tv Lectures in History CSPAN July 30, 2016 11:59pm-12:47am EDT
nominating the first african-american president. i'm looking forward to doing it again to nominate the first female president of the united. i'm excited about this opportunity. go ohio, though hillary. fromllo, i am a delegate the san fernando valley in los angeles and i am supporting, hillary. i could not be more excited to support the first female candidate for president. i really care about women's issues and middle east politics, and i know she is the most qualified candidate for president. i could not be more excited. >> my name is ryan and i am here at the ohio delegation for the dnc. the presidential election has consequences for the last -- the next four years, but i'm >> i'm a district delegate from fresno california. my delegate experience has been
eye-opening. like i am witnessing the death of democracy. i do not feel included. i do not feel like a voices heard. i am very concerned about the future of this country. the revolution continues. i am from orange county california. i'm having a great time as a delegate. i'm here because of my grandmother and my mother and my wife and my daughter. important in this election to break the glass ceiling. >> voices from the road on c-span. on lectures in history, karen greater teaches a class on the 20th century educational films. policymakersld war
feared the u.s. population was falling behind the soviet union. the class includes a look at animated programs created by noted hollywood director frank cap are. >> good afternoon and welcome. we will talk about cold war era science education films. we've been talking about classroom films before. to do any kind of history classroom films you need to understand the scholarship i will be pulling together a lot of work that i've done and were by other historians. people even folklore. the topic is interdisciplinary.
what are the relations between art science and entertainment and culture. we'll see the movement of the same people across institutions. to understand this historically, we have to how science education is with a product and driver of culture. what i mean is that any form of science education is going to great attitudes and approaches towards both education and science. before we moved to the 19th -- to the 1950's i want to unpack some assumptions you might have.
some of you are probably old enough to remember seeing bill nye the science guy? right? bill guy is this generation's predominance tv science educator. he wears the white coat. or actually it's will, already contradicting myself. she does experience -- he does experiments enthusiastically. for you remember someone like sheldon the big bang. the science sitcom is another model. i did not put this year because i thought it would make me sound old, things like "e.r." the show or "numbers." these are contemporary genres and images that we have of what science on tv is.
to understand what's going on in the 1950's, you have to backup. media was new, particularly for education. it's this brave new frontier. it is not so new. it really comes out of the use of 16mm film and classroom, something we only talked about for the 20's and 30's. whipping that discussion forward, there is a disk-- that's driven in part by technologies. sure of kodak pageant projector. that was a new project or kodak invented that was lighter and more portable and easier to read. the film did not burn. although the film did sometimes burn. but it was advertised is not burning.
this fostered the expansion of the educational film industry. film historian jeff alexander in his book estimates there were approximately 100,000 or so films in this period. they were made by educational film companies. these would be companies like coronet, archer. we will see archer today. even encyclopaedia britannica.
had a piece in variety, a trade magazine for hollywood. in which she articulated her vision for television and education. television, she said, is one of the greatest forces america has ever known. are we going to let hollywood take it over? or can we somehow harness the genie perform wonders of public enlightenment unequaled since the days of the renaissance? this is what they are seeing, another enlightenment.
in television, which is something today pretty mundane. part of that enthusiasm is the let me talk about newsreels. they were shorts shown before movies. people like them so much they eventually developed dedicated newsreel theater's. and in 1948, newsreels became a television program. nbc launched a 10 minute tv program called channel newsreel leader. something like the first cnn, only it's not running 24 hours, every 10 minutes every once in a while. newsreels are very popular. propaganda films like "why we fight." after the bombings in pearl harbor, he was immediately grabbed by his commanding officers.
by that point he was in oscar-winning hollywood director. he had some incentive to use in this way. factual information films that will explain to our boys in your meet the for which we're fighting." clearly meant to persuade. capra himself talked about has approached this was friend in an answer to many recent films. "triumph of the will," considered to be one of the best propaganda films of all time. so they have had a lot of excess
with the use of film for conveying information, or persuading and convincing. of course they would think it has more applications in the classroom. this became more urgent in the context of the dropping of atomic bombs on hiroshima and nagasaki. and the real escalation of what several people have called the nuclear culture, or the nuclear future. this nuclear future, on the one hand, everyone knew about this.
eisenhower gave a speech in 1953 became known in retrospect as the "atoms for peace" speech. this became a propaganda campaign for the use of atomic energy. peaceful uses of atomic energy would include reactors for generating energy, but also things like radioisotopes. using reactors to create radioisotopes which then become medical tracers. in case those methods of persuasion did not work, they had a series of traveling museum at the. --museum exhibit. it would be very likely if you are at school and went to a natural history or science exam in the 1950's that you would see one of these.
students would handle geiger counters and put them over the frogs and they would start that's a good example of museums as a medium reinforcing other medium. just like film becoming new on television. the goal of atoms for peace, from looking at behind the scenes documents, because it would a marketed this way in public, was an emotional management of the tensions of involved in the nuclear culture. attention being, on the one hand, escalating nuclear armament. on the other hand, homefront uses of atomic energy they want to spin as particularly
harmless, that they want to domesticate. they are not being taught to duck and cover, but i guess talk and hold one another. -- duck and hold one another. the person from the school is hosting that they learned how to spell atom and bomb before mother. just imagine that shift in learning those words that have a much bigger social and cultural meaning, and were certainly much scarier.
>> be sure to remember what bert paternal just did, because -- ber the turtle just did, because all of us was member to do the same. this is an official civil defense film produced in operation with the federal civil defense administration and in consultation with the safety commission of the national education association. prof. rader: if it goes again, you are going to want to sing. [laughter] what do you notice about that introduction? i played through the song so that i could talk about the ways in which the production values, both the content and production values, were framed by interactions between artists and those interested in the information.
the goal is to teach children how to survive an atomic attack by themselves. that is important, right? part of what is going on are twofold. you cannot show film of two children. using the medium of animation, they portrayed the bright light. the light is described as a bright flash, brighter than the sun. then he transitions into the animation where clearly the atomic bomb is, and the narrator is saying this in calm tones, smashing through buildings, causing a burn worse than your worst sunburn.
these are ways to take this knowledge and convey it in a way that children would understand. now the other side is not just what you are actually seeing, but what to do? the narrative takes a kind of domestication tone. it talks about responding to a bomb is not unlike responding to a fire or an automobile accident. these are all things that can happen in your daily life, just add atomic bomb to the list. this kind of domestication through both the use of animation and technology and narrative is one of the hallmarks.
the other thing jacobs talks about is the way in which this film acknowledges, and now i'm transitioning towards attitudes and education. the idea that you would have to respond as a child by yourself to atomic bomb rather than through a teacher or some authority figure is a real shift. that is a shift in traditional social roles that is part and parcel of the new atomic world. what the film does was assure children that grown-ups will be around. older people will help us. by the way, it's mental narrator pretending to be a child. older people will help us like they always do, but there might not be any crops around when the atomic bomb explodes. and you are on your own. they can help you get across the street and find a shelter, but in that moment, what are you going to do to respond? trying to heighten the alert of the children.
when you are on your own, be aware of when this is happening. like you can see the girl cowering against a school building yard. it could happen while you are riding your bike. he immediately drops his bikes and covers. they talk about how in order to achieve these social roles, the film has to make them traditionally idyllic child spaces seem kind of scary. school right or riding your bike, and atomic bomb could fall. he says this is the dark side of cold war scientific education. a movie that "tells a tale of a dangerous presence in a dismal future." of course it begs the question, if you are a round and you did your duck and cover, when you come up, maybe it's the future
of this decimated nuclear world. "duck and cover" educates about the phenomenon, but tries to persuade children so that they have a social role. it goes beyond what any role in the of the military to respond to an attack. but they have some control. pretty heady stuff for elementary school. the lighter side of science education in this period, from the other angle, still adjusts children all the way through college, but focused on enhancing funding and investments by the government in science research and education. this is not new to the 1950's. this is something that comes out of world war ii. the presidential science advisor described on the cover of time magazine. the fact that science advisor is making the cover of time magazine should tell you something. that he's described as the
general of physics. this is the vision of the future, that government will support research activities by public and private organizations. in particular, science education. the first thing to come out of this, the general of as a national science board that is rolled over into the national science foundation. the national science foundation becomes the first big government foundation. there were national institutes of health before that, but this is a big puire research and education fund. as the 1950's progress, sputnik, which you may or may not familiar with, the satellite that the soviets fired to space, circling the u.s., spying on us.
there was a massive economic boom after the war and a large corporate windfall. particularly companies like at&t and bell, who were science and technology companies. the thought among those companies was that some of this might be plowed back into by promoting science education. so this led to at&t bell labs investing in a series of science
deciding that he's going to do a science film. what gies with frank capra and his production of many of these films? first off, capra was thought to have the perfect background for this. he had some science training as an undergrad in caltech in chemical engineering in 1918. during world war i he taught to he taught math to artillery recruits. his family immigrated to l.a. and he worked odd jobs. when he was working as a math teacher in san francisco, he saw an advertisement for a satellite film studio. he basically hustled himself in
the door, let them think he had more experience than he did because he was interested. and that was the thing that got the ball rolling. although he had a great deal of success in hollywood in the 1930's, he left hollywood to enlist in world war ii and make other films. he came back at a moment when his career was in a lull. it sounds incongruous because many of us are member him for "it's a wonderful life," which is a beloved christmas classic. at the time it got mixed reviews. he was in a lull. that's part of the reason why he wanted to do these films. the other piece was the fact that he was a deeply committed catholic. we will see that influence when we look at these films. another thing to say about capra is that later in his life, he reflected back on what it was that made him a success.
then, in some of the latest films played by richard carlson, who would've been recognizable to viewers of "creatures of the black lagoon." interestingly carlson reinforced this idea of that capra had. carlson directed some of the later films when capra backed out. similarly, if you thought you heard daffy duck, you did. the man voicing many absolute agents characters lanier -- the man voicing many looney tunes characters was involved on this project. underscoring the point that we have people traveling from film culture into tv as an influential new medium.
>> we talked about frankenstein and jaws. the fiction writer creates cartoon figures. there are animals alongside a greek god figure they call their king. he is the king of nature, the animals, but the personification of blood. he and his captive animals get into a conversation with the fiction writer.
yes, he is called dr. research. dr. research it turns out is actually a university of southern california english professor named frank baxter. if you went to school in the 1960's and 1970's, you are guaranteed to have seen one of his films. he had a famous series about shakespeare. he became the personification of the scientists.
they interact with the animals through a magic screen, which is an interesting way to describe a screen on which animation is projected. he is the wiseguy, joe q public, voicing the concerns the audience might have, smoked cigarettes, twitchy. halfway through there is a moment where one character gets more confrontational and says, stop. both the humans are taken aback.
what do you mean? he says we will not go any further unless you can tell me the two words that unites the study of blood mechanics and the study of arts, poetry, and nature. plumbing has been elementary, but harmless. now that you come to me, i refuse to listen further unless you describe me in just two words.
>> i can. >> never mind. mention the two key words and i know you will understand the poetry, history, and the true meaning of blood, otherwise back to your plumbing. >> he is trapping us. do know what the words are? you do? the two words that best describe you and connect you with the mystical origins of life are seawater. >> seawater. quiet. brother research, my apologies. >> you mean he is right? >> listen to this learned man and you will hear a real tale. >> seawater. >> please, tell them who i am. >> it is only a theory, of course, but if you squeeze the human body like a sponge, you squeeze out 30% of the bodyweight, six gallons of free water, which we shall call body fluids.
this body fluid has a salt content of 1%. tropical sea animals might exist in this aquarium of body liquids. the salt and seawater are like the salt and body fluid, as you can see, although seawater today is two or three times alter them bodily fluids. at any rate, 2 billion years ago, life is presumed to have originated in the warmth of
tropical waters as a minute, single celled, aquatic organism. it is similar to the organism we know today as an amoeba. in the beginning, he was the sea. >> all right, so what we have there is dr. research articulating what he says is just a theory about the oceanic origins of blood, but the linking of that origin with the sea is frank capra wading into the territory of evolutionary biology. for capra, there is no divide between a scientific view of evolution and a religious appreciation of evolution. later on, you can see mr. fiction writer get impatient with that. he starts to challenge dr. research.
>> take a lesson from your heart. >> all right, in case you were not getting it before the music, what is capra doing here? fluid connections between science, art, and religion, right? human exceptionalism is part of the western christian tradition, but human exceptionalism, part of that is being given the divine gift, to reason. that juxtaposition saying, ye must have faith, against st. paul, saying prove all things, is meant to be a use of imagery that blurs those boundaries.
what was the critical response? the critical reviews were not great. this is the review from time magazine. it is a costly monument to the opinion of some broadcasters. the thought that the film is condescending because it spoke to potentially gradeschool children and really tried to interest them in silly ways, right? but also the circulatory system discussion is really boring. the time reviewer thinks it is because he used more animation than film, so this is a case where the reviewer says by jazzing up the story of the circulatory system, he threw a light on scientific footage that in itself was as good as anything of its kind ever televised.
the very first one attracted 25 million viewers. it is a lot by today's standards, because now we have so many fragmented segments of the tv market. what was more remarkable was that over the next 10 years, it found new life in classroom viewing. this was a film that would go from tv into the classroom. james gilbert has a chapter in his book about these films, and he cites a letter from a viewer telling capra that it was not only fine entertainment and scientific education, but it was a religious experience as well.
what we get from watching this movie is a sense that there may be a kind of diversity of popular ideas about evolution and the relationship with science and with religion. so how did this film get made? it got made largely because of capra, but received the way it was for several reasons. one talks about the way in which, you have to go back to television as a medium in development.
the standards for different genres, documentaries, science education, inspiration were still being formed, so this is part of, the fact these things are not settled allows capra to work with those. scopes trial, that was exploited to sell the controversy by the media, but in fact, as gilbert puts it, capra did not have to build bridges between science and religion. they were already there, and he only had to walk his films across them. another basically says this film was able to be made because capra was a premier storyteller.
so there are multiple theories about why it was received the way it was and why it had success over the years in classrooms. again, to conclude like coming back to this larger lesson that pandora articulates so eloquently, some of what we do in this class is science for the masses, right? science for a popular audience. pandora warns us not to ignore science for popular culture, because when you ignore science for popular culture, you miss levels of complexity in thinking. she never says the public, because it's not a single entity. using popular culture in a film like this to understand this was present not that long ago, right? we are not talking about you have to go back before the reformation. were talking about 1950's in the u.s.
it gives us an example for why you need to study science and popular culture moving forward. the science of popular culture interacts. so with that, i'm going to leave you with some suggestions for further reading if you want to follow up on science on television. an amazing book, science on american television. thank you for being here. i will see you next week.