Civics via Schoolhouse Rock

During our recording on the Federalist Papers, we mentioned at some point Schoolhouse Rock, a PBS television series that ran regularly when I was a child. For anyone who doesn't know, it was a cartoon with skits and songs about grammar, science, civics, American History and some other topics.  In addition to state and federal civics classes in junior high and high school (do they still teach these) it was a primary learning aid for my generation.

While I'm more familiar with Conjunction Junction and A Noun is a Person, Place or Thing there are some salient little ditties about the American Revolution, Declaration of Independence and even a musical version of the Preamble to the Constitution (which is how I and I suspect many of my peers know it - I can't recite it, only sing it).

While doing a little scouring after this election, Mark found this great resource of Schoolhouse Rock lyrics and I was reminded of this less well known but interesting vignette on the Electoral College.  There is a sly little bit in the middle about how if you win the state popular vote even by a 'hair' you get all the electoral votes and that's considered 'fair'.   Given how tight the last US Presidential election was, it really highlights how odd the system actually is.  Personally I think there is something wonky about it, which I tried to articulate in this blog post and did so poorly and for which I was called out.

Now that we've moved beyond the election to the impending "fiscal cliff" and the fear mongers are in full swing, I'd like to suggest that you check another obscure Schoolhouse Rock cartoon, Tyrannosaurus Debt.  It will remind you that as a nation we have been paying for wars and expansion almost our entire history.  Given that one of the primary arguments in the Federalist papers for a strong international military is to protect our economic interests, it should come as no surprise that the two are intertwined.  We need a strong military (particularly Navy) to protect commerce, which in turn we must tax to pay for the military.

So take a moment to consider what Schoolhouse Rock has to say about taxation.  Or just groove to the coolest (and most philosophical and religious) SR song:



  1. Joan says

    my fav was always ‘i’m just a bill’ (after conjunction junction, of course)… i still sing it to myself!
    as a teacher of adolescents with developmental disabilities, i used all of these videos. with topics from civics, math and english to science and social studies, they are valuable as really fantastic instructional tools, and kids still respond to them!
    nice. thanks for the smile.

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