I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, lately, about public access to education. Just yesterday, I had the opportunity to participate in a Live TV production with the BBC all about the wildlife of Alaska called Wild Alaska Live. I was surrounded by a huge team of people dedicated to providing exciting, engaging, accurate, and educationally valuable entertainment to the world.
While I didn’t appear on the PBS production of the same name, I still had the chance to meet the hosts who just happen to be childhood heroes of mine: Chris and Martin Kratt. If you watched PBS sometime in the last 20 years, there’s a good chance you saw one of their shows. For my part, I first truly discovered them in my early teens when my baby brother watched the afternoon PBS kids lineup which included the Kratt brothers’ show Zoboomafoo. This show, hosted by the Kratts and a very charismatic lemur named Jovian, was all about different wild animals and what made them unique and important.
Meeting the Kratts (and bragging about it on social media) has prompted a huge response from friends who were similarly inspired by them growing up. I also met several children (and parents of children) in Juneau who were elated to know the Kratts were in town. I am excited to know that multiple generations of children have been inspired to love wildlife and wild places by programming available on public access television.
Last year, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) received $445 million in government funding (less than one percent of the federal budget). This year, the new administration proposed cutting that funding to zero. Don’t worry, they weren’t successful- CPB is receiving the same $445 million they received last year. But the idea that programming like I grew up with could be lost is a devastating prospect. Not only is this kind of programming bringing urban children access to wildlife, it’s encouraging literacy, teaching math skills, and advocating for mental health. If you’ve never seen Fred Rogers making an impassioned speech before congress to save PBS funding in 1969, I highly recommend you watch it.
It’s people like Fred Rogers who make a real difference in the world by sharing and fighting for their passions. I was so inspired this week to be surrounded by people who were passionate about making quality education accessible. I have heard that one should never meet their heroes to avoid being disappointed. Luckily, I am far from disappointed in my experience meeting the Kratts. They are just as kind, enthusiastic, and genuinely interested in wildlife education as you would imagine. So also are all of the people I got to work with. I am so immensely grateful for the opportunity to have been small part of this project.
My decision to follow this career path was directly influenced by my access to public education like PBS. I am sure that I’m not the only one who was inspired to pursue a career in public education because I had access to this kind of programming. If you think this is valuable, I encourage you to help- share your story, donate to your local PBS station (or NPR, CPB, etc.), get involved with local organizations like the ABEF, and perhaps most importantly: let your representatives know you care about funding public education. Whether you’re a famous kids TV host or a monthly donor, you are making a difference.