you heard about the funny story involving the First Amendment?
studies show that Americans surveyed are more
familiar with The Simpsons than they are with the First
amazing thoughts on this to kick off my essay…
– I blame the current lack of programming like Schoolhouse
Rock for this.
– I’m one of the ones that can name all of the Simpsons – Homer,
Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie – but can’t name all five freedoms…
speech, assembly, umm, umm, and umm. (I missed religion, which
I absolutely should have known… petition for redress of grievances,
which I never would have gotten… and press, which I kind of
thought was included in the concept involving speech. Hmm… who’s
counting to five?)
do I blame Schoolhouse Rock for this… or, to be more
accurate, the lack of such a show? Well… I don’t really. But let’s
take a look at the program first. Schoolhouse
Rock began about thirty-two years ago,
and ran on ABC until roughly 1986. It made a return to the air,
and new episodes were produced for the video/DVD release, but
it never again really attained the impact it had in its initial
run. Shows ranged from grammar and counting to history and government.
Famous songs from the show include “Three is a magic number,”
“Conjunction junction,” “I’m just a bill,” and “Unpack your adjectives.”
For the most part, if you asked me to run through the lyrics of
most of the songs, I could. In fact, I literally remember sitting
in junior high school one day, singing (to myself) the “We the
people…” lyrics from the Constitution episode in order to take
a test. Most of my classmates later admitted to doing the exact
same thing. We all passed. Similar events happened while memorizing
multiplication tables years earlier.
kids don’t watch television the same way today that we did thirty
years ago. Too many channels… too many options. And even though
Baby Einstein exists (and it is amazing to watch kids react to
some of those… good stuff), it really isn’t the same.
not sure. But it is clear that the things we care about are the
things we remember more readily. Justin tells me history is tough
to remember… but ask him about the next release from Joe Bonamassa
or if we owe him money. He’ll rattle off dates and circumstances
more detailed than any written record could ever provide.
story is making
international news. Only one person out of
one thousand got all of the freedoms. One out of one thousand.
How about you? Do you know the five freedoms? Here’s the actual
First Amendment of the Constitution:
shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom
of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably
to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of
was honest with you. I got two… and would have had three if I
knew “the press” was separate. How would you have done? I’d be
willing to bet that “to petition the government for a redress
of grievances” was the one that at least nine hundred and ninety-eight
of the nine hundred ninety-nine missed. (And I still count four,
although it does say “or of the press” so I can see it as five.)
so crazy about all of this? Well… five things aren’t that many.
Watch… let’s see what other lists of five I can come up with…
five of Disney characters – Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and
Pluto. (I think that’s right, only because they are the “fab
five” of characters, although not the biggest or most successful
five from Disney. How about five characters from Winnie the
Pooh as a bonus… Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, Piglet, and
Five Academy Award nominees for Best Supporting Actor in 2005
– Paul Giamatti, George Clooney, William Hurt, Jake Gyllenhaal,
and, umm. (Matt Dillon. I forgot Matt Dillon. How could I forget…
oh never mind… of course I forgot Matt Dillon. You did too.
But I still got four right.)
that’s just two examples… but you get the idea.
the end, it’s a stupid study. Not because of what it is comparing
or what it considers its results. Almost all of that is actually
pretty interesting… that most Americans are more familiar with
The Simpsons than they are with the beliefs, ideas, concepts
and values their country was founded upon. I won’t pretend to
know what the results mean, but it is interesting.
trouble is… the stupid part is… and at the risk of looking like
I’m bragging… I consider myself to be a relatively smart person.
And I wasn’t even close on the First Amendment. I hit 40%… I’m
ticked off because I should have hit 60%… yet I don’t think there
is any way I ever would have been able to reach 100%. I never
would have remembered the “redress of grievances.” And I had no
trouble… not even a slight hesitation… when naming the Simpson
I’m not alone.
the end, I’m driving at the idea that this study is flawed. It
looks to embarrass us by comparing the First Amendment to The
Simpsons when there really isn’t a comparison to be made.
It seems to miss that our own personal interests are really to
blame. What is it that we want to know? What do we want
to remember? And… ultimately… why is it that we enjoy being entertained
and can recall some very unimportant details, but allow ourselves
to be ignorant of so much?