PBS 2 and Reading Issues

This post is in response to two articles I read this morning. First is this week’s ombudsman column on PBS’s website looking at the effects of changing POV and Independent Lens‘s time slot from Tuesday to Thursday, and second, is an article on Huffington Post looking at concerns over high school reading level. Both raised interesting questions that I want to address.

First of all, I agree with Gettler’s comments that PBS has gutted its public affairs programming over the past several years after the last election (not that I think the election has anything to do with it). While Bill Moyers has returned in some capacity, his Journal along with Now and many other interesting and excellent public affairs programming have either been cancelled or truncated (as in the case of Need to Know). Why is this?

I don’t know. I suspect that politics does play a role in PBS’s decision to “revamp” their public affairs lineup. Public broadcasting has always been under threat, especially from a right wing that sees liberal bias throughout much of PBS’s programming. This perceived bias inspires Republican members of Congress to propose gutting government funding for public broadcasting. So, it is understandable that PBS shifts in order to protect itself.

I get the protection angle, and I sort of understand the programming block rationale, too. That said, I do think that two hours of Antiques Roadshow back to back might be a little much. The problem is that Thursdays (and also Fridays)  on many stations are reserved for local programming. With the two documentary shows now airing on Thursday, that knocks out an hour of possible local programming.

I won’t pretend to know what most PBS stations’ local programming look like. KWBU had none, KNCT has a few (of which I don’t watch), KLRU had an awesome lineup when I lived in Austin (especially Austin Now and Downtown), and KQED had an excellent assortment of local programming when I was there (hell, I still watch This Week in Northern California). I don’t know what other amazing local programs are out there, but it is a shame to think that some them will be canceled to make room for IL and POV.

In addition to politics, I think it also ties into keeping viewership. Why do you watch PBS? Why did you stop watching it? How can PBS win back its viewers and attract new ones? I don’t know, maybe in a future post I can explore some of my opinions on that.

Moving on to reading, according to the Huffington Post article, most high school students who read typically read texts rated at being barely above 5th grade level. Okay, this raises a lot of questions for me.

For one thing, how do they ascribe reading levels? Does that apply to the complexity of the text or to just the sentences? What about the complexity of a work? How is that rated? What about analysis?

Now then, the article plays a trick on the reader. The books that are read are rated at around 5th grade level (nor what works are at what level). That says nothing about what the readers themselves are capable of.

Some of the comments tend towards the idea that the poll is, perhaps, part of a  larger maneuver to sell products. I don’t know if this is true or not, but it would not surprise me.

Part of the issue with teaching reading is, I think, how it is taught. Teach critical thinking and analytic skill far earlier than it is done today. And focus on making reading a fun and enjoyable experience rather than a chore.

But, the educational system is not alone at being at fault for the decline in reading. The kids themselves have the choice to read or not to read outside of school. And their parents can be an example and read to their children. The children of readers are readers themselves. The teacher, the educational system is not a substitute parent. They are not nannies, governesses, and tutors.

I did not intend for this post to get this long. One of my core issues as a voter is education. So often I am disappointed by the various solutions raised. Largely, I think, because I question whether we, as a society, are raising equal citizens or just workers.


Posted on March 24, 2012, in T.V. and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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