Conjunction Junction ...
One of the greatest privileges of my professional career was being on the tea that produced the Emmy-award-winning Schoolhouse Rock on ABC-TV. Anyone who came of age between 1973 and 1985 probably learned about math, grammar, social studies and science from those animated three-minute films on Saturday morning television that featured engaging art, catchy tunes and memorable lyrics. The Schoolhouse Rock generation can still sing the words to songs such as "Three Is a Magic Number"-the first-ever SHR film-"I'm Just a Bill," which teaches how a bill becomes a law, "Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here" and "Interplanet Janet."
I love to ask adults if they know the second line of "Conjunction Junction," which they invariably do, and I usually hear "What's your function?" sung with enthusiasm. Similarly, Schoolhouse Rock got millions of kids to learn the Preamble to the Constitution effortlessly, which many can also quote if they sing the tune. As the late SHR art director Tom Yohe put it, Schoolhouse Rock learning "was inescapable, the way commercials are inescapable."
I was the last education collaborator hired for the series, and I worked on all the films in science and computer education from initial concept to final product. For several years I proposed and justified topics, approved the music and art, and edited the lyrics at each step in the process. The culmination was participating in the annual Emmy Award ceremonies at Lincoln Center in New York in 1979, when "Science Rock" won the Emmy in the category of Best Children's Instructional Series.
Thanks to information technologies, Schoolhouse Rock is now reaching new generations of learners through videotapes, CDROMs, and the 30th anniversary DVD, Walt Disney presents Schoolhouse Rock! that includes every Schoolhouse Rock film ever created. Because of my position with District Administration magazine, our sales representatives John White and George Halo often give copies of the DVD as gifts to colleagues familiar with the show.
When our schedules permit, three of us from the original team including executive producer George Newall (who wrote "Unpack Your Adjectives") and music director Bob Dorough (who wrote "Conjunction Junction")-also present conference keynotes and reunion concerts in various states, and it is always gratifying to see grandparents, parents and grandchildren share the same educational experiences. In addition, several traveling troupes are bringing Schoolhouse Rock Live! across the country, and the musical is also being performed by students in local schools that recently included Douglas High School and Carson Valley Middle School in Nevada, Spaulding Middle School in New Hampshire, and the Leland Public Schools in Michigan. There are also several Web sites dedicated to Schoolhouse Rock, such as GeorgeNewall.com, blogs that discuss SHR topics, including "the loophole" from Minnesota Public Radio, and video sites that off er the original clips and related films, such as YouTube.
Many of our readers were part of this special American phenomenon called Schoolhouse Rock, and we would love to hear about your experiences then or now. Please drop us a note or add your thoughts to the online version of this letter. Schoolhouse Rock is still captivating learners and proving that "Knowledge Is Power!"