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ERIC Number: EJ809333
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Jul
Pages: 8
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 35
ISSN: ISSN-8756-3894
The Banning of You and Machines: Competing Discourses of Educational Technology during the New Deal
Cisneros, Jes R.
TechTrends: Linking Research and Practice to Improve Learning, v52 n4 p42-49 Jul 2008
While the spectacle of book burnings in Nazi Germany was something that most Americans recoiled from in the 1930s, by the end of the decade, on the eve of America's entry into the Second World War, the symbolic power of destroying books by fire was unfortunately something that certain Americans were not above seizing upon. In the 1930s and 1940s, audio-visual technologies became the major conduits through which the state communicated its aspirations to its public. If there is a fine line between the banning of books and the burning of books, then exploring a specific American instance of the former may help spare future generations of the latter. National Education Association (NEA) head J. W. Crabtree had been lobbying U.S. Secretary of War George H. Dern to see things his way on the urgent matter at hand, even invoking the office of President of the United States in the process. What motivated the leader of the nation's largest teachers union was his hope that the Secretary of War might lean heavily upon Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) director Robert Fechner to rescind his recent banning of the instructional booklet "You and Machines." Fechner had effectively suppressed the booklet from distribution to the CCC camps, and Crabtree hoped that the Secretary of War would convince Fechner to back down and allow distribution of the booklet. As head of the NEA, Crabtree deemed Fechner's censorship a "flagrant insult" to the federal Office of Education, which had been tasked with advisement on all educational matters within the CCC. Crabtree went as far as threatening to initiate Congressional hearings into what he perceived to be a heinous violation of academic freedom. He felt that such hearings might be feared enough within the administration that Fechner would be advised to back down. Perhaps already knowing that Franklin Delano Roosevelt would support him, Fechner responded politely, but in no uncertain terms, that his decision to ban the instructional booklet would stand. Thus began one of the most fascinating instances of censorship during the New Deal era. This article explores what this incident suggests about the competing discourses regarding the role of technology in society, and highlights an instance where this conflict reached the highest levels of government. (Contains 4 figures.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Germany; United States