Rock the Schoolhouse!

Hard to believe, Schoolhouse Rock is celebrating its 40th anniversary.  Instead of commercials, these short music videos were broadcast between the Saturday morning cartoons to give kids edu-bites about grammar, math, history, etc.

The songs were great.  When called to the blackboard for that most loathsome task of diagramming a sentence, my mind would play “Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?  Hooking up words and phrases and clauses”.  And certainly anyone from my generation can still sing, I mean, recite, The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States without hesitation.

Unfortunately, Schoolhouse Rock did not cover math topics beyond multiplication.  This lack of an “advanced” curriculum would leave a sizable gap in my education.

See, I went to one of those 70s experimental-type elementary schools.  Most of the day we spent sitting on the floor in a circle, writing and performing plays with socially-relevant themes.  For example, a takeoff on The Wizard of Oz where the land of Oz was a drug-induced hallucinatory state and the horrific things that happened there were sure to convince kids to stay far away from drugs.  Needless to say, very little time was spent on math or science.

So when I started 7th grade at the junior high school, I was in for a real shock.  This sitting in the midst of a 6 x 5 checkerboard of desks listening to teachers pontificate on and on from 8:02 am until 2:41 pm really sucked the life out of me.

Especially first period pre-Algebra.  Without the basic math skills, I didn’t understand a word.  Or rather a symbol.  Soon, I was failing.  Despite my mother’s geschreis and my tutor’s exercises, I got a D and would not move on to Algebra the next year.

Anyway, the fall comes and I am repeating pre-Algebra and feeling quite ashamed.  The year starts in the now-familiar boring and droning way, but one day something interesting happens.  My 8th grade math teacher — Holla, Ms. Krone! — brings her guitar to class and teaches us math songs that she had herself written!

My favorite was called Flip, partly because I really liked the upbeat sound, and partly because I finally learned to divide the fractions.  Listen:

 
Well, I didn’t become some kind of mathematical maven, but I did hold my own in the many math classes that followed at the high school, college, and graduate school.

More importantly, I came to appreciate the value of math in real life.  Yeah, no one is likely to hold a gun to your head and ask you to whip out the side-angle-side postulate and prove two triangles are congruent.  But, then again, you can’t really weigh the pros and cons of taking this mortgage or that one without applying a little numerical reasoning.

It pleases me to see contemporary secondary schools are still singing for the math.  In Silver Spring MD, Jake Scott, aka 2 Pi, raps quadratic with his students.  We could use this kind of engagement in every school.  Maybe it would help stem the STEM problem.

For the message rather than the melody, my pick for best Schoolhouse Rock video is Sufferin Till Suffrage…

Oh, what the heck, if we gotta rock the schoolhouse, you know we’re gonna rock the casbah…

If you are still sitting down, something is seriously NOT KOSHA!

© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

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