Skip to main content

tv   Lectures in History  CSPAN  August 13, 2016 5:14pm-6:01pm EDT

5:14 pm
>> during the cold war, policymakers feared u.s. population was falling behind the soviet union. the class includes a look at franked programs made by cap are in the 1950's. this is about 45 minutes. >> good afternoon and welcome. today, we will talk about cold war era science educations cells. we have talked about classroom films before. to do any history of classroom film, you have to understand the scholarship. i will be pulling together works that i have done and from other historians, some scholars, even folklorists. this will be particularly interdisciplinary.
5:15 pm
for reasons that should by now be obvious, the topic is interdisciplinary. in particular i'm going to return to this question. what are the relations between art, science, and entertainment and culture, in cinema? how do they reinforce one another in these particular context? we're going to see the movement of people across institutions. it's all going to be living together. we have to consider what is the scientific and technical knowledge? to understand this historically, we have to how science education is with a product and driver of culture.
5:16 pm
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? he is this generation's predominance tv science educator. he wears the white coat. 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
5:17 pm
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. you see a picture there of kodak projector.
5:18 pm
this was a new projector kodak invented that was lighter and more portable and easier to thread. the film did not burn. although the film did sometimes burn. this new version of classroom technology 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. capture the new media idea that two an encyclopedia producer would be branching out into classroom film. that captures the enthusiasm and expansion of this as a
5:19 pm
technology in the classroom. so anytime that a new technology is introduced into the classroom, maybe this did not happen when teachers had pointers, but anytime new technology is introduced in the postwar period, there is a bit of handwringing that goes on. there is a series of books. this one particularly, television and education in the u.s., who has credentials both in the school of education and communication. he asks the question, to which the obvious answer is yes. can it be that education is suffering at sea change? with the use, the verb suffering is really instructive. and also, what is excellence in classroom film and video instruction? and how is it absorb? there really focusing not just on the production of the
5:20 pm
knowledge, but on the consumption, the learning. some handwringing to be expected. but there's also a lot of enthusiasm. the fcc commissioner in 1951 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. she then asked a hedgy question. -- said 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? you have to picture this is what they are seeing, another enlightenment. in television, which is something today, pretty mundane.
5:21 pm
part of that enthusiasm is the very successful use of film in wartime context. particularly for propaganda and newsreels. 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 theater. 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. this was a film made in world
5:22 pm
, leti by frank capra already had some army experience. he was immediately grabbed by his commanding officers. by that point, he was an oscar-winning hollywood director. he had some incentive to be used in this way. his commanding officer recruited him to do documented factual information films that will explain to our boys in your meet -- boys in the army the principles for which we're fighting. kind of invoking the documentary ghosts but 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.
5:23 pm
so they have had a lot of success with the use of film for conveying information, 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. they knew it was a massive loss of life. it was a very grim dark deed. that's the dark side of atomic culture. he thought was that in the postwar period, harnessing
5:24 pm
nuclear energy for positive use. eisenhower gave a speech in 1953 that became known in retrospect as the atoms for peace speech. this became a propaganda campaign for the peaceful uses 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. that is why you have in the logo that eventually gets made, you have the medical icon too. medicine, science, engineering, agriculture will be part of our nuclear future. just in case the speech and those methods of persuasion did not work, they had a series of traveling museum exhibits. it traveled around. it would be very likely if you
5:25 pm
are at school and went to a natural history or science museum in the 1950's that you would see one of these. they would have things like radioactive frogs. frogs that had been injected with the radioisotopes. students would handle geiger counters and put them over the frogs and they would start clicking. some of the first interactive exhibits were undertaken in the peacet of this atoms for exhibit. 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, we find out from looking at behind the scenes documents, because it wouldn't be marketed this way in public, was an emotional management of the tensions involved in the nuclear culture. the tension being, on the one
5:26 pm
hand, escalating nuclear armament. that is kind of the hallmark of the cold war period. on the other hand, homefront uses of atomic energy they want to spin as particularly harmless, that they want to domesticate. educating civilians and educating children became a high priority. bo jacobs talks about how this generation was the first that lived to live in a nuclear world. lives in a nuclear world, this is a quote from some at the indian springs school in nevada, next to an air force base. they are not being taught to duck and cover but i guess duck and hold one another. the person from the school is boasting they learned how to spell atom and bomb before mother. just imagine that shift in learning those words that have a
5:27 pm
much bigger social and cultural meaning, and were certainly much scarier. the federal government was interested in educating a lot of civilians, but in particular a lot of children in the procedures of civil defense. the actual threats of atomic attack, what they would look like. they devised this film called duck and cover. we will watch a small clip of the introduction to duck and cover. featuring the theme song. ♪ he ducked and covered. duck and covered
5:28 pm
duck and cover ♪ >> be sure and remember what bert the turtle just did because everyone of us must remember to do the same thing. that is what this film is all about, duck and cover. unofficial civil defense film produced in collaboration with the civil defense administration added consultation with the safety commission of the national education association. so what do you notice about that introduction? a couple things. we can talk a bit about the way the content and the production values were framed by interactions between lots of different kinds of artists and
5:29 pm
those who were interested in conveying the actual information. those interested in conveying the actual information, civil defense associations, safety organizations, the national education association, government people collaborating with school teachers collaborating with fairly high quality talent that was recruited at archer films. the film was written by ray myers and directed by anthony rizzo and the jingle was written afterwards. it didn't initially start with a jingle. it was written afterwards i the -- by the same team that wrote for chevrolet. advertising culture that produced these alone can that became a part of massive advertising campaigns.
5:30 pm
this crossover here. it's a very upbeat and positive song. beauve female voicesthe goal o, jacobs talks about, is to teach children how to survive an atomic attack by themselves. that's important. because part of what's going on here, there's two parts. you have toand, inform children what it is they are actually seeing, if they see a nuclear attack. so you see a kind of, i'm going to talk about this as kind of domesticating, but jacobs says "making the threat normative." something is scary, and atomic attack. you cannot show film of that to children because it is too horrifying. so instead, using the medium of information, they portray the bright light, the light that is described as a bright flash,
5:31 pm
brighter than the sun, and then it transitions into the animation, where clearly the atomic bomb is. and the narrator is saying this in very calm tones, smashing through buildings, causing wind, causing a burn worse than your worst sunburn. these are always to kind of take this knowledge and convey it, but in a way that maybe children would understand, and would be a part of their world. is not juster side conveying what it is you are actually seeing, knowing that you are being a part of this, but what to do. the narrative there also takes a kind of domestication town, right -- tone, right? 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, and come up with a plan
5:32 pm
for responding. this domestication through animation as a technology and the narrative of the film is one of the hallmarks. the other thing that jacobs talks about is the way in which this film acknowledges, and now we are transitioning to attitudes towards education. the idea that you would have to respond, as a child by yourself, to an atomic bomb, rather than through a teacher or some authority figure, is a real shift. a real shift in traditional social roles, which is really part and parcel of the new atomic world, right? so what the film does, they assure children that grown-ups will be around, i am quoting from the film now, "older people will help us." it is an adult narrator, pretending to be a child. older people will help us, like they always do, but there might not be any grown-ups around when
5:33 pm
the atomic bomb explodes. then you are on your own. so they can help you get across the street. they can help you find shelter. but in that moment, what are you going to do to respond? and so, really trying to heighten the alert of the children. when you are on your own, be aware of when this is happening. you can see the girl cowering against the school building while. it can happen in the schoolyard. it can happen when you are riding her bike in the neighborhood. it is timmy, or tony, i can never remember, who is riding his bike and he drops his bike and covers. jacobs talks about how, in order to achieve these new social roles, what the film has to do is make some traditionally idyllic childhood spaces kind of scary. if you are in the schoolyard riding your bike, and atomic bomb could fall --an atomic bomb could fall. he says this is the dark side of cold war science education.
5:34 pm
this is a movie that tells a tale of a dangerous present and a dismal future, because of course then, it begs the question, if you are around and the atomic bomb drops and you duck and cover, maybe when you come up you are still alive, and maybe this is just the future, this decimated nuclear world. so duck and cover is a film that educates about the actual phenomenon, but also tries to persuade children that they can have a response, that they can have a social role on the home front to respond to this, going beyond what any role would be of the military to respond to an attack. that they have some control. pretty heavy stuff for elementary school. of science side education in this period, coming at it from the other angle, still addressed at children all the way to college students, is really focused on enhancing funding and investment by the
5:35 pm
government in science research and science education. this is not new to the 1950's. this is something that comes out of world war ii. the presidential science advisor described here on the cover of time magazine, the fact that the presidential science advisor is making the cover, described as the "general of physics," should tell you this is the vision of the future. that government will support research activities by public and private organizations, and in particular, science education, right? so the first thing to come out this "general of physics" heads a national science board that is rolled over into what is now the national science foundation. the national science foundation becomes the first very big government foundation. they were national institutes of health before that, but this is a big pure research and education funder.
5:36 pm
as the 50's move on, sputnik, which you may or not be familiar with, sputnik, the satellite the soviets fired into space that was circling the u.s., spying on us, really escalated cold war tensions between the russians and us, in particular around the issue of what they would call today the "pipeline problem." that's the idea that you need to have people at every level of science education staying in science education, so we can build what they call a scientific manpower. the same language as the language of war, but with these -- what these scientific manpower and womanpower people will do is work on research to counter the soviet threat. in addition to sputnik and all the existing efforts for the
5:37 pm
government to fund science and push an agenda of research and education, there was a massive economic boom after the war, and a large corporate windfall, particularly at companies like ell, science and technology companies. andy thought among those companies was that some of this might be put back into promoting science education. if you listent, to the beginning of "hemo the magnificent," brought to you by at&t to promote man's efforts to understand nature's laws. that is all well and good, but the other push was coming from advertising agencies, who of course had ties not just to advertising and media but the hollywood. marcel lafollet
5:38 pm
and others have found that the agency was pushing bell to attract more family audiences and hook them early on the brands, and then you will have a bigger market as time went on. this led to at&t, bell labs, investing in a series of science films which are among the most popular and widely house in classroom collections, even to this day. they are still held, though they are not shown as much. you can see they are on vhs and dvd now. these are about various ," "thena,, "our mr. sun strange case of cosmic rays," "unchained goddess," about the weather. onet one-hour programs and half hour program over a seven-year period, through
5:39 pm
which, and drawn the analysis between duck and cover and this, a similar recruitment of top-level artists took place to produce these films. it's lessind of, incongruous i think to focus on frank capra as doing his duty for the government to make a propaganda film, then it is to imagine somebody who won three oscars to decide he will do a science film. so what gives, with frank capra and his directing and production of many of these films? first off, capra, it was thought, had the perfect background for this. he actually had some science training. he earned his undergraduate in chemicalcaltech, engineering in 1980. during world war ii, he taught math to recruits in san francisco. he worked himself through
5:40 pm
college with odd jobs, and one day when he was working as a math teacher in san francisco, he saw an advertisement for the opening of a film studio. he went and basically hustled himself in the door, let him think he had more experience than he actually did with cameras and other things, because he was interested in it. and that was, that was what got the ball rolling. now, 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 these other films. he came back at a moment when his career was in a bit of a lull. it sounds kind of incongruous, because many of us remember him primarily for "it's a wonderful life," made in 1946, a much beloved film. at the time, it got mixed critical reviews, and he was in a lull, so that is part of the explanation why he went to do these films. the other piece of it, however, has to do with the fact that he
5:41 pm
was a deeply committed catholic. we will see, when we look at these films, that influence, and i will talk more about it after we watch the clip. so another thing to say about capra, later in his life he reflected back on kind of, what was it that made him a success? he subscribed strongly to what film scholars call the auteur theory, that the director has the vision, and the director is the one who, without any interference from the producers or anyone, recruits the riders, works closely with them. it is asuteur theory, but kind of a team working closely. he said, this is how motion pictures can have something to say to the public. so he did that, when he was recruited to work for the bell laboratories series, in several ways. the first was, he picked well-known actors. 's name is "the
5:42 pm
fiction writer," played initially by well-known tv character actor eddie albert, who became more known as his career went on. and in some of the later bell science films, played by richard carlson, who would have been recognizable to viewers from "creature from the black lagoon, " kind of a sci-fi context. toerestingly, carlson, reinforce this idea of the team that cap or had, carlson -- cap carlson directed some of the later films, so there really was a sense of collaboration. similarly, if you thought you heard -- the duck, you did. who was voicing many of the looney tunes characters, later voicing barney rubble on the flintstones, was part of the voice talent for this. the animators were headed by a shamusion company run by
5:43 pm
culhane, underscoring that you had people traveling from film culture to tv as a new medium, where they could work with other really interesting artists. culhane had an animated program he was making, mr. magoo, but he participated in animating "snow white." so kind of a long artistic legacy being taken from films to scientific education for television. so i want to transition to talk a little bit about the plot structure and the characters. this should be the most familiar with you, because we talked last time about "frankenstein" and "jaws." the plot of hemo is that the
5:44 pm
fiction writer, in this case it is carlson, the fiction writer creates cartoon figures, and there are animals alongside a greek god figure that they call their king. this is hemo, the magnificent, the king of nature, the king of the animals, but really the personification of blood. and hemo and his captive animals get into a conversation with the fiction writer and the gentleman on your right, dr. research. yes, he is asked to call dr. research. there was not a lot of creativity with names in this production. so dr. research, it turns out, is actually a university of southern california english professor named frank baxter. frank baxter was, if you went to school in the 1970's, 1960's, you are guaranteed to have seen one of his films. not all about english subjects. he had a famous series about shakespeare. he became the sort of
5:45 pm
personification of the scientists, even though he is a doctor, not a scientist. and mr. fiction writer and dr. research interact with the animals through a magic screen, which is an interesting way to describe a screen on which animation is projected. mr. fiction writer is kind of public,guy, joe q. forcing the concerns the audience might have. he smokes cigarettes. he's a little twitchy. dr. research is very calm. . he has a lot of the markers of a stereotypical nerdy scientist, going back to fred mcmurray and the nutty professor. the glasses, calm, rational temperament, the bland gray flannel suit. much of the first part of the the is a discussion between animated characters and the human characters about blood mechanics.
5:46 pm
it is a discussion taking place partially in film, partially in animation, but about halfway through there is a moment where hemo gets a little more confrontational and says, stop. you are just talking about plumbing. the humans are taken aback. he says, we're not going any further unless you can tell me the two words that unite the study of blood mechanics and the study of art and nature. mr. fiction writer gets a panic ked look on his face. he tries to get him to not do it, but dr. research is very calm. let's watch the clip where this goes down. >> that's a good question. but before i can go into that, i have to tell you something about blood itself. >> just a moment, brother
5:47 pm
scientist. so far, your chapter on plumbing has been elementary, but harmless. but now that you have come to me, i refuse to listen further unless you can describe to me in just two words. >> i can. >> never mind. professor, mentioned the two keywords, and i will know that you understand the mystery, and the true meaning of blood. otherwise, back to your plumbing. >> he's trapping us. do you know what the words are? you do? >> the two words that best describe you and the connection with the mystical origins of life -- seawater. >> seawater? [laughter] >> quiet. brother research, my apologies. >> you mean he is right?
5:48 pm
>> listen to this learned man, and you will hear a real tale. >> seawater. >> dr., please, tell them who i am. >> thank you. it's only a theory, of course. but if you squeeze the human wouldnto a sponge, you squeeze out some 30% of the body weight, about x gallons of water, which we shall call body fluid. then you squeeze out -- this body fluid has a salt content of 1%. tropical sea animals might exist in this aquarium of body liquid. the salt in seawater is like the salt in body fluid, as you can see. although seawater today is two or three times saltier than body fluid. some biologists account for this difference by saying that body fluids today represent a less salty composition of seawater, as it was nearly 400 million
5:49 pm
years ago, when life emerged from the sea and began to crawl on land. at any rate, 1.5 billion or 2 billion years ago, life is presumed to have originated in the warmth of tropical waters, as single celled aquatic organisms, something singular -- similar to the single cells we know today as the amoeba. this shapeless, jellylike, primeval cell absorbed food and oxygen directly from the sea, and passed out carbon dioxide and other waste into the warm ocean. in the beginning, hemo was the sea. >> so what we have their, on the one hand, dr. research is articulating what he says is just a theory about the oceanic origins of blood. but that linking of the oceanic origins of blood with hemo, as the sea, is basically frank capra wading into the territory of evolutionary biology.
5:50 pm
for capra, there really is no divide between a scientific vision of evolution and a religious appreciation for science and its view of evolution. and later on, you can see joe q. public, mr. fiction writer gets a little impatient with that. he starts to challenge dr. research, saying, are you saying unlike all those germs? i am different. and he does say, you are different. you have the human spirit. you are capable of doing science, and science is what links all of these things. so kind of not what you expected, right? something on evolution, in a film about blood. similarly, at the end of the film, capra once again invokes christian imagery, with what is supposed to be an inspiring final statement on the possibility of science and art. let's watch that one. >> the challenge to the spirit of man, and there are hundreds of others, but the man of
5:51 pm
science will solve them, brother hemo, someday. >> sure you will. what better way to love thy neighbor than to heal him? i have my little job, and my little animal friends, but we are limited. man is not limited. imagine, dream, create. you know right from wrong. gifts isese divine your job, and all of nature is waiting to see. you are right. research into nature's mysteries could well become the most rewarding and far-reaching of all the arts. s,e of your greatest physicist max planck, said that over the
5:52 pm
temple of science should be written the words "you must have faith." the apostle paul wrote, through all things hold fast that which is good. science has, have faith. faith says, prove all things. together, they spell hope. dream big. take a lesson from your heart. >> all right. so in case you were not getting it before the music started. so what is capra doing here? he's really articulating what he sees as fluid connections between science, art, and religion. human exceptionalism, that's part of sort of the western christian tradition. but human exceptionalism, part of that is being given the divine gift to reason.
5:53 pm
and that juxtaposition of max planck saying "ye must have saying against paul "prove all things," the scientific thing, is meant to be a use of imagery that blurs those boundaries. he does not see the blurring of those as a negative thing. he sees it as a hopeful thing, anything that could drive things forward in an inspirational act. there's other imagery throughout this film, and other bell science films in which capra was involved. when we get to discussion, we can talk more about how that shifted without his involvement. aboutdo want to hear more what your reactions are, in the future when we talk about these films, but in the meantime let's stay in the 1950's. what was the critical response to "hemo the magnificent?" the critical reviews were not
5:54 pm
great. this is the review from "time" magazine -- "hemo is a costly monument to the low opinion that some broadcasters hold to the u.s. viewer's intelligence." they thought it was condescending because it spoke to grade school children and try to interest them in silly ways. but also, the circulatory system discussion was really boring. why is it boring? thinks thatiewer it's because he used more animation than film. this is a case where the reviewer says, by jazzing up the story of the circulatory system, the threw a blight on scientific footage, film, which was as good as any of its kind ever televised, and the effect was, you never want to get this sentence in a review, "unhappily like a choice filet mignon smothered with mushroom sauce."
5:55 pm
the animation worked in debt and cover in a different way, and is probably ways there could have there woulded, but have also had to be film of animals, and that probably would have been a whole other set of issues to deal with, in terms of doing it in good taste, animal rights activism. so capra's choice to use animation rather than film kind of backfired in terms of critical reviews. that said, this is a wildly popular series, even when it came out. in 1956, the very first one attracted 25 million viewers. that is a lot by today's standards, because now we have so many fragmented segments of the market. but what was even more remarkable, over the next 10 years it found new life in classroom viewing. this was exactly like the vision of the fcc commissioner, that it would go back from tv to the classroom. capra got letters. james gilbert, a historian of
5:56 pm
american religion, has a chapter in his book about these films, and he cites a letter from a viewer telling capra it was "not only fine entertainment and scientific education, but it was a religious experience as well. to combine all these was a stroke of some genius indeed." so what's interesting about that, i think people make assumptions about the nature of science and religion after the scopes trial in america, because that was such a widely publicized media circus and such a clash between fundamentalist perspectives and science perspectives, but what we get from watching this movie is the sense there might be a 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 it was received the way it was for several reasons.
5:57 pm
you have to go back to television as a medium in development. the standards for different genres, science documentaries, science education, inspiration, were still being formed. so this is part of, the fact that these things are not settled allows capra to come in and kind of work with those. james gilbert has a different idea, coming from the perspective of the history of religion. his idea is basically that there wasn't as big of a cultural divide, that in very prominent cases like the scopes trial, that was exploited as a strategy to try to sell the controversy by the media, but in fact, as gilbert puts it, capra did not have to your bridges between science and religion because they were already there. all he had to do was walk is ohms across them -- walk his films across them. lastly, the perspective of a folklorist from indiana
5:58 pm
university, saying this was able to be made because capra was a and that heyteller, was exercising his artistic license to create a kind of new mythology, a quasireligious sense of cosmic unity, mystery, and awe. there are multiple theories for not only why it got made, but why it was received the way it was received, and wyatt continued to have success -- why it continued to have success over the years and classrooms. but again, conclude, by coming someto this larger lesson, of what we do in this class is very much science for the masses, right? science for a popular audience. pandora really warns us not to ignore science for popular culture, because when you ignore science for popular culture, you miss levels of complexity of thinking, in, she never says the public, because it's not a single entity, the public or
5:59 pm
popular culture. using popular culture to understand that this was present really not long ago. we are not talking about going back to before the reformation. we are talking about 1950's u.s. it gives us an example for why you need to study science in popular culture moving forward. the popular culture is not irrelevant. science and popular culture interact. 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. made anafollette excellent book, as well as katherine pandora on the study of science and the history of popular science. thank you for being here, and i will see you next week. >> you are watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook at c-span history.
6:00 pm
>> coming up >> coming up next, barbara krauthamer talks about using photography to chart american slavery. she discusses the legacy of emancipation and explains how freed african-americans used photography for a means of independence and self-expression. in addition, she goes over the change in depictions of african-americans through photography and its relationship to the perception of african-americans in the postwar united states. her talk is about 50 minutes. >> good evening, i'm peter carmichael. i'm the director of the civil war institute. it's my pleasure to introduce barbara krauthamer. she's an associate professor of history at the university of massachusetts at amherst where she teachings courses on u.s. history,

14 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on