[The public's ignorance]

Sunday, December 04, 1955

This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.

Can you identify Columbus, Shakespeare, Napoleon, Beethoven? If you can, you are ahead of other Americans. A recent Gallup poll only 4 out 10 men in the United States and 3 out of 10 women correctly identified Karl Marx. How can we alert the world to the impact of communism when 6 out 10 of us don't know who Karl Marx is? Education. Stigma on education. Why is it such good form to belittle education? Was education really a dreadful time? If so, did it have to be so dreadful? Talks about children of poor class and of upper middle class. Disparity between the children and the kind of teaching they get. Only 2 out of 10 people knew who Freud was. In 20 years, we will have more ignorance than we have now. Present status of teaching. Science, base of all our great industries, has the greatest lack of teachers. Anyone with capacity for science is swept away to industry jobs away from education. Conscience money given to colleges. Teaching profession is belittled in mass media. Three largest corporations in America were preparing a television series about science. Purpose was not to sell the commodity of the corporation but to make science exciting and interesting. Broadcasting is underused in education. New media needed to make up for the deficit of people. Teachers' helpers can help free up teachers' time from things that have nothing to do with teaching. Children of the middle class direct their hostility toward their parents and children of poorer class are directing hostility toward their teachers. As part of their curriculum, children should write about the motion pictures they have seen. Makes children critical. Creating a new group of intelligent, young people who instinctively are critical of what the media brings them. Nation of critics will never become a nation of robotized people.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection

WNYC archives id: 70376
Municipal archives id: LT6655

Hosted by:

Gilbert Seldes


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About Lively Arts, The

Legendary critic and author of The Seven Lively Arts Gilbert Seldes discusses big-thinking issues in art and life from his characteristically populist perspective.

Simultaneously a timely and visionary program, Gilbert Seldes's The Lively Arts (1953-1956) examines contemporary issues of 1950s television, radio, and theater, as well as current events and the intellectual arts. Seldes, who was the first Director for Television at CBS News and the founding Dean of the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania, was also a renowned critic, author, playwright, and editor. As a major social critic and observer, Seldes viewed theater, television, and radio with a prescient eye to the future based on a well-informed understanding of the past. 

These programs feature commentary and discussion on a wide range of topics — from sex and censorship in the movies to progressive education to juvenile delinquency to political campaigning on television — many of which are still hotly debated today. Serving as a precursor to Seldes's television programs and providing an audio context for his seminal books, this show is key to understanding today's cultural commentary.


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