I've been watching a lot of West Wing. The cool fall weather and and the annual, cruddy fall cold means that I've been watching my favorite political drama. And recently, I saw the episode on PBS.
It is, and I say this with no exaggeration, a crime how little we fund and promote our public broadcasting.
I grew up on PBS and NPR. I have bright and clear memories of watching the MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour with my dad everyday when he came home from work. I learned my letters and numbers from Sesame Street and my geography from the campy, live-action Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego. My parents once, from somewhere, scraped up 100$ to sponsor an hour of the boring but classic Prairie Home Companion. I am conversant in classical music and was on the classic blues trip long before my friends, entirely due to public radio. Both my parents still send me clips and stories from NPR. Public Broadcasting is a good thing.
We don't value public broadcasting because we are, rightly, suspicious of government, and because we are, wrongly, suspicious of learning. If I were a genius, I'd invent a way to reconcile those. I always liked the NEA's slogan "A Great Nation Deserves Great Art," because I think it's true. Our greatness isn't international heft or economic clout, it's our spirit. I think, then, that a great nation deserves great public broadcasting.