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“As your body grows bigger, your mind must flower. It’s great to learn- ‘cause knowledge is power!”
Those opening lyrics were the unforgettable beginning of what was once a staple of American culture and every child’s life- Schoolhouse Rock.
2023 marks the 50th anniversary of this legendary series of ‘learning cartoons,’ premiering in 1973.
Although its initial run was only 12 years, Schoolhouse Rock’s impact, along with the lessons from that period, are as valid and necessary now as they were half a century ago.
Despite currently being viewed in a time where 8-year-olds are being told they can decide not only their sexual orientation, but their biology as well, kids can still be treated like, well… kids. Obviously, girls being made of ‘sugar & spice and everything nice’ and boys being composed of ‘snips and snails and puppy dog tails’ used to be a standard by which we all were able to measure and make the distinction between our males and females. But things have changed. Now, leftists use a unicorn chart to clear things up.
Before the Unicorn
Learning was once about those that desired to learn, and what there was to learn (based on facts, real science, and expert opinions); during a time when contributing to the delinquency of minors was something everyone cared about, regardless of race.
The early 70’s was a time when kids by-and-large still wanted to learn, and parents wanted them to. Saturday mornings were an opportune time to insert educational programming because unlike the
rest of the week, television viewing for kids went mostly uninterrupted.
Tvtropes.org lays out how it all began:
“Back in the day, Saturday morning children’s programming was supposed to be at least tangentially educational, and Merchandise-Driven advertising was severely limited. Networks couldn’t advertise
things related to the cartoons they were airing in those timeslots, so there was an opening for educational shorts even after running through cereal commercials.
At around the same time, advertising executive David McCall noticed that while his son was struggling in school, he had no trouble remembering the lyrics to his favorite songs. Thus the idea to introduce basic learning concepts to young minds via simple-but- catchy rock, jazz, folk and pop tunes — most of them written by jazz mainstay Bob Dorough and eventual Broadway lyricist Lynn Ahrens — accompanied by entertaining visuals, animated by a team led by Tom Yohe.
Along with the educational content, the series won accolades for the consistently high quality of the songs — besides Dorough and Ahrens, performers included genre legends Jack Sheldon, Blossom Dearie, Essra Mohawk, and Grady Tate — and the overall cleverness of the lyrics and animation.
Taking cues from Sesame Street and other contemporary educational programming, Schoolhouse Rock! avoided the blandness and conformity plaguing most animated shows of the era and instead presented a hip, inclusive, fast-paced, and funny (often downright snarky) attitude to learning.
Episodes initially fell under one of four headings, in order of production: Multiplication Rock, Grammar Rock, America Rock (history, mostly released around the 1976 American Bicentennial) and
Schoolhouse Rock was a gift and a blessing to many of us all over America for the same reasons: It helped us to learn and implement the basics. I still remember like it was yesterday taking U.S. Government in the 8th grade. If you’re like me, learning the Constitution was difficult as well as challenging; chief among those ‘challenges’ was the preamble.
Just in time, Schoolhouse Rock answered this dilemma with “the Constitution,” explaining the details of the preamble and doing so in song! Others may recall comparable stories, no doubt referencing multiplication videos or even those concerning verbs, nouns, and adjectives. “Conjunction Junction” no doubt taught a great many how to properly put words together with its catchy, “Conjunction Junction, what’s your function? Hooking up words and phrases and clauses.”
However, no conversation on this topic would be complete without acknowledging the very first video that started it all–
“Three Is a Magic Number.”
Its basic and practical lyrical/visual approach to how valuable this single number played in the math-verse and in our everyday lives, allowed the message to adhere permanently in our minds even today:
“Three is a magic number.
Yes it is, it’s a magic number.
Somewhere in the ancient, mystic trinity
You get three as a magic number.
The past and the present and the future,
Faith and hope and charity,
The heart and the brain and the body
Give you three.
That’s a magic number.
It takes three legs to make a tri-pod or to make a table stand.
It takes three wheels to make a ve-hicle called a tricycle.
Every triangle has three corners,
Every triangle has three sides,
No more, no less.
You don’t have to guess.
When it’s three you can see it’s a magic number.
A man and a woman had a little baby.
Yes, they did.
They had three in the family.
That’s a magic number.”
Why is this anniversary important? Why does it matter?
Because somewhere along the way, our nation got off track. While we certainly have problem areas and lessons yet to be learned, our basic principles do still exist, regardless of what you may hear suggesting otherwise.
However, the lyrics to “Three is a Magic Number” hold components of what is now a bygone era:
- The ability to recognize Biblical references of the trinity as well as faith, hope, and charity.
- Acknowledgements to common sense precepts and standards such as what defines gender.
- The value of labels such as “man,” “woman,” and, “baby.”
- The idea that man and woman join together to create families.
Unfortunately, Schoolhouse Rock’s anniversary doesn’t just remind us of where we were- it also tragically reminds us of where we are not.
However, the success of the children of our future, as well as the future of our children, is still in our hands.
We can’t risk letting these children down, and they can’t afford for us to.
Whether you have children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren, order a copy of the original Schoolhouse Rock collection. The same value that David McCall placed on his son’s need to learn is more relevant and necessary than ever before. It is not solely up to leaders such as Ron DeSantis, Glenn Younkin or Kevin Jackson to create projects and stand up for our kids.
Luckily, people like Jackson continue to go to bat for our values anyway. That’s how SEE (Seeking Educational Excellence) was born. The future of our children is our number one priority. That’s why our programs are specifically designed to maximize every effort that we make, to ensure that every
child we meet meets the opportunities they deserve.
Seeking Educational Excellence. Inspiration, not indoctrination.