Meet Buster Baxter. He is a third grader who lives in Elwood City with his mom. This year he’s joined his dad, a pilot, and rock group Los Viajeros for a trip across the country and across a few borders. Along the way, he meets kids and videotapes his time spent with them to share with his friends in Elwood City.
As the star bunny on Postcards from Buster a children’s series on PBS, Buster has been criticized lately for a particular video postcard that was supposed to arrive Feb. 2 from Vermont, in which he introduces one of his newest friends—a new friend with two moms.
This, according to Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, is not the kind of family the federally-funded program should be depicting.
[pbs] In a letter sent to PBS a week before the episode “Sugartime!” was scheduled to air, Spellings wrote, “Many parents would not want their young children exposed to the lifestyles portrayed in the episode.” Furthermore, the new secretary of education argued that the Ready to Learn grant, which sponsors Postcards from Buster, was not intended to fund such an episode.
As a result, PBS decided not to air the episode, but one of its affiliates, WGBH in Boston, did choose to air it on it’s scheduled date and has offered the episode to other PBS stations in the country, including East Lansing’s local PBS station WKAR.
DeAnne Hamilton, general manager and director of broadcasting services at WKAR, said that a decision will not be made as to the airing of the controversial episode until the station has reviewed it. She said the station has only received a couple of e-mails concerning the controversy.
T.J. Jourian, a member of the campus chapter of Lesbian, Bi, Gay, Transgender and Straight student alliance (LBGT) said he wasn’t surprised when he learned about the controversy surrounding the episode, saying it is an indication of how “LGBT issues are eventually going to be written out of the education system” over the next four years.
Since President Bush’s re-election, which polls suggest was based on “moral values,” there has been speculation that the president and his administration will take the religious sentiments prevalent in their first term to an even higher level. Spellings’ denouncment of the Postcards from Buster episode could be an example of how religious values, which should not affect government funding, may lead to censorship of conflicting ideals.
As a childhood development senior, Amanda Caldemeyer has worked with many kids with same-sex parents and said she thinks it’s “stupid” and “sad” that the episode was revoked. Though she said she can see how some people might be upset by it, she said from her experiences, she’s found that most “kids are familiar” with families having two moms or two dads. Caldemeyer added that kids who aren’t “don’t judge,” but are curious and ask questions. After the teacher explains it to them, she said, they move on.
The effects of keeping homosexuality off the air could be detrimental to kids who are gay or have gay parents. Without the media validation that comes with being exposed to characters or people like themselves, these children may continue to feel marginalized and left out of society. “Kids are wanting and needing to hear this message,” said Jourian.
With 13 states recently passing amendments to ban same-sex marriage, there is no doubt homosexual relationships have become a heated political issue. But, the question remains: what’s next? If Spellings can elect not to expose the existence of same-sex couples in children’s programming, citing the unclear language of the Ready to Learn grant, what other controversial topics might PBS also be discouraged from airing? Unfortunately, officials in the department of education never called me back to answer these questions.
Buster Baxter has since left Vermont and traveled on, but stations are left deciding whether to let children receive his postcard or let conservative values to control the mail, too.

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