Ohio School of the Air

From Ohio History Central

The Ohio School of the Air was an early effort to use radio in public education.

In the 1920s, the new medium of radio reached millions of Americans for the first time. Some radio programs provided entertainment, while others presented current news. Advertisers used radio to introduce audiences to their products. Some people realized the educational possibilities that radio offered as well. Ohio was among the first states to use radio for educational purposes through the Ohio School of the Air.

Benjamin Darrow founded the Ohio School of the Air in 1929. In Radio: The Assistant Teacher (1932), Darrow described the purpose of educational radio in this way: "The central and dominant aim of education by radio is to bring the world to the classroom, to make universally available the services of the finest teachers, the inspiration of the greatest leaders ? and unfolding events which through the radio may come as a vibrant and challenging textbook of the air."

The Ohio School of the Air offered a number of subjects to primary and secondary school students. A course of study in art appreciation was taught by Henry Turner Bailey of the Cleveland Art Museum. The radio school offered special discussions on topics of interest to high school students, such as "Motion Pictures and the High School Student," "The High School Student Looks at His Parents," and "The High School Student and Radio." It also aired a series called "Men Who Made America." The school introduced students to literature through readings of dramatic stories.

The National Committee on Education by Radio (NCER), also known as the Payne Fund, originally financed the Ohio School of the Air. Two radio stations broadcast the programs each day: The Ohio State University's station WEAO (now WOSU) and WLW in Cincinnati. The school gained the support of the Ohio Department of Education, and the Ohio General Assembly agreed to provide additional funding for the programs after several months. The Ohio School of the Air reached more than 100,000 students in twenty-two states in its first year and created interest in radio education at the national level. It also became a part of a larger debate about public support for independent broadcasting and educational radio programming.

In 1937, the state legislature ended funding for the Ohio School of the Air. Without government support for its efforts, the Ohio School of the Air ended.

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