Saturday, March 14, 2009

School House Rock

In the early 1970s, advertising executive David McCall was concerned that his then 11-year-old son was having trouble memorizing his multiplication tables -- but he also observed that his son knew all the words to every rock song on the radio. To McCall, the solution seemed obvious: why not marry pop music with information kids needed to learn?

And the rest, as they say, is television -- and educational -- history. Schoolhouse Rock was born. McCall worked with his ad agency's creative directors, George Newall and Tom Yohe, on scripts and storyboards. They hired jazz pianist Bob Dorough to compose a song based on the multiplication tables, and the result was "Three Is a Magic Number." The trio took the concept to then-head of ABC Children's programming Michael Eisner (now CEO and Chairman of Disney), who snapped it up and asked for more.

Kids soon began singing along to favorites like "Conjunction Junction, What's Your Function?" and "Interplanet Janet" -- and in the process learned about everything from how a bill becomes a law to how the body's circulatory system works.

Schoolhouse Rock originally aired on the ABC Television Network from 1973 to 1985. This classic series of three-minute educational vignettes combined animation, hip music, and catchy lyrics to tackle lessons in American history, the rules of grammar, multiplication tables, science, government, and finance. Its toe-tapping lyrics entered a generation's lexicon and, four Emmy Awards later, its melodies are still a pop-culture frame of reference common to an astounding number of under-30 Americans.

I know I am dating myself, but I remember watching these on Saturday morning. They were catching tunes that taught you different subjects.

I remember in Civics, an extra credit part was to write the entire Preamble. You should have been everyone mouthing the words to the tune, because it was one that they sang regularly. If you knew the song, you knew the Preamble and thus the extra credit.

There were songs about the solar system, how a bill became a bill, and so many others. I was in Sam's the other day, and they have them on DVD - you just don't know how hard it was to pass it up. I like reliving my childhood sometimes, so I will probably end up with it anyway.

Kids nowadays are so different from when I was growing up, but they will say the same things when they get older too.

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