Last weekend, a few friends and I were having a discussion focusing on learning on TV. It started when we were talking about the old Schoolhouse Rock videos, which are responsible for raising an entire generation of people who can't recite the preamble to the U.S. Constitution without singing it.
Songs to help people remember things had reminded me of something I hadn't thought about in a very long time. There was an episode of Happy Days where Potsie (Anson Williams) is failing his anatomy class, and threatens to quit school when berated by his teacher. When the Fonz (Henry Winkler) stops him from dropping out, he also suggests that he memorize the information about the circulatory system, which he needs for his final, by setting the process to music. Not only does this work wonders for Potsie, but the Happy Days audience got one of the most memorable songs to ever come out of any TV show:
Younger people may recognize this as the song used in the St. Joseph Aspirin commercials, but it was an original song written by Anson WIlliams himself. The fact that this song was used more than 20 years after it first aired gives you a good idea of exactly how memorable it is.
Earlier this week, I get an e-mail from one of those same friends, but with no reference to the previous discussion, or any other context of any sort. All he asked me to do is watch Hannah Montana on the Disney Channel that night. I thought it was strange, but I also know that the person who sent me this always had something interesting up his sleeve when he didn't give context.
Shortly after it started, I couldn't help but smile. Hannah had a European tour, but is told by her father that she can't tour Europe unless she gets a good grade on her biology mid-term. The plot was so similar to the Happy Days episode we had just been discussing it couldn't have been coincidence. Let's see, she has to pass a test in a biology class that she's failing, but she's only good with singing? Sure enough, she remembers the bones (I guess they figured the circulatory system was already covered) by singing them:
Silly as these videos are, they do bring to mind a constant question of mine. Why don't they teach memory techniques in school, when they're so basic to what school is all about?