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Civility in civics: Bring back Schoolhouse Rock

Baltimore artists sang their favorite songs about government, history, grammar and math from this animated classic last year at the Creative Alliance.
Baltimore artists sang their favorite songs about government, history, grammar and math from this animated classic last year at the Creative Alliance. (HO / Associated Press)

It’s time for a reboot of the old Schoolhouse Rock videos.

It seems that all of the societal norms that I have grown up with are changing before my eyes (and ears). Facts are subject to one’s opinion. Civility is something from a bygone era. Vulgarity spews from the Oval Office (“The medical exam Trump always fails,” Jan. 14). So how about we get back to basics and broadcast some new Schoolhouse Rock videos again during commercial breaks during shows like, say, “Fox and Friends?”

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If you were a kid in the 1970s and had the joy of watching Saturday morning cartoons on ABC, then you remember those iconic songs and the cartoons that went along with them. “Conjunction Junction!” “I’m Just a Bill.” “Interplanet Janet.” There were dozens of these little gems made, and they did more than just teach how to conjugate a verb and multiply by 12.

Remember “Interjections!”? That interstitial featured irate fans shouting non-obscenities like “darn” when the football player blew the game. I bet Billy Bush wished he had that episode running on the “Access Hollywood” bus many years ago. Perhaps there would have been a better choice of words during the so-called locker room banter.

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Or “The Energy Blues?” Surely you remember a cartoonish Mother Earth (as a guy) singing about our insatiable thirst for energy! My guess is that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was never allowed to watch Saturday morning cartoons. Actually, that would explain a lot.

Or how about “The Great American Melting Pot?” That song was all about immigration. The characters were all white people in the cartoon but if you look closely at the “ingredients” that the Statue of Liberty was using, it called for Africans and Puerto Ricans along with so many others. Perhaps there is something to be said about looking at Lady Liberty’s recipe for how to really Make America Great.

Our nation is facing a crisis of conscience, of identity, of humanity. While education was never specified in the U.S. Constitution, we know how important it is to be educated, to be able to discern opinion from fact. “Schoolhouse Rock” offered an innocent (and entertaining) pathway to be educated about the country we live in and the word that we inhabit. For our nation to weather these very turbulent times, we need to reset our societal norms and remember the fundamentals. After all, as Schoolhouse Rocky knows, knowledge is power!

Gregory Schuckman, Ellicott City

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