Archive for November, 2011

Enlightened in darkness

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Shortly to be published is Devin Orgeron, Marsha Orgeron (pictured) and Dan Streible (eds.) Learning with the Lights Off. Educational Film in the United States, OUP, 2011. This is about film’s educational uses in twentieth-century America. Illustrated with over 90 illustrations of rarely seen educational films, the publisher suggests that this collection of essays examines ‘some crucial aspect of educational film history, ranging from case studies of films and filmmakers, to analyses of genres, to broader historical assessments’. It also suggests that there will be links to many of the films.

For historians of the OU this could be of  interest as Harold Wilson was influenced by the owner of Encyclopaedia Britannica Films, William Benton. Walter Perry argued that Benton was one of the men whose vision of education for all, through correspondence teaching and the use of the mass media, contributed to the decision to found the Open University. An advocate of radio, in the 1950s Benton toured the world with his films arguing that ‘the cold war between the open and closed societies is likely to be won in the world’s classrooms, libraries, and college and university laboratories’. He also sponsored tours of the USA taken by Wilson. In return Wilson sought to help Benton to overcome his ‘problem’ concerning the British quota on the number of foreign films which could be shown. For Benton and Wilson widening access to knowledge, business and politics could all advance together.

Happy birthday, University of Sussex

Friday, November 4th, 2011
Fred Gray (a speaker on the 29th November forum) has edited a new book, ‘Making the future. A history of the University of Sussex’. This beautifully-illustrated account of the first fifty years of the university (1961-2011) consists of chapters by almost 70 different authors. Here are the voices, and the varied and well-presented images, of former and current staff and students. Their narratives are framed by Fred Gray’s introductions his overview and his account of continuing education (the field in which he became a professor).  

The theme of the liberalism of the sixties and seventies runs through the book as does the engagement with the distinctive and original curriculum. There are some parallels to be made with the OU, the influence of Asa Briggs on both places being one of them and the ‘early leavers’ scheme is another. One might also compare it to the University of Twente (founded 1961 as the first campus university in the Netherlands it insisted that engineers study social sciences) and it also influenced Kent, Lancaster, UEA, Stirling, Essex, York and Warwick.  (more…)

Happy 75th birthday BBC

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

The History of the OU project would like to wish the BBC a happy 75th birthday – for over half its life, and for the entirety of the OU’s existence, there has been a strong partnership between the two organisations which continues to this day.

For the first thirty-five years, course broadcasts were made on TV and radio. The first programme was broadcast in January 1971, a clip of which is available on the History of the OU website. Latterly there have been co-productions, right up to the present day with the new Symphony co-production between the BBC and the OU. For each of the four episodes, OpenLearn will feature an article from a member of the OU’s music department, extending the scope of the series. (more…)

Mind your language

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Born in Lithuania in 1858 Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, (originally Eliezer Yitzhak Perelman) moved to Jerusalem, married and tried to raise his son (born 1882) to speak only Hebrew. At this time there was only a limited vocabulary in the language but Ben Yehuda campaigned and from 1882 the language was taught in some schools. In 1884 a Hebrew newspaper was started. In 1918 a stone was laid to ceremonially show that there was to be a university in British Mandate Palestine and in 1925 the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was opened. The name reflects how language is often defended through universities. (more…)

University history is the nation’s history

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

The conference was a delight. We convened in one of the older parts of the university pictured in this report. There we heard a fascinating welcome talk from John Peter Collett, Professor at the University of Oslo and then Mitchell Ash, Prof of Modern History, Vienna presented a keynote on ‘Universities, science, scholarship and national identity’ and there was a contribution from Benjamin A Elman, Professor of East Asian Studies and History, Princeton who gave a paper entitled: ‘Why was the scientist in Chinese Universities call ‘Mr Science’ based on Japanese universities?’ A theme running through all the contributions was that of national identity. This postings title comes from John Peter who explained the centrality of the University of Oslo to Norway. Many universities provide training for the elite administrators of the state or church but also embody national and often regional pride. It was only when the talks had concluded and we were filing out, some of us with rather numb due to the unforgiving wooden seats, that I snapped the ceiling. (more…)