The ABCs of Schoolhouse Rock: Adverbs, Bills , Conjunctions

Schoolhouse Rock (Still: ABC)
Schoolhouse Rock (Still: ABC)

To celebrate its 40th anniversary, ABC aired the special The ABCs of Schoolhouse Rock Sunday night, naming the cartoon series’ five best songs.Although I was a child of the 80s, Schoolhouse Rock was a fundamental piece of my education. You see, grammar was never formally taught in my public school education. Well, that’s not strictly true: whenever my English Language Arts classes would get on my teacher’s last nerve, the punishment was to pull out the class copies of The Writers’ Craft and go through exercises about direct and indirect objects.1 In other words, I didn’t learn about words in the most constructive environment.

Schoolhouse Rock clearly explained what an adverb is, how adjectives work, and why I considered a Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla costume for Halloween. It wasn’t so much about accessibility, but about memorization. “Is that an adverb?” I could ask, before humming the bridge to “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly Get Your Adverbs Here.”2 The only gap in Grammar Rock was prepositions, though a song was created in the early ’90s. Fortunately, $25,000 Pyramid came in with the assist. I was a weird kid.

Sunday’s special, hosted by Chandra Wilson of Gray’s Anatomy, was both a retrospective and countdown. Many of the songs of Math Rock, Grammar Rock, America Rock, and Science Rock were written by Bob Dorough, who shared his process and stories in interview segments before some of the songs. Perhaps the story everyone could identify with was his musical treatment of the Preamble to the Constitution. I know I was singing the song to myself when I was getting quizzed in my 10th grade government class.

The show also named the top five songs from the Schoolhouse Rock library. I’m not sure what rubric or data were used to determine this list, but there were no surprises:

  1. Conjunction Junction
  2. I’m Just a Bill
  3. Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here
  4. Electricity, E-lectricty
  5. Interjections!

I would have put “I’m Just a Bill” at the top, but that may be the Simpsons’ parody “An Amendment to Be” that I’m remembering so fondly. The top five songs were played in their entirety throughout the hour, though an honorable mention was given to “Verb, That’s What’s Happening.” Even the creators recognize Grammar Rock was the best.

Yes, the animation is dated and the songs are a little cheesy, but the content of the songs from Schoolhouse Rock are still relevant today. Thanks ABC/Disney for the reminder!

  1. I’m learning German now via Duolingo and the dative case is causing some painful flashbacks.  
  2. How? Where? or When? Condition or Reason? These questions are answered if you use an adverb *come and get it!* See, you can’t help yourself.  

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About Mike McComb 656 Articles

Mike has been writing about TV online since 2008, when he started the blog WTF Little House on the Prairie? The blog was a project to practice writing about television analytically prior to getting an MA in Television-Radio-Film from Syracuse University, or as he likes to call it “TV Camp.” After a lengthy stint at TVLatest, Mike wanted to launch a site that brought in classic TV, diamonds in the rough, and the shows everybody watches. E-mail: mike@whatelseison.tv