Unconventional Learning Experience

The show you're watching is not made for educational purposes, nor is it a total Aesop magnet. It most certainly isn't full of And Knowing Is Half the Battle sequences at the end of each episode. But in spite of all that, you start inspecting the series in depth and in full detail and come to the conclusion that it's most definitely not the negative influence that the critics and folks keep on claiming it to be. Thanks to the various wikis and fansites that show up all over the internet, this trope has grown more and more persistent, to a point where small bits of Genius Bonus are uncovered. Keep in mind that series that invoke this do have their fair share of Aesops, but the educational value probably isn't going to come from them.

Compare and contrast I Read It for the Articles.


Anime and Manga

Comic Books
  • Peter David tells a story from back when he was still writing The Incredible Hulk of how his daughter's second grade school teacher once sent him a note informing him that if he kept allowing her to read comic books, her vocabulary would be sub-par and her reading level stunted. So David pulled out three or four issues of The Hulk he had on hand and started writing down some of the notable words used in the dialogue and narration. Words like "sepulcher" and "cravenly" and "unconsolable" and "cylindrical". He then asked if it was usual for a second grader to not only read such words, but to know their definitions. He then closed his case.

Fan Works
  • Kalash93 fics could very well be used to teach about firearms, 4'th generation warfare, eastern european military methods, Afghanistan, the Chechen conflict, PTSD, alcoholism, prostitution, and how to have good sex.

Live-Action TV
  • NCIS is definitively not educational, but between all the movie references that Di Nozzo brings up from nowhere and how he gets weird plans from them (and Abby, of course), people can learn a lot about movie classics just by watching the series.
  • MythBusters is in the business of busting myths, so it is educational, but notably, several people have credited the "what to do when your car is submerged" episode with saving their lives.
  • The Wire demonstrated, in one episode, that gambling can be used to teach probability math.
    • In fact, if The Drunkard's Walk is to be believed, gambling is probably the only reason probability math was invented.
    • It also offers some excellent advice on how to avoid electronic surveillance and self-incrimination when you get arrested. Police departments complained about this.
  • Instead of watching 24-hour news networks, you can tune in to The Daily Show and The Colbert Report which satirize these programs, and still get a good chunk of pertinent information on whatever it is they report.
    • In the case of The Daily Show it's got to the point where some people use the show as their main source of news. Jon Stewart is uncomfortable about this, since he sees his show as a satire and not a straight-up news program.
  • You can learn a great deal about historical artifacts from Pawn Stars and it can even show you how to avoid damaging valuable antiques.
  • NUMB3RS discusses math in every episode.
  • All things considered, it is probably not wise to let a hypochondriac watch House.
  • The West Wing has this in spades for the political system and U.S. history.
  • If you watch The BBC series Spooksnote , especially early episodes by playwright Howard Brenton, be prepared to learn quite a lot about the intricacies of British and international politics, the roots of terrorism, and real spy tradecraft. In contrast to American shows like 24, Spooks routinely tossed out literary moments like guest star Anthony Head quoting Coriolanus to justify betrayal or Officer Carter citing Lawrence of Arabia going undercover as a Circassian as justification for one of his operations.

Music
  • Sabaton is a Power Metal band that sings almost entirely about historical battles. The fandom joke is that listening to their music would give the basic essentials of 20th Century History.
    "I've got an exam about the World Wars tomorrow, so I'm headbanging to Sabaton!"
  • Iced Earth's epic Gettysburg Trilogy has quite a bit of information about the three days of battle with each song focusing on one day.
  • Monty Python's song "Oliver Cromwell" gives an accurate summary of Oliver Cromwell's life to the tune of "Polonaise in A-flat major" by Frédéric Chopin.

Tabletop Game
  • Dungeons & Dragons can easily be considered as a long arithmetic problem that is oddly enough personified as a fantasy adventure.
    • Tabletop RPG games in general can be classed as such as well.
    • For parents concerned about their kids not being sociable with others or using their imagination, this game genre has been seen as a godsend considering it directly encourages both.
  • Arithmetic is particularly taught by any Tabletop RPG that features a Point Build System, Min-Maxing or both; any system that uses a form of combat resolution that isn't narrative (i.e. that uses dice, cards, etc) teaches probability theory; and, if you play them long enough, every single Tabletop RPG in existence teaches game theory (though intuitively rather than formally).
    • One of the side effects of being a fan of the Hero System is your algebraic abilities get a lot of workout.
  • Board Games and Card Games also teach probability and, in some cases (looking at you Monopoly and family), arithmetic.
  • Even Plugged In admitted that the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG had the educational benefit of helping kids practice math.
  • There have been many cases in which parents reported that the Pokémon TCG taught their children basic math skills.
  • Some of the real world settings in the GURPS line are described in sourcebooks with a level of detail and accuracy comparable to that of a high school history textbook. Moreover, they're also good at explicitly separating myth and history.
  • Some historically based strategy board games can really help in history class. A couple examples are Here I Stand (wars of the Reformation), Twilight Struggle (the Cold War) and World in Flames (World War II).

Theatre

Video Games
  • The Assassin's Creed series fit this nicely. The buildings you climb in particular are quite accurate to reality and the menus usually include factual information about them. Basically everyone but the main protagonists are real people, although they're often highly fictionalised. This is handwaved within the series by saying the Templars wrote the history books. And speaking of the Templar...
  • Both Age of Empires and Civilization can arguably count as a more interesting way of learning about history and technological developments. Civilization in particular is notable for its Civilopedia, from which you can learn a great deal.
    • Additionally, Sid Meiers Alpha Centauri, the Spiritual Successor to Civilization, gives you just enough info about fields ranging from ecology to economics to sociology to philosophy to Chinese poetry to make you want to look stuff up when you are inevitably forced to quit, as well as including some pretty cool projections about plausible near-to-middle future (next 100-500 years) technology. At the very least, it will completely disabuse you of the notion that genes are blueprints
  • How many people first learned about Ayn Rand, Objectivism, and Atlas Shrugged from taking a trip to Andrew Ryan's underwater playhouse?
  • The obscure 4X game Imperialism is about running a generic 19th century empire, but because so much of the gameplay revolves around developing your economy by procuring raw materials and intermediate goods note , it's also a surprisingly accurate picture of the sorts of supply chain and sourcing challenges faced by manufacturing businesses.
  • You can learn a lot about China's Three Kingdoms Period from Dynasty Warriors, and a lot about the Sengoku Era of Japan from Samurai Warriors… just as long as you remember to take it all with a grain of salt. If nothing else, you might get interested enough to look some of the characters up, just to see how much they were changed - and better yet, how much of the awesome, far-out stuff was actually REAL!
  • Dwarf Fortress. How to make steel, properties & types of different rocks, the use of potash in farming techniques, the true meaning of the serenity prayer…
  • Medal of Honor and other First Person Shooters set in World War II can teach younger players about the time period... along with a few bits of questionable accuracy and a heavy dose of America Wins the War.
  • Pokémon teaches you math. If your normal-type mon just used a base power 30 water-type attack on a foe Venusaur chopping 1/6 of its health, and you have another mon that outspeeds Venusaur but can be two-hit-KOed by it, and that mon is a fire-type with about the same special attack stat as your first mon and has a base power 30 fire-type attack, should you switch it in? (Answer: yes, because barring a miracle, you'll get to one-hit KO it. But wait, what if your opponent knows all of that and will switch Venusaur out? Pokémon teaches you game theory.)
    • The 3rd-generation games teach visual braille while the player tries to unlock a set of legendary pokemon.
    • The X and Y games have a simulated photography minigame at certain landmarks, which teaches the player some of the basics about camera aperture width, focus length, and shutter speed. After all, if you're going to take a photo with the Ultimate Weapon mere moments before it's fired, you want to make sure it's a good one, right?
  • Sid Meier’s Pirates! certainly taught a lot of people the geography of the Caribbean.
  • According to ''TIME'' magazine, Steven Johnson argues that SimCity taught his nephew about taxation issues, and that even a segment of one The Legend of Zelda game had enough detail to "bury the canard" that it is passive entertainment.
  • There are many gamers out there that claim RPGs taught them how to read, or helped learn a second language.
  • One fairly high-up Facebook employee wrote an essay detailing how much of his current business expertise had its inception while trying to master Starcraft.
  • Extra Credits had an episode on "tangential learning", which was on the very topic of how video games, rather than being the brain-rotting evil incarnate the Moral Guardians claimed, was in fact an easy way to learn various facts about many things depending on the plot in question. It didn't even need to be exact or in-depth to work, as, for example, God of War, despite its inconsistencies with actual Greek Mythology, could encourage someone to go and read about it, or Mass Effect could encourage someone to go and read a book about Dark Matter or the Galactic Core.
  • The Total War series can teach a gamer quite a lot about the different periods of history, despite various inaccuracies. Some mods like Europa Barbarorum (for Rome: Total War) have been created with the help of university professors and the like, thus going so far as to teach the audience about economics, politics and even languages of the ancient world.
  • Shin Megami Tensei for some gamers, taught them about Religion (from Christianity to Hinduism) and Mythology. The Persona spin-off series (especially from 3 onwards) also covers a wide range of topics from geography to advanced english language to the major arcana and of course, Jungian psychology.
  • Belief in this trope is where the foolish idea of "Murder Simulators" got started.
    • The value and importance of video games within the firearms community is hotly contested, ranging from the old Murder Simulators argument to those who welcome the interest in firearms that games like Modern Warfare can generate but cede that, governed as it is by the Rule of Cool, gun-centric entertainment is generally not a good resource for learning about Gun Safety.
  • While it may not apply to American Culture because of their Adversarial System there have been accounts of (Inquisitorial System) Law Schools showing segments of the Ace Attorney games to teach Evidence Law.
  • Knights of the Old Republic is based on one of the Dungeons and Dragons systems (specifically D20). Unlike in the tabletop game, all the maths is done by the computer, but the game makes up for this by featuring a lot of classic maths and logic puzzles, with name changes to make them more Star Wars-y. The creators of the Star Forge apparently decided to defend the maps to their superweapon...with seventh-grade math.
  • Minecraft is basically a treatise on the location and allocation of natural resources disguised as a video game.
  • Mass Effect is at first glance a Space Opera epic about a wo/man named Commander Shepard and his/her fight against extragalactic genocidal robots called Reapers, but actually manages to explore scientific concepts like the Fermi paradox and evolution, socio-political concepts like globalism and racism, and literary concepts like Lovecraftian horror and the Byronic Hero when you're not blowing up Eldritch Abominations or banging aliens.
  • If you're interested in how to lead a populist religious movement and in general create a world changing social movement, just pick up a copy of Dragon Age: Inquisition. Bonus points for teaching you how to navigate the political and diplomatic landmines that a leader faces.
  • Automation is intended to be an automobile company tycoon game, but the game has such detailed modeling of car design that the in-game tutorials are basically just really good educational videos.

Web Comics
  • MS Paint Adventures can broaden your vocabulary, teach you about data structures, the western zodiac, help you think in a more non-linear fashion, and be more attentive to detail. Way more attentive to detail.
  • morphE happens to be set in the Mage: The Awakening universe. Reading through will give the audience a large amount of information required to be able to swiftly transition into the game proper. Spells, realms and species are explained fairly well and the comments section is always full of people explaining what had happened in the update and what different game mechanics could be applied.

Western Animation
  • Things that can be learned from Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Eastern Philosophy/Metaphysics
    • Traditional Chinese Characters
    • A total solar eclipse lasts around 8 minutes.
    • Western elements and cosmology.
    • At least most of the chakras were accurate, at least in name.
  • There was a story of a boy who saved his friend from choking by using the Heimlich Maneuver, which he learned from The Simpsons.
    • Similarly, another boy used the skills he learned from World of Warcraft (Namely, drawing aggro and playing dead) to save his sister from a angry moose. Link.
  • The episode "The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000" from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic teaches quite a lot about economics: public relations, supply and demand, quality control, artificial scarcity, and the effect of competition on markets are just a few of the things you'll learn here that you'll only revisit in high school.
  • Go on, ask any kid who grew up in the 90's where they learned the state capitals, the names of all the US Presidents, the plots of The Godfather and Les Misérables, and the story of Ferdinand Magellan from. The answer is actually Animaniacs.

Other
  • Watching/reading works in foreign languages can teach that language. It's not perhaps as good as spending a couple of weeks having to speak and read that language exclusively, but it's good practice beforehand.
  • Death Battle: Not only do we get a generous handful of math, science, and history lessons throughout the series; but many viewers also gain an interest on the more obscure combatants and their series.
  • Come to think of it, this wiki.