HOLOGRAPHY – HOLLOW LAUGH
Audio-Visual Media – Class 7 – Middle Lesson
The Class 1 teacher, Steen, had worked in radio before becoming a Steiner teacher; so he was the obvious choice to conduct the Audio-Visual, or Electronic, Media middle lesson in Class 7.
This was one of the ever-sensible swaps which occur – or should! – in classes right throughout the year. At the same time, the Class 7 teacher was enjoying a Radial-form Drawing 3 weeks with Steen’s Class.
Ideally the induction of different teachers (it does not have to be a swap) in the 3-week middle and afternoon block lessons increases as the children get older. In high school it is the rule rather than the exception! As it is important for Class 1 children to settle in and become secure with the school in general, and their class teacher in particular, it is only advised for them to experience a few different unit teachers in this year.
But by Class 7, the 13-year-olds, at the atrium of secondary school, should meet almost every teacher in the school in this way throughout the year. This cultural pollicization between the classes provides children with a variety, mitigating the fear of many parents that the 7-year class teacher period, where the children are so deeply influenced by one person, may lead to a kind of propagandizing – or ‘soul wash’!; one which may even be in conflict with the home values.
It is customary for the Class Teacher to present – almost without exception – the morning main lessons; the major scholastic stream of Language, Maths, Social Science; and Science. But it is the middles and blocks where a healthy exchange of teachers assures diversity of personality and point-of-view for the children.
The worst error is when a class teacher, so comfortable with his/her own children, simply doesn’t trust colleagues to teach the class. Then there’s the other illusion, when they believe no-one else can control them. If either of the above is actually true, then a sorry school it must be! The healthier attitude is one of gratitude that there are other talented people to whom the children have access; as well as regarding it as a privilege to be permitted to teach someone else’s precious class.
That was how Steen regarded it anyway, this potentially sensible system, one which has as its keystone, holism, is impossible if the school backslides into the discredited and time-wasting ‘period’ teaching.
The middles and blocks benefit in exactly the same way from unit teaching as do the main lessons; which Rudolf Steiner so wisely established in education. He would have had unit teaching right through the day, but strict government rules re. ‘one period religion each week’, ‘two periods foreign language’, etc., etc. prevented this in 1919.
Period teaching contributes to a lesser commitment from both teacher and taught, which leads to poor attitude, frustration and bad behavior even. Only sessional teachers who agree to teach in 3-week units (or other time) should be considered eligible to invite into the school.
So there Steen sat, facing his blank preparation sheet; he wondered what the spiritual essence might be of this unit – he’d never taught Class 7 before. Well, it was a middle lesson, one which called on the forces of, not scholasticism as in head/mains, but of expression, centered on the heart/thorax as it was. So a ‘feeling’ element must be pre-eminent in both presentation and experience.
The Audio-Visual Media unit is part of the Literacy stream of the 4 middle lesson streams, one awakening the Ego or self-hood of the pupil. What a responsibility!! A ‘literate’ person usually has more command of the ego than one who is not. This is the middle strand of 3, that of Oral Expression, the others being Foreign Language and Written Expression. This Oral-Feeling unit calls on, and stimulates, the ‘soul’ forces of the body-soul-spirit troika of the human being.
Steen also pondered on an even higher aspect of language teaching, its zodiacal reflection. Aries, with its Sense of Word, nourishes both the teacher and child in their long quest for ‘literacy’; this is enhanced by the particular ‘point of view’ or ‘Philosophy’, one of Rudolf Steiner’s 12 Ego Aspects. That which emanated from this sign is idealism. Steen would therefore concentrate on Idealism as a basis for his creative energies in this lesson – oh if only the big-wigs controlling the electronic media would do the same!
In the spirit of the ‘Zodiacal complements’, the young teacher looked across the Animal Circle to the opposite sign, Libra. Here he discovered that the Yin to Aries Idealism Yang was ‘Realism’. This reminded him of two major streams in spiritual life, the ‘practical idealists’, and the ‘imaginative realists’ – could one be both? Or neither, impractical idealists nor unimaginative realists – ugh!
The lesson subjects related to the two signs also formed a cultural partnership; Language and Drama. He used on how verbal and written skills form the foundation of good theatre; and of how drama can be so profitably employed to vitalize a unit on language – or in this case, the audio-visual arts.
“After all,” thought Steen “virtually every presentation on radio and television is acting of a kind – even news reading.” He scanned the heavens again for another zodiacal reality, that of the Education Zodiac. Beginning in Class 1 with Cancer where his little tots were; he counted around the circle clockwise up to 7 – Class 7 was indeed, on this 12-year pedagogic path, a Capricorn class.
“hmmm, that has the Quality, according to Rudolf Steiner, of ‘putting thought into the world’ – or ‘evangelism’ to use a less popular but more economical term. Well the electronic media certainly does a lot of that = or should! But what quality of thought?! My emphasis must be that of encouraging the children to place quality thought out into the world – creative thought even!
If the radio and T.V. producers were more scrupulous in this area, they might avoid the – mostly deserved – opprobrium they receive. The Greek representation of Capricorn in Pan (‘The All-Seeing’, as in ‘panorama’ – sight is the Capricorn sense.) He is both a high and a fallen deity. His goat-like ‘pandemonium’ – ‘abode of all demons’!
It is this lower aspect which can – and does – insinuate itself into the electronic media; one aspect being its addictive nature. Any addiction is an Ahrimanic illness; whether tobacco, violence, heroin – or television! Some people are even addicted to radio, being unable to endue, say, silence in the early morn – or bird calls even!”
Steen made a note to alert his children to this Ahrimanic/addictive element in audio-visual media; after all, to know it is the first step in mastering it. Perhaps some of the 13-year-olds are addicted already?! Well a discussion on the creative element of the electronic media might help. The people who gain the most are those behind the camera or microphone – those creating the programs, not the passive audience.
The idea then if one must make the electronic media part of one’s life (your author is a regular radio commentator, but doesn’t even own a television!) is to be the creator, in preference to the receiver. This Ahrimanic aspect is also known as ‘Mephistophelian’, meaning liar-spoiler! Over reliance on television and radio certainly does ‘spoil’ its community, brainwashing them to accept ‘politically correct’ rather than real ideas, or buy profit-correct products!
But the ‘lie’ is even more insidious; every time a film editor determines what footage the community can or cannot view, s/he is presenting a kind of lie – or misrepresentation at least. The producer – and advertiser – is usually only interested in a good story, not the truth – and the latter must never stand in the way of the former!
The electronic arts are the Ahrimanic counterpart of the visual and performing arts, and have to be seen as such. This does not mean we reject the; rather use them to our advantage. Above all, we should not be used by them. This vigilance tightrope is the one we tread right through the lesson. When we broadcast music, it’s actually not music at all; but a clever reproduction of an original performance, via the marvel of electrical impulse.
Again this does not mean that we don’t do it, but recognize it for what it is. The ‘lie’ can even extend into the expression of the music; a famous French Horn player recorded a major work but one note was flat. “No problem.” Said the helpful sound engineer as he cleverly manipulated the note to perfection on his mixing desk.
“But I didn’t play that!!” protested the integrity-impugned musician, as he was engulfed by a wave of shame at the ‘lie; that would be heard throughout the world in his name. Anecdotes such as these provide children with a safe middle ground of reality with which to view the industry – and Steen, having worked in radio, had plenty of these! And popular such stories were as this exciting 3-week unit unfolded.
There were two strands, the factual and the experiential – or the conceptual and the creative. Often these combine in a particular study area, for instance Advertising. The tangled jungle of selling, marketing and promotions was explored. Even though these primary children were protected from the seduction of the electronic technology, they still enjoyed creating television and radio commercials, using story-board and treatment sheets provided by the ever-generous photocopy machine.
Included in the factual side was information on ‘product-placement’; ever notice how often Coca Cola signs, bottles and paraphernalia appear in films? Coke is the biggest product-placement user in the world, spending millions a year on this most effective of advertising methods.
The class even role-played the ads created – and what fun it was! Especially trying to keep a straight face when espousing the virtues of Brand X with its clever punch line ‘…for your very own constipational crisis – the Governor-Generals’ answer to the toilet blues.’!
Another area of interest, one which has become an obsession with media people I this Age of Litigator, is the defamation laws. How careful one must be to avoid calumny and obscenity – but how necessary to protect our – anti-ahrimanic – freedom of speech. Somethings a song will pop out with an unexpected four-letter invective – bringing a similar response from the Station Manager! This various broadcast themes were discussed, such as: current affairs; news and weather; documentaries and doco-drams; variety; films, the test pattern!
A television program was copied and given to the class, where they had to mark in order their watching preferences. Some unpredictable and interesting facts can emerge from exercises like this. In this segment, the children also played around with interviewing techniques; either with each other, or with hapless passers-by.
They also had to draw up a treatment for a show of their choice, as a kind of mock submission. Some wanted to make nature documentaries, others soaps. Here the mindless but ‘addictive’ formula for these – 5 parallel plots, each with 28 second segments – was unmasked.
It must be re-emphasized that no video cameras or recording equipment is used in this lesson; rather being introduced in high school – as something to look forward to! However it is good for the children to see other people – industry professionals – use the equipment.
This was done with visits by the class to both television and radio studios. In the former, they took part as audience in a game show; this was arranged through Steen’s contacts some weeks in advance. “Why do we have to clap just because the sign says so?” complained one child loudly “Shhh – hey, up you get, the sign now says, ‘standing ovation’!” “But I didn’t even like the act!!”
The visit to the local community radio station was fun too; here the children were allowed to present a small segment of their own – an interview on their school actually. Here they experienced the difference between the various radio types; commercial, state and community.
The last is so unconcerned about either profits or image, that in the case of the station the class visited, it even had a program run my handicapped people. It might be hard for the ears to always hear what these happy presenters were actually saying, but the heart had no problem! How different from the limited music play-list, hip but formula announcers, and offensive advertising of the ‘real rock ‘n’ roll’ station most of them loyally listened to.
Steen found an unexpected source of content for the lesson, when searching for vocabulary extension (after all, words are ideas, and ideas are psychic muscles!), in the glossary of a book on the entertainment industry. It was amazing to him how many discussion topics arose from words like: sound engineer; 7-second delay; broadcast footprint; talkback; anchor-person – and so on.
Another area of interest was an exposition on the history of broadcasting, especially in Australia. Someone actually brought in an old crystal set, the first public radio receiver. Illustrating its mechanical/electronic principles in their book actually helped the children understand the ‘magic’ of wireless communication.
Wireless, and the role it played in the 1930s and ‘40s as the major cultural medium, was explained. How surprised the children were to hear that radio music was a rarity those days, the greater interest being on quiz shows, serials, drama, news, etcetera. Steen recalled his dad telling him that the ‘hit parade’ – The Top 8!! – was only played once a week, on Sunday night as a special treat. How different today are many stations, with their endlessly repetitive and gratuitous ‘Top 40’ hits.
The newsreel, as a precursor to EV, was given the importance it deserves – if not on artistic grounds, but archival ones. How Steen’s dad, at the ‘Sat’d’y arvo flicks’, would gasp in awe at the latest (well, almost) flood, war, train crash, oddity or political footage.
The mid ‘50s was the age of black & white television; that which threatened to ‘destroy civilization as we know it’ – maybe it did? Viewing the progress of the broadcast industry in decade terms, the 1960s is when technology left the planet altogether; and via satellite, extended communications immeasurably.
The mid ‘70s heralded color T.V., a visual seduction only the most staunch anti-T.V. people could resist. Yet even this was threatened in the mid ‘80s by the video revolution! And what of the 1990s? Pay and cable television? Here we might have 150 world channels to select from – as they do in New York – and none of them worth watching! Then there’s computer entertainment/information via the Internet and such.
This may even lead to an anti-technology backlash in the new millennium, one where information and entertainment are reduced to softer, more human-scale options – like conversation!
“One thing about the electronic media, it has never been static – er, so to speak – if new technology could be invented, it was, But it seems with space communications, there’s no-where left to go. Has the industry at last exhausted itself?” Concluded Steen as he wiped the blackboard at the end of this ‘informative/entertaining’ unit.
“What about holographs – 3-dimensional television? They’re predicted to be in every home in 15 years.” Proffered one techno-literate lad.
“Holographs, what are the…? No, not feasible – ha, ha…but then that’s what they said about the crystal set – and television, and videos, and satellites…” Steen wondered if he shouldn’t be sitting at a desk while some of these will-informed 13-year-olds gave the lesson!
“How did they go?” asked the Class 7 teacher later. “Oh fine, I had ‘em sitting adoringly at my feet, being a broadcast professional as I am!”