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According to a July 5 Wall Street Journal article by Jeff Zaslow, sweet gentle Mr. Rogers is being blamed for several generations of narcissism in our culture.

“Don Chance, a finance professor at Louisiana State University, says it dawned on him last spring. The semester was ending, and as usual, students were making a pilgrimage to his office, asking for the extra points needed to lift their grades to A’s.

“They felt so entitled,” he recalls, “and it just hit me. We can blame Mr. Rogers.””

Seems the line of thinking is that Mr. Rogers told us we’re all special but forgot to tell us we have to work hard to get where we want to go. Uh…so he’s to blame? May his spirit rest in peace at that outrageous claim.

Where are the parents in this whole thing? And a society based on consumerism and more is better?

To be fair, Professor Chance says Mr. Rogers is just representative of a doting parental and social structure that gave the kids the wrong message. I’m not sure what planet he’s on, but the kids I know had to work harder in school than I ever did. It became all about the grades and taking advantage of every after-school activity they could fit into their heavy schedules. The pressure has been enormous. I don’t think Mr. Rogers would have wanted that for his darlings.

We are special. Each and every one of us. And we also need to put effort into getting things we want. I don’t doubt Mr. Chance has been seeing something changing over the years. But his example of kids fighting for a higher grade makes me smile. On one hand, it can show an over-developed sense of entitlement as he says. But it also shows kids unafraid to speak up for themselves and fight for what they feel is right.

Guided properly by teachers who can appreciate that spark of independent spirit, these kids would probably turn out just fine. I’ve mentored young people like that who just needed some supportive tweaking and time to grow. And they turned out great. But that takes an enlightened educator who is willing to bend with the times and not waiting for kids to be the way they used to be back in the good ol’ days. The old days are gone. The challenge now is: How do we prepare our young people while respecting that who they are is special.

Anyone who wants to squelch that doesn’t get how powerful that message can be with the right guidance! Mr. Rogers got it. But he couldn’t do it by himself – especially from inside a TV set.

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