindset toward the arts. He especially resonates with me by talking about why art is no longer beautiful.
How Should We Then Live?
by Francis A. Schaeffer
Available on Amazon
Should tax money be used to pay for public media broadcasts?
Other Miseducation on PBS
Allow me to start with a couple of quotes.
"To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical." - Thomas Jefferson
"There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him." -- Robert Anson Heinlein
PBS routinely propagates biased viewpoints. So does NPR. PBS had one token conservative talk show: William Buckley. Other than that, as far as I can determine, everything they broadcasts, if it expresses a political viewpoint, has a leftist slant. I noticed that not only is this the case, but their choice of topics to cover was also heavily biased. I remember one time when there was something about abortion being discussed on the local PBS affiliate news program. They then quoted one politician. Yep, you guessed it. It was a politician who is extremely ieftist (to the point of being a communist) and thoroughly in favor of legalized abortion.
If that weren't enough, PBS also routinely broadcasts so-called nature shows with material from the theory of evolution presented as fact, and extreme environmentalist slants. For what it is worth, we have had a series of devastating forest fires in the state over the past few years, and I blame primarily the environmentalists because they stood in the way of decent forest management, which would have prevented these fires. And I will cover evolution in another Lens.
You may not agree with me about these issues. That is certainly your prerogative. But I have an equal right not to be forced to pay for the propagation of viewpoints I adamantly disagree with. Certainly if PBS and NPR were fulfilling their duties, they would at least strive for some kind of neutrality. I see no evidence they do.
National Endowment for the Arts
I cannot end my discussion without also talking about the National Endowment for the Arts. This organization takes tax money and uses it to support "art" that is frankly offensive. We know how Muslims react to any kind of insult to Islam. Christians and Jews don't do that. This is one reason we are subjected to this kind of atrocity. One "artist" did a portrait of Mary the mother of Jesus, and put elephant dung all over it. Some of you may know who I am talking about. I have never been a Catholic, but I still find that offensive, if for no other reason it defames someone they hold dear (even though personally I think they way overdo it.) Another piece of so-called "art" involved sticking a crucifix into a vat of urine.
While obviously this is not the only things this organization funds, it is entirely likely that everything they do will probably offend someone. Why should the tax money of people who like rock or rap be used to support symphony orchestras?
Let the arts compete in the marketplace. As an artist, I am competing, but I am at a disadvantage because the government doesn't pay me to produce art. I wouldn't take the money if I did, because it is unethical in my opinion.
In sum, given that PBS can easily be self-supporting through sales and voluntary contributions, and NPR affiliate stations only get 15% of their revenue from the government, I think it is time to take the whole batch of them off government welfare and let them sink or swim. If they are performing a valuable public service, they will swim. If not, we shouldn't have to pay for them anyway.