Oct 27, 2023 - Economy

Jill Biden helps debut modern version of "Schoolhouse Rock"

ATTN: Co-Founder and CEO Matthew Segal and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden sliming 5th-grade students in Philadelphia Friday for the debut of Well Versed.
First lady Jill Biden slimes fifth-grade students in Philadelphia Friday for the debut of "Well Versed." Photo: Sara Fischer/Axios

First lady Jill Biden helped Nickelodeon and ATTN: debut a new TV show called "Well Versed" focused on teaching kids civics — a modern take on "Schoolhouse Rock."

Why it matters: The animated show, announced on National Civics Day, debuts at a trying time for American democracy.

  • A 2022 survey from the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania found that less than half of U.S. adults (47%) could name all three branches of government.
  • Former first lady Laura Bush appeared in a video from the Bush Institute to show support.

What they're saying: "At a time when democracy is under enormous threat, the substantial gap in civic education in our country must be addressed," Paramount chair Shari Redstone told Axios.

  • "The fact that both First Lady Biden and former First Lady Bush have shown their support for Well Versed underscores the critical importance of what we are doing."

Details: The new musical series debuts Nov. 1 on Nickelodeon, Paramount+ and Noggin.

  • The show’s curriculum is guided by iCivics, a nonprofit civic education provider.
  • In addition to the TV series, four music videos for preschoolers will be available on the Nick Jr. network, its digital channels and Noggin.
  • An official "Well Versed" soundtrack will be released on Nov. 3.

The big picture: Data shows young Americans' civic knowledge is dropping.

  • Eighth graders saw civics scores decline in this year's National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Bottom line: "Young people are eager to get involved in the civic process but don't always know how or where to start -- and given the state of US civics education they often look outside the classroom for civic opportunities," said Rachel Janfaza, a journalist covering youth political culture.

  • "A video series that speaks directly to young people and incorporates pop culture references can help lower that initial barrier to access. It can also give young people something to talk about with their friends to better foster a participatory civic culture,” she added.
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