It Wasn't Educational Enough (Reading Rainbow)
George W. Bush got Reading Rainbow canceled.
Now that I have your attention, let's talk about how, no, seriously, George W. Bush got Reading Rainbow canceled. First, though, a little disclaimer. There are two things you need to know about me: I'm not from the U.S., I was an awkward kid, and I've always loved reading. I realize that's technically three things, but I reckon that the last two mean pretty much the same thing, so ... in any case, I didn't grow up with Reading Rainbow, but I instantly respect and admire anything that encourages kids to pick up a goddamn book every once in a while.
Despite the show becoming so sexualized in later years.
Reading Rainbow started all the way back in 1983 and (counting reruns) continued until 2009, when it was finally pulled from the air because it just wasn't resonating with modern kids who don't even know how "turn on" a print book, right? Not exactly. It was actually because of something even stupider than that tired old joke.
PBS canceled Reading Rainbow because they didn't think it was educational enough.
Or rather, because it focused on the wrong kind of education by not teaching kids how to read. PBS wanted to put money into programming that would focus on spelling and phonics while all RR was doing was fostering a love for reading. So, essentially, they got rid of the show for not doing something it was never intended to do, like taking a hammer to your CD collection because years of listening to it haven't magically taught you how to play an instrument.
Now, all of this was actually put in motion back in 2002, when George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act into law, which shifted the focus of national education to stuff that could be tested for, like a student's ability to read and spell. The problem with loving to read, however, is that you can't really test for it without doing something drastic, like setting a student's favorite book on fire and measuring the volume of their tears. Anyway, without all that extra government money to fund it, PBS had no choice but to cancel Reading Rainbow.
This actually all comes from the show's host, LeVar Burton himself, who shed some light on the situation in numerous interviews ... while promoting his Kickstarter for reviving Reading Rainbow as an app. The Kickstarter, by the way, was a complete success, so, good news, there's no need to go burn down the Capitol (for now.)
Cezary Jan Strusiewicz is a Cracked columnist, interviewer, and editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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