This Week in Family
Fred Rogers made life in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood look calm and simple—but it turns out the children’s TV icon was taking great pains behind the scenes to make sure the language he used in talking to kids was just right. Maxwell King describes, in a piece adapted from his upcoming book, The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers, how Rogers would revise scripts to eliminate anything that might be confusing or disturbing to his show’s young audience.
Rogers’s way of speaking on his show followed such specific rules that writers joked that it qualified as its own language, which they called “Freddish.” “He insisted that every word, whether spoken by a person or a puppet, be scrutinized closely, because he knew that children—the preschool-age boys and girls who made up the core of his audience—tend to hear things literally,” King writes.
Terrence Wardell, the 18-year-old depicted here in a photo taken by Alyssa Schukar, once spent seven months in a psychiatric hospital in Chicago. He’d been cleared for discharge much earlier, though—over four months of his stay were not medically necessary.
Wardell is one of hundreds of children in Illinois who have been held in psychiatric hospitals for weeks or even months beyond when they’re first allowed to leave, largely due to the trouble the state’s child-welfare agency has finding other, more appropriate placements for them. A feature published by The Atlantic in collaboration with ProPublica Illinois explored the difficulties of finding places for these kids—and the toll that being stuck in a psychiatric hospital takes on them.