The Macksey Journal


Although television is a cultural artifact, it is also a mode of intellectual inquiry that not only shape social values, attitudes, and beliefs of those who watch it, but is driven by these attributes by those who create the content of it. This paper illustrates and reflects the cultural and political implications of a shift in American educational television programming towards STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) related content through PBS KIDS around the early 2000’s. PBS aims to enhance children’s understanding of mathematical and science applications. By creating technically-apted individuals through the use of television and future digital endeavors as sponsored by PBS, I argue that the audience of PBS KIDS will obtain skills to participate in a labor market geared towards STEM. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (PBS, 1968-2001) and Cyberchase (PBS, 2000 – present) are the two sample shows that depict the shift that was originally orientated towards social-behavioral themes. By re-examining the purpose and history of public broadcasting, giving a biographical account of both shows, and analysis of each show’s educational methodology through three episodes per show, I demonstrate PBS’s interests are geared towards STEM literacy being more accessible to children. I conclude with a discussion of the STEM crisis being mediated by the possibility of STEAM as a better suited educational methodology through Fred Rogers who promoted an interdisciplinary environment and by not belittling one discipline over another.