Now, what have we done in a year and a half of broadcasting? We have done best when we have been systematic. An estimated 70 per cent of the eligible people of western Pennsylvania do not possess a high school diploma. (It is estimated that only half of the students who currently enter American high schools stay to graduate.) In September, 1954, WQED in collaboration with local and state school authorities established the High School of the Air. Algebra, English, and American history are telecast systematically by teachers drawn from the school systems. Enrollments at five dollars per semester were in the hundreds. We are driving now toward thousands for the third semester this fall. One Pittsburgh educator predicts that with a little more knowhow we can enable a person who never attended high school to do four years' work in two years or less of television and pass the stateprescribed examinations for his diploma. Of our television high school viewers who have already taken the official examination, 71 per cent passed. WQED's High School of the Air comes at 7 P.M., nine months of the year. What commercial station could, or should be expected to, devote that revenuerich hour to a noncommercial project?
In western Pennsylvania 10 per cent of high school students fail in some subject each year. The taxpayer bears the load of cramming these failures into already overloaded classrooms and upon already overburdened teaching staffs for a second try. This summer, again in collaboration with the school systems, WQED tried out television programs formaking up high school courses. If the experiment works, the cost will be a fraction of the cost of any other method available to enable these less apt young students to keep pace with their fellows and get off the taxpayers' bounty.
Here was a case in which we programmed an hour and a half per day five days a week for only 323 people - the number of enrollees. Two hundred sixtyfive took the stateprescribed examinations and 78 per cent passed. We have proved a point. Over 8000 Allegheny County high school students fail in one or more subjects each year. We estimate that by television we can cure these failures at less than 10 per cent of the taxpayers' present cost. Meanwhile we know that a much larger audience is having some fun brushing up on the R's.
This fall, with foundation funds WQED will launch a world first in education by television. Fifth-grade arithmetic, reading, and French will be taught in nine demonstration schools selected by public school authorities from the school systems. The youngsters whose parents consent will view on a screen and listen to a teacher who stands, not in the classroom, but in our studio. Into Mother's living room will come the same sights and sounds of teaching which reach her child in the classroom.
What are the implications of all these systematic educational uses of television in Pittsburgh and western Pennsylvania? Lower costs of education for taxpayers; keeping educational pace with the population explosion; multiplication of the influence of the great teachers; more economical design of school housing; at long last effective adult education; what more? We make no claims. But we have grasped the nettle and will not put it down until we know what television holds for systematic education.
What about adult education? The path of experiment for educational television in this area is not equally clear. Anyone who has attended a convention of adult educators knows what a sprawling diffusion of concepts exists. Everything from Greek drama to cooking is involved. In Pittsburgh, Don and Art, two inspired teachers of polytechnics, were an original WQED show. They started on a basement floor with a sawbuck and the simplest tools and have moved to quite sophisticated wood and metal working. Their "Shop Talk" continues today a systematic, utilitarian aid to homemaking in a full employment economy with its prohibitive costs for small jobs. Edwin Peterson, of the University of Pittsburgh, a nationally known teacher of creative writing, for thirteen weeks on our screen reduced the mysteries of good writing to their honest, unpretentious simplicities. Ben Spock, of "Mother, you know more than you think" fame, presided for months over his informal, unrehearsed panel of mothers learning with their viewers, case by case, the attitudes and techniques which make childhood - and adulthood - flower. Colin Sterne, composer and musicologist, is experimenting as a classical music disc jockey. What were the social, personal, and economic influences upon Bach or Beethoven or Brahms? Why did each write as he did in his special language of sound, melody, and rhythm? The story cannot be told in commercial television's occasional symphonic or operatic hour. Systematic regularity is the key to education. Only community television can essay so deliberate a process.
Admittedly, educational television will never intrigue as large an audience as Arthur Godfrey once commanded. But, free of the compulsion of the profit motive, educational television can probe for higher levels of cultural response. Already WQED has interested the networks. Dr. Spock has gone to NBC with his program intact according to his own academic standards. On August 2O, "The Children's Corner" began a demonstration series on the NBC network. How would its delectable puppet, Daniel S. Tiger, President of the "Tame Tiger Torganization," that humanitarian tiger of good will - how would he fare commingling his young wisdom with plugs for Acme Flakes? Who knows? But he has already proved in Pittsburgh that television does not live by commercials alone. If educational television blazes trails in the cultural wilderness - trails which commercial television can use - this will be a marginal plus for the endeavor.
Even if we do not seduce the networks from their convictions that all I.Q.'s are subnormal, still the movement may avoid provincialism. The Educational Television and Radio Center, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a creation of the Fund for Adult Education, provides a program exchange. By kinescope, a process of filming television productions, the good shows of one station may become available to others. Contributions are thus produced for the creative station and costs reduced for the others.
The Center, itself a nonprofit institution, must use its donated dollars on both sides. But it has produced for lowcost rental to educational stations some good programs. For example: "Date Line," done under the auspices of the Russian Institute at Columbia University an analysis of the current Soviet press; a series on music by the colorful Dr. Howard Hanson of the Eastman School of Music and groups from the Rochester Symphony; and a series of twentysix films called "Frontiers of Space," produced near White Sands by New Mexico's College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. WKARTV at Michigan State College has produced a poignantly lovely children's program called "The Friendly Giant." KETC at St. Louis has produced a hardminded, irresistible program for scientifically oriented teenagers called "The Finder." These two programs, with WQED's "Children's Corner," cover the gamut from crib to postadolescence. The Center has them for distribution to educational television stations. The educational stations which produced them received from the Center some revenue. All other educational stations, in being or to come, are relieved at the outset from the high costs of children's and teenagers' programs. The Center's kinescopes (films) will start them off at a modest rental.
We are searching for an educational television policy in Pittsburgh. Plainly we should be systematic in what we do. The casual extravaganza however superbly done, is not educational. But in what areas should we seek to educate? Clearly we must not indulge the delusion that we can invite all men to come and be cultural. This would leave no provision for those who will always consider Shakespeare mere bombast and would never choose a Martha Graham recital in preference to an hour at the Follies. But we must also avoid the delusion that all men are either eggheads or others. This delusion would make no provision for those who can graduate from calendars to Speicher or from ham to Hamlet. Individual human sensitivities are not constants but variables, moving more often than not in direct response to the quality of the stimuli. Educational television must, like education itself, have no fear of truth, feel no shame of the esoteric, hold no brief for the momentary taste of the majority.
Seven wealthy towns contend for Homer dead
Thro' which the living Homer beg'd his bread.
A teacher at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Institute of Technology told me, "We have a test for the success of WQED. It will occur when a member of our faculty buys a television set." In three years of thought and action, I have found no better criterion of success. When good teachers themselves are stimulated by educational television, I shall have no fears about the rest of the audience.