Thursday, May 19, 2005

School House Rocked. (Click PODCAST)

The other day my wife Donna wanted to send some DVDs to her nephews (ages four and six). She thought that the Schoolhouse Rock series would be good gift. Donna called her sister and asked if she thought the boys might like a Schoolhouse Rock DVD. Donna's sister did not know what she was talking about. Donna said, "You know Conjunction Junction what’s your function?" How could someone who was a child living in the United States between the years 1973 and 1985 not know about School House Rock.

My friend Zadra and her band "The Willies" sing a cover of "Interjections!". Governmental and lobbyist groups requested cassettes of "I'm Just A Bill" to learn how a bill becomes a law. I started thinking about how many times Schoolhouse Rock helped me out in school and beyond because by now I couldn't get "Conjunction Junction" out of my head.

First there was "Multiplication Rock". My favorite was "Three Is A Magic Number". Those football players were very helpful in teaching me to multiply by 3. Sadly I found out that player # 30 died of brain cancer caused by steroid use.

"Grammar Rock" was helpful in teaching me that "A Noun Is A Person, Place Or Thing", although I got distracted from the intended lesson when I saw a white Chubby Checker in the cartoon. "Interjections" was made more fun when we realized that profanity counted as an interjection. We would sing a dirtier version of the song on the playground.

"America Rock" came out during the time of the Bicentennial and the timing could not be more perfect, in school we were given the assignment of memorizing the Preamble to the Constitution. We proudly told our teacher that we already knew it thanks to America Rock’s "The Preamble". My high school civics teacher skipped over how a bill becomes a law because we were all familiar with "I’m Just A Bill". That song still plays in my head when I'm watching our real lawmaker on one of the cable news channels. Of course the lawmakers aren’t as dimensional or lifelike as the cartoon characters.

I wish "Science Rock" had done a song about the atom. That would been a big help in my high school science class.

I was very fortunate. Sesame Street first aired when I was four years old. Schoolhouse Rock first aired when I was in elementary school. It's sad that I know more people who buy the Schoolhouse Rock DVD for themselves in the name of nostalgia than people who buy the Schoolhouse Rock DVD for their kids in the name of education. These songs have stood the test of time. I would hope that if there is no place for Schoolhouse Rock on broadcast TV then there would be a place on a cable channel like Nickelodeon or N O G G I N.

To quote the girl at the end of Interjections, "DARN! That's the end!"

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa


Anonymous said...


I actually got the Schoolhouse Rock DVD for my brother to play for his kids! He was besides himself with glee. No only did he completely agree with your sentiment that they were *very* fun and (as a result) educational, but it was something he could stand hearing in the next room playing over and over again, unlike most of the more recent crop of kid vids. One of the best-received presents I have ever given.

--R Tatum

Anonymous said...

Schoolhouse Rock was a staple of my childhood, and I still love it. Almost completely. However, to me as a minority American, there are a couple of old-fashioned problems in America Rocks, such as the fact that they almost ignore the displacement of the Indians/Native Americans in "No More Kings"; the problematic nature of Manifest Destiny in "Elbow Room"; and in "The Great American Melting Pot," why are there French, German, Dutch, etc., but all we get for black people is "African"? That continent is continually referred to as if it were a single country, when it's much larger than and at at least as diverse as any country.

Still, it was a different time, and I think that the whole series in general is still really useful as a learning tool. And it's just plain fun.