In the age of streaming TV and on-demand-everything there is a something that kids these days just don’t have: the beauty of Saturday morning cartoons. In an era in which entertainment from a smartphone can be had anywhere anytime they don’t have to wait. Kids today can pause live TV, repeat their favorite shows, and stream them whenever they want to. There was something special about having to wait just a bit when I was a kid.
Nothing was more sacred to a kid than waking up on Saturday mornings, straggling down the hall in their PJ’s, and sitting on the floor watching the stuff you waited for all week: Bugs Bunny, Johnny Quest, Superfriends, Scooby Doo. There was only one TV with 3 whole channels and a rabbit ear antenna that you had to move around a bit, or even hang a coat hanger on it to get the best signal.
But in the middle of the animated revery there was a little three-minute bonus that would come on periodically. A cartoon ditty called “Schoolhouse Rock”. I thought it was cool, and the songs were so catchy that I can sing some of them still today. “Conjunction Junction”; “Zero My Hero”; “Elementary My Dear”; “Lolly Lolly Lolly Get Your Adverbs Here”.
Schoolhouse Rock was divided into sections, like Grammar Rock, Multiplication Rock, and Science Rock. But the one that I liked the most was “America Rock”, with one being my all-time favorite, “I’m Just A Bill”. It was civics 101 for kids, teaching American independence, the US Constitution, the Branches of Government, the electoral college, how to vote. It was good stuff and it worked.
Fast forward to today, and a friend of mine relayed to me that Nickelodeon has developed a modern version of Schoolhouse Rock. His red flags were flying, and I’ve got to admit, I get it! It’s a crying shame, but in this age of wokeness, library madness, critical race theory, and SEL counseling, I’m a bit jaded myself. We have to err on the side of caution as even the most innocent of things are too often co-opted by an progressive activist agenda.
Investigating this new-fangled version of Schoolhouse Rock I found that the overall title is “Well Versed” with an initial focus on cartoon civics lessons with catchy little songs. I watched one of them warily, feeling like a scary old man ready to yell at those pesky kids to get off my grass.
There are a dozen “Well Versed” cartoons teaching kids about everything from voting, to how the branches of government work, why we have laws, how to resolve arguments, accepting differences, and more. A press release announced that First Lady Jill Biden was promoting the rollout of the “Well Versed” series.
But when I dug a little deeper it became a little less rosy. One of the driving forces behind the development of Nickelodeon’s new “Well Versed” kids series is a company called iCivics.
iCivics is a 501c3 founded by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. It is heavily supported by the Bill Gates Foundation and the left-leaning Silicon Valley Community Foundation, with a mission of teaching and promoting civics education and to encourage students to become, what they refer to as “active citizens”.
In February of 2021 National Review did a piece on iCivics, and in particular on their Executive Director Louise Dube, who is quoted as saying that iCivics is committed to “pointing out institutional systemic racism in teaching about our institutions”. National Review went on to say that iCivics has been instrumental in developing a Critical Race Theory-based curriculum that is in use in Illinois with a stated intent to broaden to other states saying, “…there is a policy window that’s open for us to do something more. We’ve made some big strides in Illinois. Now we need to do this everywhere”. The Illinois iCivics curriculum denounces “color blindness” saying that defines students from a “white normative stance”. It questions parents skepticisms and suggests that parents should find better resources to teach their kids, pointing them to the 1619 Project, a group that claims that slavery is why we exist as a nation.
The author concludes by saying, “iCivics is cloaking progressive political activism and Critical Race Theory under the soothing and popular heading of ‘civics’.” And this is the group that helped develop the new “Well Versed” version of “Schoolhouse Rock”.
I want so much to know that my Grandkids can watch something without an agenda attached to it. Is it too much to ask for there not to be a hidden agenda from activists posing as educators? Nickelodeon’s “Well Versed” illustrates why it is so important to have parental involvement in kids’ lives. We must do, at the very least, a modicum of research to determine whether or not something that looks shiny and good is antithetical to our values, trying to worm its way in with an ulterior motive.
Jeremy Boreing, cofounder of the Daily Wire recently spoke about his creation of a conservative children’s streaming service. In doing so he said, “I don’t believe that children should be cogs in our, sort of, political war machine. I believe children should be children.”
I so agree. Schoolhouse Rock was simple, straightforward, and the only agenda was to promote learning about immutable topics without agenda driven slants. A wolf in sheep’s clothing can destroy a flock, so we must stay engaged to protect our kids.
Phil Williams is a former State Senator, retired Army Colonel and combat veteran, and a practicing Attorney. He previously served with the leadership of the Alabama Policy Institute in Birmingham. Phil currently hosts the conservative news/talkshow Rightside Radio M-F 2-5 pm on multiple channels throughout north Alabama. (WVNN 92.5FM/770AM-Huntsville/Athens; WXJC 101.FM and WYDE 850AM – Birmingham/Cullman.) His column appears weekly throughout Alabama. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of this news source. To contact Phil or request him for a speaking engagement go to www.rightsideradio.org.