September 28th, 2004

monk john

Things that define a generation

It's weird sometimes, thinking about what defines your youth, the shared experiences that create this odd club that only someone in your age group can get.

I was talking to a good friend about her son, who is having problems reading, thanks to a nigh-malevolent heaping helping of stupidity from her ex. So of course, I sent her to Amazon, and the one thing that I always recommend to teach younger kids a little bit about everything...Schoolhouse Rock!.

As I was doing this, it occurs to me that this oddball series really does define a generation of people. Every Saturday morning, in between SuperFriends! and The Tom and Jerry Show, and Speed Buggy, JabberJaw, and the rest, we'd get odd little bits. On grammar, math, government. They were funny, they had funny songs and animation, and you absorbed what they were teaching you. (This is one time where the words from Bill Cosby's intro to "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids" were so true: "...and if you aren't careful, you just might learn something...")

Now, we all dealt with "Educational" TV. It sucked. Dull, lifeless, BLECH. But Schoolhouse Rock!? We loved it. Here's one, if you ever want to have fun with someone who grew up on this, or you think is old enough to have grown up on it, ask them to recite the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution. If they automatically know it, that's one hint...but if they're a SchoolHouse Rock! kid, here's what will happen. They'll get the first line wrong..."We the people" instead of "We the people of the United States." They'll say that one straight. They may even get the second line..."In order to form a more perfect union" out straight.

But then the song, that insidious melody will awaken from it's Cthulu-like slumber...and they'll sing it, no matter how hard they try not to...

provide for the common defeeeense, promote the general welfare aa-hand, secure the blessings of Libertyyyy, to ourselves and our posterityyy, (Sing it high and sweet now!) do ordaaaain and estaaabliish this Constitutionnnn (Sing it with me chillun) Forrrr the, United States o-of, A-meri-caaaa

You can't avoid it. Thirty years later, if you ask me to recite the Preamble, I sing it. That's how I learned it. At the age of ten, high on Cap'n Crunch with Crunchberries, (the REAL ones, red ONLY, that made you poop red, not that abomination of multi-colored slop it is today!), waiting to find out if the Flash could run around the world with a wire fast enough to save the planet...I learned the friggin' Preamble.

I learned the basics of how Laws work...damn near everyone knows part of this one..."Oh I'm just a Bill, yes I'm only a Bill, and I'm sittin' here on Capitol Hill...and I'm hopin' that I'll be a LAWWWW, how I hope and pray that I will, but today, I am still just a Bill."

I learned that we have a tricameral legislature, multiplication basics, what the hell an adverb is, (Yeah, you remember, this one too..."Lolly, Lolly, Lolly get your adverbs herrrrre...indubitablyyyyy"), conjunctions, ( I don't even NEED to show you this one...if you have a pulse you know that song.) and my favorite, Verb, replete with the most SuperCaptainCoolGuy Black dude with God's own 'for kicking ass, and having fun, and a song that could have been done by Ray Charles..."..VERB! That's what's happening!"

Physics, astronomy...all of it.

The animation sucked by almost any standard. The music and jokes were so cheesy they had a rind.

But...we never felt like they were educational. The presentation was simple...SchoolHouse Rock! logo, song, logo, done. No one dialogued with us. No one explained what we had just seen. We were allowed to absorb as much or as little as we wanted, zero pressure. We just saw them 4-5 times a Saturday and that was it. For a couple years.

So now you have a generation of people who can recite the Preamble in their sleep, and know at least that an adverb is an adjective that ends in -ly and modifies the adjective. Who do in fact, find it quite interesting that a noun is a person, place, or thing. While hoping we don't run into that hairy, scary bear.

So among the many things that defines my generation...a silly little series that made learning fun and even cool is part of it.

In the long run, that beats the shit out of emo, grunge and XTREME!!!