Sunday, January 30, 2005

Education Secretary Spellings Pressures PBS on Buster Lesbian Episode

Like everyone else, I was rather encouraged by all of the talk of freedom in President Bush's Inaugural Address.

He expounded on the "spread of freedom" and at one point stated:
In America's ideal of freedom, the public interest depends on private character — on integrity, and tolerance toward others, and the rule of conscience in our own lives.

I wanted to find something to explain what "tolerance" was. At the Southern Poverty Law Center, there is a tolerance project, that is designed to "fight hate and promote tolerance." The SPLC explains:
Bias is a human condition, and American history is rife with prejudice against groups and individuals because of their race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or other differences.

The 20th Century saw major progress in outlawing discrimination, and most Americans today support integrated schools and neighborhoods. But stereotypes and unequal treatment persist, an atmosphere often exploited by hate groups. Spread on the Internet and accessible by personal computers, hate clearly knows no geographic bounds.

WGBH has used the show "Buster" to promote understanding of diversity. The grant under which it received federal funds states:
"diversity will be incorporated into the fabric of the series to help children understand and respect differences and learn to live in a multicultural society."

And yet, earlier this week the new U.S. Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings, denounced the PBS for spending money on a cartoon with homosexual characters. In a letter she stated:
"Many parents would not want their young children exposed to the lifestyles portrayed in the episode." Likewise, she wrote, "Congress and the Department's purpose in funding this programming certainly was not to introduce this kind of subject matter to children, particularly through the powerful and intimate medium of television." She also told the PBS executive that "in the future the Department will be more clear as to its expectations" for any programming it chooses to fund.

In addition, she requested that PBS refund taxpayer dollars used in the production and distribution of "Sugartime!", the episode produced by WGBH.

And what about the creator of Buster? As was reported:
Marc Brown, creator of "Arthur" and "Postcards From Buster," said: "I am disappointed by PBS's decision not to distribute the 'Postcards From Buster' 'Sugartime!' episode to public television stations. What we are trying to do in the series is connect kids with other kids by reflecting their lives. In some episodes, as in the Vermont one, we are validating children who are seldom validated. We believe that 'Postcards From Buster' does this in a very natural way -- and, as always, from the point of view of children."

It is shameful that this President speaks of tolerance and freedom and then when put to the test, uses censorship to delete the very lessons of tolerance that this Administration professes.

It is ironic that Secretary Spellings should be requesting a refund of money from PBS. Are we then to expect that we shall soon be hearing of a request for the $240,000 from Armstrong Williams who didn't receive a grant, but was paid secretly to editorialize and advocate intolerant views for this President? And what about the other reporters who also received money? Will there be requests for those funds as well?

Senator Kerry, we need you to pull this intolerant nation from the water. We need a President who believes that every person is worthy of respect and understanding. That our nation must act to promote understanding and not to encourage division. That respect for majority views does not mean disrespect of those who have different political, religious, or even sexual orientation than others.

Keep that door open for 2008! 55 million Americans are right with you!



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