Word Play: how “Schoolhouse Rock!” taught us grammar

Word Play is a series for the grammar police, former English majors, word nerds, pedants, and people who are curious about the evolution of language, grammar, standardization, style, and prose. Be warned: this series will get very political. Red ink may bleed.

“Conjunction junction, what’s your function?”

If you didn’t just sing-along to that phrase, you are either a) a liar, or b) too young to remember watching Schoolhouse Rock! on Saturday mornings.

Schoolhouse Rock! was the brainchild of jazz musician Bob Doro who wrote jingles for advertisements. After observing that his children could remember lyrics to songs but not their multiplication tables, he created the show, often singing, writing, and composing the famous songs.

In fact, there’s science behind this phenomenon. Different parts of your brain light up when you listen to music, specifically the memory centers in the brain, such as the hippocampus and lowest parts of the frontal lobe. Listening to and/or recalling lyrics will involve language centers in the temporal and frontal lobes. Because of the brain’s neuroplasticity, music can even expand the size of auditory and motor cortex.

Music is thus a perfect way to have children or English students learn fundamental concepts like grammar, multiplication, government, money, and science. The comical, Peanuts-like visuals were a perfect match for the catchy hooks that taught plenty of lessons to Generation X and Generation Y.

Before you dismiss this as another wave of nostalgia on the internet, consider that Schoolhouse Rock! probably melded your fundamental understandings of grammar. Don’t believe me? Take a trip down memory lane.


Image credit: disney.wikia.com

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