"The Andy Griffith Show" & US History
January 4, 2018
By Dr. Paul E. Binford
President, Mississippi Council of the Social Studies
The Andy Griffith Show (TAGS), set in the fictional town of Mayberry, North Carolina, was a beloved television show of the 1960s. It’s wholesome brand of humor, memorable ensemble of characters, and the wisdom, decency, and fatherly devotion of the lead—Sheriff Andy Taylor—made this comedy a favorite. In fact, it is one of the few shows that ended its television run (in 1968) at #1 in the Nielsen rankings. The timeless themes of the show still appeal; even today, the reruns are watched by thousands of viewers. Brief video clips from the TAGS episodes can also provide a humorous, entertaining, and interesting opening to your next US History class.
For example, a clip from the “Opie’s Ill-Gotten Gain” episode* can be used as an amusing opening classroom segment leading to a discussion about the Preamble of the US Constitution or perhaps leading to the Preamble's memorization. In the middle of this episode, Barney Fife, the bumbling deputy (played by the comic genius Don Knotts), brings an old high school history book to the Mayberry courthouse. While sharing the book with Sheriff Taylor, Deputy Fife can’t resist bragging about his historical knowledge including claiming to still have the Preamble to the US Constitution memorized. What follows is Barney’s tortured, but hilarious effort to say the Preamble for Andy. (In real life, Andy Griffith is said to have found this comic bit hysterical.)
In another episode (“Andy Discovers America”), Andy Taylor attempts to reignite student interest in US History. He does so by providing an embellished version of the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World,” which could be used as an introduction to the actual historical events, which sparked the American Revolution. Or, this clip** (and its romanticized version) could serve as a point of contrast with a more historically accurate version students will soon learn or have learned.
There are other clips from TAGS that can also be used in a US History lesson. If you have a favorite teachable clip, please share it with the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Opie’s Ill-Gotten Gain (Season 4, Episode 8: 12:55—16:55): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ax-T692SYZI
**Andy Discovers America (Season 3, Episode 23: 10:05—16:01): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uL0AKg8i7wA