By Emma Kaden
“And the shot heard ’round the world / Was the start of the Revolution…”
—Schoolhouse Rock!, “The Shot Heard Round The World”
So many Americans grew up with the sound of Schoolhouse Rock!, the lyrics of “Conjunction Junction” or “Electricity” engraved into our minds, the tunes of “Interplanet Janet” and “Interjections!” blasting in our ears, and the characters from “I’m Just a Bill” and “The Tale of Mr. Morton” moving before our eyes. Unfortunately, the Schoolhouse Rock! videos lost popularity in classrooms and homes as the years passed by, and somewhere in the early 21st Century, Schoolhouse Rock! became something to look back on with nostalgia, rather than something to discover, enjoy, and learn from.
However, this phenomenon caused more than just a generation of Americans who couldn’t recite the entirety of “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here”—young Americans now have little understanding of basic civics, and of American history. This isn’t something one could attribute entirely to the lack of Schoolhouse Rock!… but maybe if more kids today watched some “Mother Necessity,” there wouldn’t be such a necessity to reeducate every American adult on civics.
In fact, Schoolhouse Rock! has an entire section devoted to educating viewers on the basics of American politics and history, aptly titled “America Rock,” and a few other songs that address topics. Here’s a little overview of the selection—hopefully these songs will inspire you to “Unpack Your Adjectives.”
- “No More Kings”
“He even has the nerve / To tax our cup of tea. / To put it kindly, King, / We really don’t agree.”
—Schoolhouse Rock!, “No More Kings”
The Mayflower, the colonies, the Boston Tea Party, and the start of the young nation that would eventually become the United States—“No More Kings” contains all the essentials for a basic understanding of early America. In the video, the colonists make their way to what would later become the east coast of the United States on the Mayflower, build the colonies, and begin to consider their own independence. King George III enacts the tea tax, which we learn is taxation without representation, and the colonists take part in what is now known as the Boston Tea Party. Not only is the journey toward American independence chronicled in “No More Kings,” but it’s all set to a catchy tune.
- “The Shot Heard Round The World”
“Take your powder, and take your gun. / Report to General Washington. / Hurry men, there’s not an hour to lose!”
—Schoolhouse Rock!, “The Shot Heard Round The World”
The American Revolution is a vital part of American history, and Schoolhouse Rock! fits its contents into a song that informs the listener, albeit maybe not on the first listen. The lyrics are jam-packed with historical events, including Paul Revere’s ride through Lexington, the fight at Bunker Hill, and Lord Cornwallis’ surrender.
“The Continental Congress said that we were free / Said we had the right of life and liberty, / …And the pursuit of happiness!”
—Schoolhouse Rock!, “Fireworks”
Simply put, “Fireworks” is the story of the Declaration of Independence. In the song, listeners learn about the influences behind the declaration (Thomas Paine’s Common Sense), the date of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, who wrote it, and why it was so important. “We hold these truths to be self-evident…”
“We the people, / In order to form a more perfect union…”
—Schoolhouse Rock!, “Preamble”
One would be hard-pressed to find someone who can recite the entire U.S. Constitution word for word. However, many Americans still remember the preamble to the U.S. Constitution, thanks to Schoolhouse Rock!. If you had trouble remembering the preamble before, just give “Preamble” a couple listens and you’ll have it memorized in no time.
- “Three Ring Government”
“Ring one, Executive, / Two is Legislative, that’s Congress. / Ring three, Judiciary.”
—Schoolhouse Rock!, “Three Ring Government”
One of the fundamentals of American government that the U.S. Constitution instituted are the three branches: executive (the President of the United States), judicial (the Supreme Court), and legislative (Congress). In “Three Ring Government,” Schoolhouse Rock! connects the three branches of government to a three-ring circus, not in a way that’s meant to mock legislative officials and compare them to animals, but in a way that makes it easier for everyone to understand the balance of power between the branches.
- “I’m Just a Bill”
“I’m just a bill. / Yes, I’m only a bill. / And I’m sitting here on Capitol Hill.”
—Schoolhouse Rock!, “I’m Just a Bill”
You knew it was coming—the classic song about how a bill becomes a law. Not only is this song one of the Schoolhouse Rock! classics, but it teaches a fundamental aspect of the United States government: how legislation is passed. In truth, the legislative process isn’t exactly simple, but Schoolhouse Rock! condenses it into a catchy 3-minute song. It’s fun to listen to, and explains a normally over-complicated idea into something even little kids can remember as they mature. In short, “I’m Just a Bill” exemplifies everything Schoolhouse Rock! stands for.
However, these songs are just the beginning. There are other songs about the United States: “Elbow Room,” which discusses westward expansion; “Sufferin’ Till Suffrage,” which discusses women’s rights; “The Great American Melting Pot,” which discusses immigration; “I’m Going to Send Your Vote to College,” which explains how the electoral college works; and “Mother Necessity,” which details the history of American inventions.
Overall, it’s not hard to see why Schoolhouse Rock! was so popular when it came out, and hopefully it will continue to be a mainstay in houses across the United States for years to come.
Unfortunately, this is the end of this article. Or as the song “Interjections!” so eloquently put it, “Darn! That’s the end!”