Mister Rogers

The Christian Century

IN THE TWO DECADES since MTV captured the restless souls and short attention spans of our youth, it has become increasingly evident that teaching and learning require new strategies. The classroom lecture is dead, reading is an endangered art, and memorization belongs next to exorcism in the dustbin of discarded teaching arts. To engage the interest of young people, we have to dazzle them with quick-cutting graphics in an environment that is interactive, fastchanging, and stylishly fragmented.

The above statements, commonplace as they are, are all false. How do we know they are false? Because of Mister Rogers, the saintly Presbyterian minister and TV presence whose death on February 27 felt to millions like the loss of a friend. a teacher, or even a father. Mister Rogers won his devoted audience by breaking the rules of entertainment technology: He bestowed attention instead of grabbing it.

June 23, 2003

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