me: Are you French?
me: Are you American?
Nicolas: What's American?
me: [thinking] Hmmm, I guess we need to work on that...
Like every nostalgia-maniac generation-X parent, I've got my kids watching Schoolhouse Rock!!!
It's funny to watch these cartoons again thirty years later and in a different country. I don't know about the rest of you, but strangely I've found that the "America Rock" set from this series has more meaning for me than any other patriotic songs about America. I'm not sure why -- maybe because I learned them and liked them as a kid? Whatever it is, sitting my kids down on my lap and putting in this DVD seems like the most natural way to teach them about their American Heritage.
Even though war history is my least favorite part of history, I think my favorite in the "America Rock" series is The Shot Heard Round the World which recounts the sequence of battles of the Revolutionary War. I'm not entirely sure why I like this one -- there's just something about it.
Maybe I'm just responding to the fact that it shows the French role in the American Revolution, which I always point out to my kids as it flashes across the screen for a few seconds:
Well, they showed such determination
that they won the admiration
of countries 'cross the sea like France and Spain...
At Yorktown the British could not retreat
bottled up by Washington and the French fleet...
My second favorite is probably No More Kings. When they show the people on the Mayflower meeting the Native Americans, I like to mention to my kids that they had ancestors on that very boat -- as well as among the Native Americans -- so they can make a personal connection with all of this:
Actually, the more I look at this, the more questionable it looks to portray the the Native Americans' ominous meeting with the European invaders in this cheerful manner. Overall I'm a little torn on how to teach my kids to value the positive traditions of their heritage without glossing over the the negative parts and what we can learn from them. Oh well, at least Schoolhouse Rock didn't do some cheery song-and-dance number about slavery...
One of Nicolas' favorites (which I don't really care for) is Mother Necessity, which lists all of the great American inventors. I don't really like the fact that they promote the myth that technological innovations are the works of spontaneous genius (rather than acknowledging all of the earlier research they're based on), and worse: it promotes the myth that inventions always come from America.
To their credit, Schoolhouse Rock mentions that Marconi invented wireless radio communication. But weirdly the song almost seems to imply that he was American. Or at least you could easily get that impression from the song. Yet this comic book I read about Italian history (La Storia d'Italia a Fumetti dall'Impero Romano all'Anno 2000) seems to indicate that Marconi was Italian and that he did his research on radio in Italy and Great Britain. Oh well, I guess all of this would be less confusing if I tried learning history from some source other than cartoons...
Another one that's funny to watch here in France is The Great American Melting Pot. It seems a little ironic to show it to my kids considering our family's situation:
America was the new world, and Europe was the old...
I'd actually rather be showing them a song that gives a global perspective on worldwide migrations, but I guess that might be too complicated.
Leaving aside "America Rock" for a moment, there are a couple of items in "Science Rock" that are kind of poignant viewed with thirty year's perspective:
And Pluto little Pluto is the farthest planet from our Sun...
Poor little Pluto is no longer "the farthest planet from our Sun" since astronomers have demoted it to just another piece of space debris. Sigh.
And this is the saddest one of all:
If everyone tries a bit harder,
our fuel will go farther and farther.
Energy, we're gonna be stretching you out.
Considering America's current energy problems -- and the national security disaster that is America's oil dependence -- I can barely watch this one without feeling some pain and regret about the opportunities that were thrown away thirty years ago.
This is why I often think of my generation -- generation X -- as "the generation that dropped the ball." Older generations can rightly claim they didn't know any better. But my generation was raised with the idea that energy conservation is important and still had to get that McMansion out in the sprawling suburbs and the giant S.U.V. to drive there.
The only positive thing I'll say is that at least we have this song that has become timely again, and maybe this next generation will actually learn from it...
And if you're still up for more of this crazy nostalgia trip (I know I can't get enough of it!!!) I wrote even more musings about Schoolhouse Rock over on The Hathor Legacy here: The Tale of Mr. Morton