I honestly don’t remember watching Saturday morning cartoons when I was kid, but I do remember Schoolhouse Rock. Just hearing the call of "Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here!" or the weird, flute-y soprano of "Unpack Your Adjectives" (supplied by the aptly named Blossom Dearie) transports me immediately to plopping down with my brothers on a giant, multi-colored crocheted throw rug in front of a monstrously fat television. Perhaps we sipped Tang. Maybe we watched so much Schoolhouse Rock because it was too taxing to have to get up to change the channels manually.
The cartoons are 40 years old this month, and they're dated. But that’s not a criticism! I love the 70's self-conscious consciousness-raising of these cartoons. I celebrate the funk of "Verb: That’s What’s Happenin’." I even embrace how they left off the "G" in a song about grammar. And that they gave us an African-American superhero -- although he would have been called Black back then.
I dig the "Sufferin' 'til Suffrage" (double cool apostrophes for that title) chick who wore huge bell-bottoms and a belly shirt but didn’t show her bellybutton. Obviously Women’s Lib was on the table for kids, but navels were not. Yes, one could argue that the fact that she goes into the voting booth and then emerges, generically replicated by the hundreds, is an objectification of women, but one would not have argued that in 1977; One would have had to take Women’s Studies in college in 1992 to make that case.
Conduct a poll of 35-45 year-olds, and I guarantee you that a vast majority of them will tell you they learned the meaning of "suffrage" and the Preamble to the Constitution from Schoolhouse Rock. When I asked on Facebook for people’s memories of the "‘Rock", as I like to call it, I was immediately flooded with heartfelt stories of how it marked our childhoods and still sticks with us.
The other day, I was bathing my eight-month old son with Pandora DJ'ing the background music, and the "Constitution Preamble" came on. I was shocked at how the tune and the words came back to me, like when I find myself in a Catholic mass, uttering the words to the prayers of my childhood effortlessly. It was comforting -- like educational mac 'n cheese.
Have you used lessons learned from Schoolhouse Rock in your everyday life? Tell us: Comment, e-mail us at email@example.com or leave a voicemail at 866.939.1612.