I watched an episode of The Simpsons last night with Charlie.
Before we could even get through the opening credits, we had stopped four times so I could explain references to him, including:
Sammy Davis Jr.
I explained who Davis was, and we watched him sing and dance on YouTube.
What is reincarnation?
I explained the concept as best as I understood it and answered several of Charlie’s questions on the topic.
What is an amoeba?
I explained the creature (and other single-celled organisms) to Charlie, and then we went to YouTube to watch an amoeba in action under a microscope.
What is Star Trek? Specifically, what are the Star Trek transporters?
I briefly explained the history of the show, excluding the more recent offerings, and then we found a YouTube video that featured all of the Star Trek transporters on the show over the years.
All of that in just the 30 seconds of the opening credits.
You can just imagine how often we stopped during the actual show. The longest pause came when I had to explain the resignation of President Richard Nixon, including the roles of Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, and Deep Throat (Mark Felt) in uncovering the scandal.
The Simpsons is an objectively hilarious television show. Charlie and I cackled as we watched. But when I’m watching it with my kids, it’s also a nonstop lesson in history, science, film and television, music, politics, religion, and more.
My kids are insatiably curious. They want to know about the world, and they want to understand why something is funny.
I am more than willing to teach.
If I had my way, I’d watch one episode of The Simpsons every day with my students, then I would require them to research the various historical, cultural, political, and religious references throughout the show, both to learn about the concepts in isolation and then put them into the context and humor of the show.
It would be an outstanding way to learn about the world.
Sadly, it would also be different, daring, unusual, unexpected, and divergent. Outside the bounds of tradition. All of these things are typically perceived as wrongheaded, dangerous, and counter-productive by the people in charge of educating children.
Stupidly so. Cowardly so. Tragically so. But so.
Happily, for my kids and me, homogeneity does not rule in our household, so we’ll continue to laugh and learn for another 26 seasons of the show.