A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this series of animated songs are reliquaries of a more innocent time. Many parents (especially the Gen X'ers) will remember these songs fondly, for they take patriotic themes celebrated during the bicentennial year and put a groovy spin on them. Contemporary kids can appreciate the colorful animation, the catchy songs, and they might learn something about the Electoral College in the meantime. This collection also includes a vote tracking sheet with stickers.
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What's the story?
Schoolhouse Rock shorts were a staple in the 1970s and early '80s on ABC, winning four Emmys for Outstanding Children's Instructional Series between 1976 and 1980. Now Disney has re-released the series before the 2008 presidential election to engage young viewers in the political process and more through catchy songs. "The Preamble" (written and sung by Lynn Ahrens) taught a generation of kids the actual words of the preamble of the Constitution. These videos also take on the American Revolution, the national debt, women's rights, energy crisis, the voting process, and our government's structure with a happy dose of "Right On!"
Is it any good?
The enthusiasm and skill with which these shorts are executed make patriotism feel like a good thing. If kids learn all of the words to these songs, all the better: we could use some smart, enthusiastic politicos to remind us of why it's groovy to be American.
Though diversity is celebrated in "The Great American Melting Pot," some uglier parts of U.S. history are not addressed, such as slavery and the vast destruction of Native American communities and habitat. Then again, Watergate and other political scandals are also passed over.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what is important to them in an election year. What issues hit home? Why do people disagree? Is being an American something to celebrate? Why? How can our votes change the face of history? Do the songs in Schoolhouse Rock make sense now, 30 years later? Or do they seem dated? Why or why not?
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