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Schoolhouse Rock Turns 40

If you grew up in the 1970s, or even the 80s, and had a TV within your reach, you no doubt learned a thing or two from some of your Saturday morning viewings. That is, at least, if you were lucky enough to catch a few fleeting episodes of Schoolhouse Rock. These were animated educational shorts exploring the subjects of science, grammar, history, and multiplication (as well as other subjects) that ran between episodes of Hong Kong Phooey and Captain Caveman. As skeptical as we may all be about educational fare on a major TV network (in this case it was ABC) these little 3-minute ditties were exceptional, both in content and production value. If it weren’t for Schoolhouse Rock, a whole generation may not have such a firm grasp on their times tables, parts of speech, and the meaning of U.S. Constitution.

This year, us nostalgic Gen-Xers are remembering 40 years of Schoolhouse Rock (the episodes ran from 1973 to 1985 and thirty-seven episodes were recorded and produced between 1972 and 1980) and all that it had to offer us. Sure it is television, and cartoon television for that matter, but the producers of Schoolhouse Rock were able to locate that sweet spot between learning and musical fun and do it with flair. The idea was born out of frustration that children were able to learn the lyrics to pop songs, but not their multiplication tables. An advertising executive contracted out a song that would help his sons learn multiplication, which then turned to an animated song, which birthed over a decade of Schoolhouse Rock. And it all began with the following beloved song, “3 is a Magic Number

How did you benefit from Schoolhouse Rock? Were you a fan, or did you find them dull? What were some of your favorites and were their any lasting lessons that followed you into adulthood?

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.


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5:15PM PDT on Oct 28, 2013


10:23AM PST on Jan 24, 2013

I'm 50 and I loved Schoolhouse Rock and can still remember "We the People" and "Conjunction Junction what's your function" among others. Kids are so atuned to music more teachers should use songs to teach concepts- it is very effective!!

12:43PM PST on Jan 14, 2013


4:58AM PST on Jan 11, 2013


3:51AM PST on Jan 11, 2013

My son watched that show and i even got the dvds that my girls watched when it was not produced on TV anymore. This show was the most intelligent that was ever produced. It combined music, singing, dancing with some very important information. It was the best!

8:07PM PST on Jan 9, 2013


12:06AM PST on Jan 9, 2013

I remember.... And we have on DVD the whole series.....

But the best memory was a professor in my University American History class having an absolute MELTDOWN when she wanted to go over the preamble with 32 of us..... She had just put an overhead up of the Preamble and said did anyone know it...

We SANG it..... Every single student in that class (It was 1986) had learned it and remembered it from Schoolhouse Rocks.....

She turned bright red and was horrified....

Of course it didn't help that we went from the Preamble, to the Shot heard round the world and I'm just a bill in rapid succession....

She left in a horrified huff, and then we heard three other Professors including a Dr in American Governmental History howling outside the class.... With THEM singing it too...

Was cool.....

10:18PM PST on Jan 8, 2013

I can still recite "We the people..." because of the catchy music it was set to!

10:02PM PST on Jan 8, 2013

I saw "I'm Just a Bill" on Virgin America when I was flying East for Christmas.

There's an awful lot of people on this forum who could benefit from watching.

7:29PM PST on Jan 8, 2013

Elaine, Schoolhouse Rock wasn't a "kiddie club". It was more of a mini infomercial that was played between cartoons.

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