I forget who said in a rather cautionary tone “When you consider the power of TV to educate aren’t you pleased that it doesn’t!”
I thought about that the other day when into my possession came a Schools Music Bulletin from the 1960s and I got quite nostalgic. I recall, all those years ago, when I was in the primers and the standards looking forward to those programmes. They were broadcast to us from that speaker up on the wall above the teacher’s blackboard, the same one that would bring messages from the Headmaster, an event once described by a friend as “old men doing their knitting over the air!”
The Schools Music Programme would seem pretty dull now but I was reminded that we tackled quite a range of songs which were, of course, sung clearly and beautifully by the unseen choir and rather less accurately by us. But it was fun and it gave us exposure to music regardless of the extent to which our teacher was tone-deaf.
And the pupils in Gore got the same programme that we got – it was in a sense using technology to bring quality experiences into each classroom.
There were other uses of radio too and I recall the weekly “Assembly” of the correspondence school, National Radio on a Friday around the middle of the day. Ormond Tate delivered particularly sound homilies but he had an advantage over other principals who knew how many they were speaking to but never how many were hearing them who knew neither.
Then let’s not forget the National Film Library, that rich treasure house of fun, information, and enlightenment through the magic of 16mm film. I wonder if television has ever achieved the impact of that service – leather pizza boxes strapped securely arriving weekly and replenishing young peoples’ appetite to learn.
And yes, teacher skill was certainly required. When I trained to be a teacher I dutifully undertook instruction in how to operate a film projector and having passed the course and been duly certified, marched forth to show films to students.
I was a little surprised to hear the CE of Xero, that high flying tech company, recently say that getting skilled people in New Zealand was difficult. He questioned the schooling students were getting – “Don’t give them iPads, teach them to think and solve problems” he said or something along those lines.
The beauty of radio has always been that it requires effort from the listener. What comes out of the radio is half the story, the understanding and embellishment of the pictures, the sounds and the words is in the hands of the listeners. I grew up listening to the Goon Show – mad disjointed crazy stuff that was gifted to a listener to make of it whatever they might.
On the other hand, radio now is full of either celebrity chitchat or hosts inanely laughing at their own jokes seemingly unaware of how unfunny they are. You couldn’t play that sort of material to young people.
So do National Radio and the Concert Programme fit the bill for exciting young people? The best of it might but it falls away too quickly. I personally have long felt that the best of national radio is to be found in the rural broadcasting programmes – middle of the day to catch the farmers when they are inside having lunch. You get a flavor of real people doing important work through those broadcasts.
But the concert programme is as much articulate chatter as it is concert these days. Don’t you just love those stations committed to classical music that you can now access over the internet? Now that’s a funny thing, using the internet to get something we used to get from old radios with glowing valves!
And all that from an old journal for the Music to Schools Programme. I must get back to chortling my way through The Ash Grove.