A Two-Minute Case for Optimism by Steven Pinker

It’s easy to get discouraged by the ceaseless news of violence, poverty, and disease. But the news presents a distorted view of the world. News is about things that happen, not things that don’t happen. You never see a TV crew reporting that a country isn’t at war, or that a city hasn’t had a mass shooting that day, or that millions of 80-year-olds are alive and well. 

The only way to appreciate that state of the world is to count. How many incidents of violence, or starvation, or disease are there as a proportion of the number of people in the world? And the only way to know whether things are getting better or worse is to compare those numbers at different times: over the centuries and decades, do the trend lines go up or down? 

As it happens, the numbers tell a surprisingly happy story. Violent crime has fallen by half since 1992, and fiftyfold since the Middle Ages. Over the past 60 years the number of wars and number of people killed in wars have plummeted. Worldwide, fewer babies die, more children go to school, more people live in democracies, more can afford simple luxuries, fewer get sick, and more live to old age. 

“Better” does not mean “perfect.” Too many people still live in misery and die prematurely, and new challenges, such as climate change, confront us. But measuring the progress we’ve made in the past emboldens us to strive for more in the future. Problems that look hopeless may not be; human ingenuity can chip away at them. We will never have a perfect world, but it’s not romantic or naïve to work toward a better one.



Very excited about the premiere of First Person, PBS Digital’s new show. To quote host Kristin, “First Person is a show where we’re going to be looking at important queer and trans issues through sitting down with people whose lives intersect with those issues.”

“It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor. Would you be mine? Could you be mine?” Today is “Won’t You Be My Neighbor Day,” in honor of what would have been Fred Rogers’ 87th birthday.
Happy birthday, Mister Rogers, from all your friends at PBS!

On this day, May 1st, in 1969: Mr. Fred Rogers appeared before the Senate to defend PBS.

Today’s required viewing: http://tinyurl.com/cmay3uf

Today’s truth: The hearings were held with the intention of cutting the $9 million budget in half. After he spoke with the senate, they were so taken with the passion he had for children’s public television, and the potential it had to enlighten and educate children everywhere, that they ended up increasing the budget to $22 million.

Today’s quote: “I give an expression of care every day to each child, to help him realize that he is unique. I end the program by saying, “You’ve made this day a special day, by just your being you. There’s no person in the whole world like you, and I like you, just the way you are.” And I feel that if we in public television can only make it clear that feelings are mentionable and manageable, we will have done a great service for mental health.”