Visual Pedagogy: Media Cultures in and beyond the Classroomby Brian Goldfarb, Brian Goldfarb, Goldfarb
In classrooms, museums, health clinics and beyond, the educational uses of visual media have proliferated over the past fifty years. Film, video, television, and digital media have been integral to the development of new pedagogical theories and practices, globalization processes, and identity and community formation. Yet, Brian Goldfarb argues, the educational
In classrooms, museums, health clinics and beyond, the educational uses of visual media have proliferated over the past fifty years. Film, video, television, and digital media have been integral to the development of new pedagogical theories and practices, globalization processes, and identity and community formation. Yet, Brian Goldfarb argues, the educational roles of visual technologies have not been fully understood or appreciated. He contends that in order to understand the intersections of new media and learning, we need to recognize the sweeping scope of the technologically infused visual pedagogy—both in and outside the classroom. From Samoa to the United States mainland to Africa and Brazil, from museums to city streets, Visual Pedagogy explores the educational applications of visual media in different institutional settings during the past half century.
Looking beyond the popular media texts and mainstream classroom technologies that are the objects of most analyses of media and education, Goldfarb encourages readers to see a range of media subcultures as pedagogical tools. The projects he analyzes include media produced by AIDS/HIV advocacy groups and social services agencies for classroom use in the 1990s; documentary and fictional cinemas of West Africa used by the French government and then by those resisting it; museum exhibitions; and TV Anhembi, a municipally sponsored collaboration between the television industry and community-based videographers in São Paolo, Brazil.
Combining media studies, pedagogical theory, and art history, and including an appendix of visual media resources and ideas about the most productive ways to utilize visual technologies for educational purposes, Visual Pedagogy will be useful to educators, administrators, and activists.
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VISUAL PEDAGOGYMedia Cultures in and beyond the Classroom
By BRIAN GOLDFARB
DUKE UNIVERSITY PRESSCopyright © 2002 Duke University Press
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMedia and Global Education
Television's Debut in Classrooms from Washington, D.C. to American Samoa
In 1961 the popular press (notably Reader's Digest) pointed to the impoverished conditions in American Samoa as an example of the hypocrisy of the Kennedy administration's social welfare, foreign aid, and development policies. The administration's relative nonintervention in the indigenous cultural practices of other nations drew particularly sharp criticism. The unincorporated South Pacific territory, ceded to the United States by Samoan chiefs in 1900, was governed under the authority of the U.S. Navy until 1951, when the Department of the Interior took over responsibility. The plight of the islands, according to the Reader's Digest article, was the result of sixty years of neglect. Negative media attention to the administration on this issue, it was noted, promised to be exacerbated by the attention that American Samoa would draw as the site of the first meeting of the South Pacific Commission, an organization of representatives from territories and recently of soon-to-be independent nations, in 1962. This publicity, coupled with negative congressional reports about social andeconomic conditions in American Samoa, spurred the U.S. Congress and the Department of the Interior to seek swift changes in its administration of this small South Seas territory.
In response to the situation, President Kennedy appointed a new governor to the islands, H. Rex Lee, an Idaho-born government officer and farm specialist from the mainland who had established his reputation through his work at the Office of Indian Affairs. Shortly after taking office in Pago Pago, Lee and his staff proposed an educational reform project in American Samoa with the goal of overhauling the nation's entire school system. Their vision was to implement an educational television system based on the newly developed models that Lee had observed in his work on the mainland United States-projects largely sponsored by the Ford Foundation in poor urban neighborhoods of Washington, D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia. Congress and the Department of the Interior endorsed Lee's plan, which led to the construction of a broadcasting system in American Samoa that, in 1964, was the largest educational television infrastructure in the world. The system was designed to serve all students in all grades of the territory's primary and secondary schools.
Framed by its architects as a model program, the Samoan Educational Television Project was a part of a movement to replace traditional teaching with televised broadcast lessons. Educational television (ETV) was one of numerous responses to the highly publicized crisis in U.S. public schools during the 1950s and 1960s-a crisis that included a shortage of qualified teachers, overcrowding of schools, concerns about the quality of education (specifically as a means of supplying the nation's scientific brainpower), and debates about busing in response to the ruling on Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. The media-generated shaming of the government for its "neglect" of its unincorporated territory was matched, if not outstripped, by the media's attacks on the nation's inadequate public education system, which, in the early 1950s, was still almost exclusively the domain of state and municipal governments. Following the height of this crisis, the Samoa project marked a turning point in the use of educational technology and the transfer of educational responsibility to the federal government.
The Samoa project followed a decade of rapid growth of ETV projects in urban settings throughout the United States. It was the first attempt to introduce educational television on such a massive scale, as the centerpiece of the wholesale restructuring of schooling. Government administrators and progressive educators alike embraced the project as a model for improving education in territories, developing nations, and public school systems throughout the United States. The project was immediately followed by the founding of a number of large-scale ETV initiatives in developing nations, most notably in Niger (1964), El Salvador (1967), the Ivory Coast (1971), Brazil (1970), and India (the site of the 1975-1976 Satellite Instructional Television Experiment).
These early experiments in the use of televisual technology in schools to centralize curricula and alleviate teaching loads proved unsuccessful; most of these projects, including the one in Samoa, were dismantled or scaled back by the late 1970s. In subsequent years, television was incorporated into U.S. schools and overseas educational reform projects in much more modest doses and with less regularity, functioning generally as an addition to preexisting print media. The Samoa project, however, does serve as an instructive example of how an ideology linking new technologies and pedagogical reform became pervasive in the later part of the century. The project is an early example of the export of communications technologies and ideologies in overseas institutional settings including education, health, and business-a relationship that would become emblematic of the postwar globalization of U.S. technology that saw its apex in the formation of the Internet.
In this chapter, I examine the social, economic, and institutional forces behind the Samoa ETV project. I consider how nascent communications media became identified as instruments of global discipline and cultural indoctrination. For the United States, federal involvement in education policy and federal regulation of the media were parallel developments driven by the country's rapidly changing role in the global economy after the Second World War. These two developments were increasingly harnessed together through the intersecting interests of social and economic bodies that might otherwise have seemed strange bedfellows-private foundations and government entities, for example. By examining the project, I hope to provide insight into how pedagogical authority became central to relationships of power within an increasingly technological and globalizing society.
The Samoa ETV project was proposed as a solution to an immediate crisis in U.S. diplomacy. It was introduced in part to stave off further bad publicity surrounding the conditions in American Samoa, but more centrally to develop models for improving education on the mainland. Although nominally aimed at improving the image of the influence of the United States on the developing world, the project was a maneuver to promote technological solutions to the widespread educational crisis in public schools. This crisis was understood as potentially threatening to U.S. leadership in relationship to other world powers (most notably the Soviet Union). The Cold War ethos of intellectual leadership, driven by a fear of Soviet technological and scientific superiority, fostered a heightened interest in educational reform. Technological advancement, then, was viewed as both the goal and the method of educational reform.
The Samoa ETV project is a starting point for thinking about how power was conceived and enacted through pedagogical programs within and across national boundaries in the second half of the twentieth century. ETV in Samoa brought about ideological changes not only in the schools but in the broader culture as the technology that made the educational system viable also made possible new patterns of consumption and everyday lifestyle. As one source reports, in El Salvador the introduction of ETV brought about minimal changes in the broader society because television and general services already existed there. In Samoa, educational television represented the first introduction of technology on a broad scale. Electrical appliances began to appear in stores as villages were wired to accommodate the school television system. People changed their lifestyles and recreation habits. Media pedagogy thus was the impetus for the introduction of a Westernized culture of consumption and leisure.
The project received extensive press coverage from its launch in 1962 through 1971, after which changes in the political administration led to a swift reduction in economic support to the program. Life, Look, Ebony, and other mainstream magazines ran upbeat stories about the young American teachers who became the first tele-educators on the remote South Pacific island. The project was widely studied and observed by visiting scholars and delegates of educational and political entities. Professional journals such as American Education ran features with titles like "TV Goes Way Out and Brings the World to Samoa." Although these articles generally toed the prophetic techno-utopian line of the program's promoters, academic journals and government-sponsored studies debated and closely scrutinized its efficacy and its implications for other, similar projects-particularly on the mainland.
Following its media moment in the 1970s, the project was forgotten. The scant attention it has received since has been limited to a few scholarly essays on education or media, and one book. Armand Mattelart provides what is perhaps the most in-depth critical analysis of the project in his book-length study of multinational corporations. He views the project as an experiment in the indoctrination of Third World peoples into American consumer culture:
Just as Puerto Rico from 1937 on was converted into a contraceptive testing laboratory where the neo-Malthusian policies reserved by the Empire for the Third World were developed, so Samoa became a guinea pig for the Ford Foundation to study the reactions of an undereducated population to its tele-educational projects.... All the conceptions that inspired U.S. research into a model for tele-education for the proletarian nations were revealed by the Samoan project.
Mattelart's analysis of the program is exemplary of a broader late-1970s critique of cultural imperialism of which he was one of the key proponents. This school of thought drew on the Frankfurt school critiques of ideology, suggesting that Third World countries were prey to a form of calculated dominance by Western proponents of global capitalism. In this framework, the Samoa ETV project is an example of the power of nations to control foreign markets through corporate control of social and cultural resources such as education and entertainment. In his short account of the project, Mattelart attributes leadership of the project to the Ford Foundation alone.
His assumption is not only mistaken but allows for a misconception about a crucial and complex relationship among government, private foundations, and professional entities-a relationship that characterized such initiatives in technological development in schools and other social institutions. It is true that until the time of the Samoa project, nearly all U.S.-based work in ETV was done under the auspices of the Ford Foundation. The Samoa project, however, was monitored by the Ford Foundation but carried out by the National Association of Educational Broadcasters (NAEB), under federal contract with Governor Lee. It is clear from documents that appropriations from Congress funded the project; hence the Ford Foundation's financial role is unclear. As a funder of the NAEB, the foundation exercised significant influence on that organization's projects. But records do not tell us whether the foundation's say in this project stemmed from its direct financial support. More significant than the exact economic relationship, however, is the fact that the project illustrates the complex interplay among private foundation, government, and professional cooperation in the postwar development of media pedagogy as a global enterprise.
Mattelart identifies the project as one among many examples of U.S. cultural imperialism following the Second World War. Citing Ford Foundation experts, Mattelart suggests that the program aimed to expose Samoans to modern-day conveniences of consumer culture: washing machines, mopeds, automobiles, and foreign foods. The main object of the ETV project, he suggests, was to break Samoans of their traditional lifestyle and bring them into the fold of the Western market economy. The introduction of modern Western consumer culture may have been one of the achievements claimed by some proponents of the ETV program, and this type of cultural imperialism was undoubtedly an effect of projects like this one. Cultural indoctrination, however, was by no means the central objective of those who masterminded and implemented the Samoa project. In fact, its purported objective of educational reform was unclear with regard to the issue of economic and cultural assimilation. What appears quite significant, in retrospect, is that such a sweeping educational reform initiative was enacted without any unified resolve among the project's authors and educators about what the Samoans should or would gain from this program, much less what benefit would accrue to the United States. Moreover, the motivation for effecting cultural indoctrination was unclear. A typical motivation during this period would have been to create a cultural climate amenable to the introduction of U.S.-mainland goods, services, and industries. Annual reports to the secretary of the interior suggest that American Samoa presented little in the way of economic prospect for U.S. businesses, suggesting that this motivation was minimal, if not absent. The territory remained largely of military strategic interest.
Another explanation for the intense interest in American Samoa as a site for ETV is that the territory provided a convenient "remote test site" for programs that might aid the troubled mainland public school systems. Taking place within a community that was small, isolated, and contained, the project could be instituted and controlled, and its success measured, with relative ease. Moreover, the literature on the project tacitly constructs parallels between the lives of American Samoans and those Americans living in inner-city ghettos on the mainland where similar educational technology systems had been tried. Both groups were poor, technologically underdeveloped, and "remote" in both a geographic and a cultural sense (from the normative perspective of suburban middle-class America). And both groups were experiencing shortages of teachers and teaching supplies. Discourse on educational reform in the United States was, at the time of the Samoa ETV project, closely tied to the understanding of what it meant to be an educated American within the global context. Hence it was not far-fetched for the media to link inhabitants of a territory with disenfranchised citizens of mainland cities.
Education and technology were linked in a Cold War ethos of leadership in a world economy. The education-through-technology of the Samoan people modeled on a microcosmic scale what could also be put into effect in mainland schools, ostensibly to rectify the educational crisis that could make the country lose its hold on world leadership. Paradoxically, a poor, remote, and largely unindustrialized territory marginal to U.S. interests became the test case for technology-linked educational advancement, determining the future use of technology in the industrialized urban communities of the country's central cities.
The Project's Goals and Structure
In 1961 the Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs presented the newly appointed Governor Lee with a complete study of conditions in American Samoa along with recommendations for improving the territory's economic and social conditions. The Samoan school system was described in this report as seriously impoverished and subject to protracted neglect. The United States was spending less than fifty dollars per pupil each year on education in American Samoa, a small percentage of the money spent per pupil on the mainland. Teachers were described as poorly prepared and downright unqualified, testing on the average at the fifth-grade level. The school infrastructure was minimal and outdated. There was enough space in the existing high schools to accept only one-third of the graduates of the territory's primary schools. The committee recommended large appropriations for buildings, teacher training, curricular improvement, equipment, supplies, and other teaching aids, and the extension of universal public education to all children between the ages of six and sixteen. Along with this call for increased resources, and in tune with the policies of the Kennedy administration, the report stressed that changes in the educational system should be attuned to the needs of American Samoans.
Excerpted from VISUAL PEDAGOGY by BRIAN GOLDFARB Copyright © 2002 by Duke University Press
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Meet the Author
Brian Goldfarb is Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of California, San Diego. He was Curator of Education at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City from 1993 to 1997.
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