The Case for Schoolhouse Rock

I watched a lot of TV as a kid, which I don’t mention with pride. Brady Bunch re-runs, After School Specials, Hogan’s Heroes, Love Boat, Emergency (I love you Randolph Mantooth!)–the list is long and not high brow.

But since I had the TV on all the time, I also saw every Schoolhouse Rock film ever made, many times. Would you like me to sing to you about Conjunction Junction, how a Bill becomes a law, or Interplanet Janet? Because I will. I would also be happy to tell you why 3 is a Magic Number and about the Shot Heard Round the World.

But what has been in my head these past months is the Preamble to the Constitution. Sing along with me now…

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America.

I request we resume broadcasts of the Schoolhouse Rock videos, particularly the Preamble, until further notice.

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Because we see the Constitution invoked often in our political debates.

People who are in favor of unrestricted freedom to own guns refer to their “God given right in the 2nd Amendment”.

The 1st Amendment is also invoked with frequency.

Here it is, in case you haven’t seen it in a while:

Congress 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 grievances.

A church I know of is citing this amendment to explain why it no longer wants to be bound by the constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Religious conservatives cite the 1st Amendment often when they try to explain why they should be allowed to restrict access to birth control and contraception.

While there are plenty of people who refer to the Constitution with great emotion and passion, I’m not sure they’ve ever read it. (You can read it here. )

If they had read it, wouldn’t they see the 1st Amendment makes it clear the government won’t enforce the religious beliefs of one group (opposition to contraception)  at the expense of another? Yes, you are free to not believe in birth control. But the 1st Amendment doesn’t mean you should expect the government to enforce your belief. If the government starts forcing people to use birth control, or starts compelling people to attend worship services, then we can talk about 1st Amendment violations.

If they had read it, wouldn’t they see the 2nd Amendment is about militias being necessary to the defense of a free state? Where is the language in the 2nd Amendment which allows anyone, at any time, a God given right to own assault rifles with high capacity magazines?

But even when people aren’t invoking (wrongly) the Constitution, we see a lack of awareness of its ideals everywhere we look.

–As many as 90% of America support background checks on gun purchases, yet the Senate wouldn’t even vote to discuss the issue. Representative democracy? Representative of whom?

–A budget has not been approved because we, as a nation, refuse to affirm the value of paying taxes. We want roads, great schools, safe water, safe workplaces, and safe travel, but we refuse to fund the agencies who would ensure such.  The news this morning is of flight delays because air traffic controllers are being sequestered.

I read an interesting blog post this past week by Morgan Guyton. He proposes that when we divide the world into “us” and “them”, we put forth a doctrine of the “total depravity of everyone else”.

Here’s an interesting quote (but I encourage you to read the entire post.)

When you believe in the total depravity of everyone else, constantly talking about sin is the litmus test of Christian discipleship and the way that others know you’re “on the right side.” Usually this is not actual confession of your own sin, though confessions of your own sin in a safe, generalized, banter-ish way do help prove that you’re not one of the depraved. More often the suburban discourse of sin involves pontificating about sin as an idea, decrying the wickedness of the world in general, and questioning whether other Christians are really saved based on the frequency with which they talk about sin.

I’ve been thinking about the total depravity of everyone else since I read his post. And I would add this concept explains much of our political failures these past years. By not wanting to pay any taxes, we are living by the doctrine of everyone else’s total depravity. “Give me my money and let me do with it what best serves me and my interests“. We are willing to let the government grind to a halt, airplanes fall out of the sky, all so we won’t have to raise anyone’s taxes.

Do we need to read the Preamble again?

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America.

Why aren’t we in the streets, protesting and reminding congress to promote the general welfare?

When people vote down school levies, and state legislatures refuse to fully fund education, why don’t we remind them of our obligation to secure the blessings of liberty, not just to ourselves, but  also to our posterity?

This Doctrine of the Total Depravity of Everyone Else is insidious. It is rampant in many corners of religious life. But it has taken root in our civic life as well.

And so we pray, for our hearts and minds to be generous with grace and reluctant with judgment. And we sing the Preamble, and teach it to our children, and we remember to promote the general welfare. And we expect our elected leaders to remember it too.

Broadcasts of Schoolhouse Rock will continue until proficiency in democratic ideals is demonstrated.

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Follow up….

Jon Stewart makes my point too….

6 thoughts on “The Case for Schoolhouse Rock

  1. If we could limit it to the Constitution one, I’d be with you, and “I’m just a Bill.” And the “Interjections.” But some of them are problematic. “No More Kings,” for example, and “Great American Melting Pot” — I find both troubling.” I haven’t heard “Shot Heard Round the World” in a while, but I suspect that there might be problems there, as well.


  2. As someone who is neutral in the gun control camp, married to someone who is vehemently against gun control except for background checks, I doubt we’ll ever take away Americans’ guns. It is a fact, criminals and anyone for that matter, even me, sans license, certificate, and mental illness check, can find anything they want in the way of guns including semi automatic weapons. We don’t even have to go underground to do it. It’s so simple a grade school child can find a gun. My answer to this whole mess is to educate people better, including children, as to the applications and dangers of guns, the reasons one does not just carry one around for the heck of it, does not just play with it for the heck of it, and makes darn sure it’s secured at home so that no one else’s child will find it and kill himself. Good solution? Maybe not. But you’ll never take away America’s guns. These folks have their thoughts inbred in their very being. You can’t talk to them about it. You can’t change them. And the constituents in Congress know they’ll get voted out if they vote for sweeping gun control. More states have vitriolic gun owners than not. This, after the American Academy of Pediatrics declared “The Roadrunner” too violent a cartoon for children. Now THAT gets my hackles up. God bless, and peace, to all on both sides of gun control. May we at least talk about middle ground.


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