Baylor Expert Shares Six Lessons We Can Learn From Mr. Rogers About Being a Good Neighbor

  • Civics education expert Brooke Blevins, Ph.D., associate professor of social studies education and chair of Baylor University‚Äôs department of curriculum and instruction (Baylor Marketing & Communications)
  • (Getty Images)
Nov. 14, 2019

Media Contact: Eric M. Eckert, Baylor University Media and Public Relations, 254-710-1964
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WACO, Texas (Nov. 14, 2019) – In this polarized time, when it requires little effort to tear a stranger apart on social media or lash out at a family member because of a difference of opinion, the gentle cadence of Fred Rogers singing a simple song about neighbors loving and helping each other is a welcome respite.

The much-anticipated movie, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” starring Academy Award-winner Tom Hanks as Rogers – known to generations simply as “Mr. Rogers,” the host of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” – will be released in theaters on Nov. 22. The official movie trailer posted on YouTube has drawn nearly 12 million views.

Baylor University civics education expert Brooke Blevins, Ph.D., associate professor of social studies education and chair of curriculum and instruction in the Baylor School of Education, said the renewed focus on the beloved and soft-spoken TV personality, who died in 2003, might be coming at just the right time.

“When you watch Mr. Rogers, time slows down, and you are able to take a deep breath as complicated issues become more understandable and the beauty of relationships is reinforced,” Blevins said.

“Imagine if we all walked into the world with the belief that each person was inherently worthy. Imagine if our goal was to help each other recognize that we are worthy of being loved. Imagine if we sought to listen more than we spoke,” she said. “I imagine if this was the case, that our conversation would change, our understanding of those around us would shift, and our national conversations would be more civil.”

Below, Blevins shares six lessons we can learn from Mr. Rogers about being better citizens.

Each person is worthy to be loved and heard.

Like Mr. Rogers, we must recognize that each person we interact with is worthy to be loved and listened to. We must recognize that each person has unique experiences, fears, losses and triumphs that shape the way they understand what’s happening around them. We need to do much more listening and far less talking. We should work together to tackle tough issues in reasoned and evidenced-based ways with civility and a genuine desire to understand those around us.

Use your platform for good.

Mr. Rogers was deeply committed to creating a better world. Mr. Rogers did not take his role on TV lightly. He saw it as an opportunity to help young people make sense of the world around them and to become more knowledgeable and engaged citizens. He saw television as an opportunity to create community and a shared sense of purpose. As he once noted, “The space between the television screen and whoever happens to be receiving it, I consider that holy ground. A lot happens there.”

Lessons we often think are for children are for adults as well.

Mr. Rogers was a teacher, a pastor and a friend. His lessons were drawn from the everyday experiences of children’s lives, from current political events to personal and emotional trials children experience. Not only were these lessons for children, but for their parents who were also watching. His lessons focused on cultivating civic discourse, reasoned judgment and evidence-based decision-making, but most importantly, his lessons cultivated understanding and empathy for one’s neighbor. In his conversations and examples, he drew on our shared humanity to help young people make sense of an ever-changing world.

Slow down.

In a time of fast-paced and often silly cartoons that were designed to move quickly from scene to scene, Mr. Rogers maintained a much slower and thoughtful pace. A pace that was compelling to both young and old alike. He explored issues slowly and with depth, without the silly antics that are so often used to keep children and adults’ attention. He used his time with viewers to develop a relationship that valued their experience and honored their emotional complexity. He sent the message that all people are inherently valuable and are capable of loving and being loved.

It’s OK to discuss tough issues – even with children. But be civil and understanding when you do it.

As an ordained minister and gifted musician, Mr. Rogers utilized his vocational skills to create a safe space in which difficult conversations could occur. He never shied away from the tough conversations. From issues such as divorce, death, assassination and even 9-11, Mr. Rogers’ helped young people navigate emotionally traumatic events with both knowledge and compassion. Mr. Rogers knew that by talking about our fears, losses and misunderstandings, we could work together to build a better future.  As he wrestled with these issues, he asked questions, he inquired, he listened, and he had children do the same. He had a deep-rooted commitment to helping children navigate their world.

Be a good neighbor.

Being a good neighbor is caring about those around you. It’s not just about tolerance, but truly seeking to understand those in your community. Being a good neighbor means helping those around you recognize that they play an important part in making the world a better and more just place. It means working together to solve complex issues and cultivate a world in which all people can fulfill their true purpose.

ABOUT DR. BROOKE BLEVINS

Brooke Blevins, Ph.D., teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses in secondary education, social studies education and multicultural education in the Baylor School of Education. As a former secondary teacher, she has a passion for equipping teachers with the resources needed to engage in humanizing social studies education. Dr. Blevins also serves as the co-director for the iEngage Summer Civics Institute, for which she and co-founder Dr. Karon LeCompte have raised more than $250,000 in grant funding.

Dr. Blevins’ research focuses on social studies education as a means to prepare active and engaged citizens. In her work, Dr. Blevins examines how to prepare teachers to develop both political clarity and pedagogical content knowledge that encourages them to engage in transformational based and humanizing social studies education. In addition, Dr. Blevins also is interested in how to educate and empower young people to become active civic participants through participation in action civics and digital technologies.

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

ABOUT BAYLOR SCHOOL OF EDUCATION

For more than 100 years, Baylor educators have carried the mission and practices of the School of Education to classrooms and beyond as teachers, superintendents, psychologists, health education professionals, academics/scholars and more. With more than 50 full-time faculty members, the school’s growing research portfolio complements its long-standing commitment to excellence in teaching and student mentoring. Baylor’s undergraduate program in teacher education has earned national distinction for innovative partnerships with local schools that provide future teachers deep clinical preparation, while graduate programs culminating in both the Ed.D. and Ph.D. prepare outstanding leaders, teachers and clinicians through an intentional blend of theory and practice. Visit www.baylor.edu/soe to learn more.

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