The educational benefits of television have been debated since the invention of TV. There have been many successful educational programs like “The Electric Company,” “Mister Rodgers’ Neighborhood,” and, of course, “Sesame Street.” These days you can watch kids shows 24 hours a day on a number of networks including PBS kids, Sprout, Nick Jr, and Disney Jr to name a few. But alas, my childhood was when the choices were much more limited. On a national level, there was Captain Kangaroo with sidekick Mr. Greenjeans in the mornings. In Dayton, Ohio, until I was about ten, the afternoon brought Uncle Orrie with sidekick Ferdie Fusbudget. Then there was Clubhouse 22 with the ultra cool Malcolm and sidekick Duffy the Dog. To be honest I will say that I remember watching these programs, but I do not recall what exactly, I “learned” from them.
The television that I really remember from my childhood occurred on Saturday mornings where you could get up before the sun and watch cartoons, punctuated with commercials for toys and sugary cereals, until lunchtime! I was “vegging” out on cartoons before the word was invented. I would rise early to watch “The Ruff and Reedy Show,” “Magilla Gorilla,” “Top Cat'” “Underdog,” “Spider-man,” “Space Ghost,” “Johnny Quest,” “The Flintstones,” “The Jetsons” and “Scooby-Doo” to name several but I think my favorite was always “The Bugs Bunny and Road Runner Show.”
I learned to appreciated the nuanced differences between the cartoons directed by Friz Freling and those directed by Chuck Jones or Robert McKimson. I learned about french from watching Peppe Le Pew. I learned about directions from Yosemtei Sam, the toughest, root’nest, toot’nest, fastest gun-slinger north, south, east or west of the Pecos. I learned about the importance of using the proper pronoun from Daffy Duck (“Rabbit Seasoning”). Wile E. Coyote taught me that if at first you don’t succeed to try, try again, although I am not sure that ever seemed to do him any good.
Bugs Bunny taught me how to outsmart your adversaries whether they be a hapless hunter of a daffy duck. And Bugs Bunny also brought a hint of cultural into my life, To this day my knowledge of opera consists of what I heard in “The Rabbit of Seville” and “What’s Opera Doc?”
Education television may sound like an oxymoron, but I think Bugs Bunny would say it was an oxy-maroon!