RADIO IS AN IMPORTANT PHENOMENON IN AMERICAN culture. For those who would like to understand some of its implications for social life and for educational policy the books discussed or referred to in this column may be found suggestive.
THE TERM "MORALE" IS JUST ABOUT WORN OUT. Psychologists, sociologists, the advertising fraternity, professional weepers, and all manner of persons concerned about the state of the American public mind have ended the possibilities of the word for all constructive purposes. The flood of books, magazine and newspaper articles, public speeches and panel discussions about morale seems not to have changed one iota the basic conditions therein lamented.
The best of radio, if you know where and when to find it and can adjust your schedule to it, has long been superior as self-improvement education to anything the colleges have had to offer. The giving of credits for listening may be a doubtful type of reward but it signifies that educators are beginning to recognize values outside of books and courses.
A FINE SPIRIT OF COMPROMISE HAS ENDED the controversy between the Cooperative League and the Columbia and NBC radio networks. Mutual recriminations characterized the early phases of this controversy when the networks refused to sell radio time to the League.
THE OWI BELIEVES THAT ITS ENLISTMENT OF THE soap operas for war purposes is smartly realistic. The theory is that the benighted housewives who listen to the dramatic tripe put out over the air by the big soap companies will neither know nor feel deeply about the war unless they learn about it in fictional form.
THERE IS APPARENTLY NO PRECEDENT FOR ALLOWING Elmer Davis to report directly to the American people by radio regularly each week, each two weeks, or each month. Apparently, both the Administration and the networks fight shy of allowing even the Chief of the Office of War Information tell what is going on militarily and industrially. There is no question anywhere about Mr. Davis' ability to do this job effectively. And there is relatively little question that, if radio channels were regularly cleared for an official report to the nation, popular morale would be enhanced. The suggestion that Mr. Davis take to the air regularly with such a report has been under discussion in official and in commercial circles ever since Mr. Davis' appointment. What then is holding it up?
NORMAN CORWIN'S "AN AMERICAN IN ENGLAND," BY the Columbia network with Joseph Julian as narrator, was broadcast concurrently with a similar series using Leslie Howard over the National Broadcasting Company's network during August and September. Corwin developed his series in terms of how an American, in England for the first time since the war began, learned his way about, and then how he learned about England's war effort.
HOW REALISTIC ARE THE BUSINESS MEN WHO ADVERtise their products and services over the air? Will they continue their present radio advertising policies in the face of a public fed with the ingratiatingly saccharinic and the ingeniously novel techniques used in the advertising "plugs" of innumerable radio programs?
IT HAS BEEN THE BURDEN OF THESE COLUMNS FOE SOME TWO years to prod the educational pioneers who read FRONTIERS OF DEMOCRACY about the importance of radio in American life. Because motion pictures and the ubiquitous press also continually crowd into the consciousness of the average American, they were included when implications were drawn about education and morale during wartime. The role which these communicative media play in the United States during the period which lies ahead is likely to be a decisive factor in the maintenance of a well-informed and resolute-minded public temper.
THERE ARE RADIO PROGRAMS NOW BEING BROADCAST BY the major American networks and by most, if not all, independent radio stations over the United States, which are specifically called "morale-building" programs. In many of these programs, the government or public agencies are playing an important role.
PEARL HARBOR AND THE SUCCESSIVE SERIES OF DEFEATS, WHICH THE DEMOCRACIES HAVE SUFFERED SINCE PEARL HARBOR, have done little to shake America out of its leisure-and comfort-loving lethargy. We think America is so great and so all-powerful that neither the mad dreamer of Berchtesgaden nor the holy Emperor of Japan can do us any eventual harm. Our self-righteousness pervades our insight like a black pall as we grumblingly make one concession after another to what we call our war effort.
Despite the seven or eight hundred distinct research studies or various aspects of radio as a communicative agency which are now available in libraries, and the mass of confidential research material amassed by commercial and private research agencies, radio research is still in its infancy. It has only reached the stage where the more important questions which should be investigated can be distinguished from the questions of lesser importance. In other words, radio research has reached a point where it is no longer excusable for any research worker to pose his problems blindly, and then to proceed with his investigation in total darkness!
IF BETTER CONTROL COULD BE EXERCISED OVER THE materials that enter children's minds, the passing of a single generation might witness social changes of immense scope. We might find ourselves on the verge of a return to barbarism, or we might find ourselves on the verge of a new era in democratic living. This principle of total education is well understood and carefully practised in Soviet Russia. It has been remarkably well applied in Germany also.
RADIO PROGRAMS AS A DISTINCTIVE ART FORM IN AND OF themselves are little appreciated in America today. This is true because the major radio networks make almost no effort to publicize their experimental productions, and also because these networks seldom schedule repeat performances of the truly great radio shows of the past ten years. There are, to be sure, good radio shows of all varieties on the air daily, and these are listened to by millions of people. But most of this radio fare is run-of-the-mill, "escape" stuff that hardly deserves characterization as art even though excellent radio directors, actors and technicians help to manufacture it.
THE RECENT OPENING OF THE COLOMBIA BROADCASTING System's School of the Air of the Americas for 1941-42 affords the opportunity to raise the issue of the meaning of network school broadcasts to American education. What special significance does the broadcasting of educational radio programs to schools everywhere in the United States have today?
THE AMERICAN COMMONWEALTH IS NOT A NATION divided against itself. But neither are we a people united in deep and abiding attachment to democratic ideals. We have arrived at a point in our journey as a nation where two contradictory but equally portentous developments are possible. Not much concerted effort would be necessary to cause us to bury our heads in the sand and let the black "wave of the future" envelop us. Nor would it take much concerted effort to put us on the road to a resolute world offensive calculated to assure the survival and extension of Western civilization. The times are dangerous because the forces that work for cultural progress and those which work for reaction are so delicately balanced.
ONE OF THE GREAT OPPORTUNITIES CONFRONTING American radio today is that of contributing positively and significantly to the building of national morale among the great masses of people throughout the country. Radio has already proved itself a quicker "levelling" force than any other social agency in the country's history.
Certainly Radio and the Printed Page should be on the active reference list for courses in philosophy, psychology, and teaching aids wherever students are being trained for teaching positions.
GENERALLY SPEAKING, IT IS REASONABLY close to the truth to assert that the American press is the finest in the world. We have more newspapers and magazines, better printing, more professionally trained journalists and a better distributive mechanism than has any other country. When we analyze critically this very remarkable American institution, however, we find a range in quality of newspapers and magazines that runs the entire gamut from many examples of sensation-mongering to a few examples of superb modern journalism.
Some Sunday radio programs.
EACH OF THE THREE NATIONAL RADIO NETWORKS NOW publishes regularly a monthly bulletin listing its educational features. These are invaluable to anyone interested in following developments in the field of radio education.
ANYONE WHO STUDIES THE LIST OF educational and cultural broadcasts—musical, dramatic, political, social—offered by the three national radio networks must be impressed by the public services acquiring as a by-product of the American system of broadcasting. The broadcasters inform us that only under what they describe as a free system of broadcasting would such services be possible.
THIS COLUMN WILL REGULARLY DISCUSS some of the more outstanding of the educational offerings of the three major radio networks in the United States during the present year. The purpose of the column will be to stimulate educators to a greater amount of serious and concentrated radio listening. Such listening is basic to an appreciative understanding of the role of radio in America today. Few educators as yet take seriously the broader educational potentialities of radio.
TO THE READERS of this magazine the radio is relatively unimportant. They listen seldom, know little and care less about the variety and quality of the programs that are on the air. They think of radio only vaguely as a sister non-school educational force to the cinema and the newspaper. This attitude is typical of intellectuals all over the United States today. This neglect and innocence of radio is not typical of most people. Great masses of Americans listen to radio whenever they have a chance. They listen with relative uncritical ness.
THIS book is a veritable compendium of socially important facts about the radio broadcasting industry in America. It starts with an excellent, concise history of the development of the so-called American system of radio.
THE story of the development of the "human mind" from its earliest deviations from "animal mind" to its rare attainment of god-like quality is here told with spirit and vigor. It is an undertaking, which Dr. Hart confesses at the very beginning, should ideally be the task of many cooperating specialists from a number of scientific social disciplines. He points a finger of scorn and satire and shame at the academic fraternity and the university researchers of the present day because they have not thus occupied themselves with what would seem to be the first concern of civilized men, namely, organizing science into the tradition and pathways of everyday life.
THE FIRST published result of the continuing deliberations of twenty educators constituting what is called The Educational Policies Commission fills one both with hope and foreboding. The first five chapters indicate that the lessons, which Charles A. Beard taught the Commission, were learned to a degree that enabled the Commission to restate them forthrightly, gracefully, and effectively.