How my education failed me and a sitcom rescued me

I was one of those kids that most kids hate.

loved school.  There wasn’t a single aspect I didn’t love.  Back to school shopping?  I did it this year and no one in my household is going to school.  Reading?  I was the Book It champ.  Writing?  More than the teacher could handle.  Science?  Accelerated learning for this girl.  Social studies?  TEACH ME!  Art?  I was always picked to do the major projects.  I threw myself into things.

I was also one of those kids who loved TGIF on ABC and watched those Friday night shows almost religiously.  I could handle missing the occasional episode of Step By Step or even Sabrina the Teenage Witch, but I couldn’t miss any of the saga that defined my childhood television life goals:  Boy Meets World.

It’s a beautiful show – one that’s stood the test of time well, being syndicated since going off air and bringing the generation and a half after mine and others of its original audience into the fold of fandom.

All the excitement!

All the excitement!

Last year, Michael Jacobs and Disney Channel released a sequel – Girl Meets World.  It’s the first time I have ever felt genuinely jazzed about a new kids show coming to Disney Channel.  We don’t have television, though, so after watching the first episode streaming free online last year, I’ve had to wait for something wonderful to happen.  Now Netflix has added Girl Meets World to its lineup and I’m all over it.

So here I am, 26 years old, married, sitting on a couch I own, watching the sequel to my favorite show from when I was a kid and I’m suddenly and firmly punched in the stomach with the reality that where my formal education  failed me, Boy Meets World filled in the gaps.

I never got further than the Reconstruction era in American history.  Shakespeare was never on my reading list until freshman year.  Extracurriculars during my elementary school years – including drama, sports, music, and art – were virtually nonexistent or, at the very least, unavailable to me.

For me, Boy Meets World provided a type of escapism we don’t generally associate with television.  I intellectually escaped from a crumbling academic system.

And this would be one thing if I’d been in the same school system all my years from Kindergarten through senior year of high school.  But I wasn’t.  I moved through three schools and never met the educational milestones and lessons laid out on a television show.  I lived and loved vicariously through people whose systems were better than mine, whose teachers gave a damn, and whose friends never moved away.

Topanga's uniqueness is so inspirational.

Topanga’s uniqueness is so inspirational.

I learned about so much from a show that I’m only just realizing where my impressions of things come from.  Literally everything I knew about the 1960’s before college was from Boy Meets World and other sitcoms.  The entirety of my grade school drama experience came from Topanga’s role as Juliet.  I lived too far out of town to play sports, but Cory could ride a bus to his games.  I never would have known that people made fun of people who live in mobile homes had Shawn not been bullied for living in a trailer park.  I saw how multiple-child households can work under the guidance of good parents.  I saw diverse cultures and ideas sprawling across the screen with grace, dignity, imagination, and real effort.  I learned what to expect if I went away to college.  I learned about feminism.  I learned how to be a good friend.  I’m pretty sure the first show to make me cry was the episode in which Cory and Topanga get married.

It’s so easy to dismiss television as bad for children, to demonize it, to weaponize it, and to make it an evil entity unworthy of their time.  Likewise, there are a ton of legitimately brain-melting shows out there.  But then again, there are shows that give opportunities to learn and glimpses to a world outside our often insular communities and children’s small lives.  Television has the power to flood the cracks of the educational system – or whatever system is failing a child – and raise them back up to the surface, to stand tall with others whose systems are aligned, all while entertaining them and making them think they’re just watching tv.

If you don’t believe me, think about how much more you like watching John Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and John Oliver than CNN, MSNBC, or Fox News.

Humanity responds to humor, heart, and honesty.

Girl Meets World has a lot of callbacks to the original, some great quotes concerning life in general, and impresses the same beautifully woven lessons of history and life.  I’m really glad they’ve brought back my favorite kids in their adult forms.  I’m impressed with the general feel of the show and its continuation of the generation gap portrayed so well in the original.  The difference, of course, is that we know Cory and Topanga in ways we’ll never know Cory’s parents.  But that’s okay.  And it’s awesome.

So, if you’re a parent, let your kids watch Boy Meets World and Girl Meets World.  They’ll love it and they might just learn stuff without thinking they are.

Win/Win.

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