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The University of North Carolina presents listen America directed by John Clayton and produced by Johnny Lee for the University of North Carolina communication center Erwin director to do this series we went to 13 of the top authors of this country and asked them if there was something they would like to say at this time to the radio audiences of America. We told them that of course there would be no censorship from the University of North Carolina that they could select any theme. It could be a big one or every day as they chose and they could write it up as they wanted to play a dialogue a talk. One of these writers was Randall Jor-El. Mr. Darrelle agreed to do this and prepared a script on the subject of education in present day America. Why should I stop out of them. Because it isn't so Uncle Wadsworth dear old Golden Rule days. That's just just nostalgia.
That's just sentimentality. The man who wrote that song was just too old to remember what it was really like. My kids hated school in those days. Every boy's dream was to play hooky. Education wasn't progressive then it was was reactionary and believe me the children hated it. It's different now. Children like to go to school now finished and finished uncle Wadsworth. So. Just. Right. Stop it a lot worse. Why should I stop this time out of the reading and writing and arithmetic. What a curriculum. It sounds like it was invented by an illiterate. How can a curriculum like that prepare you for life. No civics no social studies no health no home economics no manual training no physical education and the
extracurricular activities. Where were they. Where indeed. Where are the extracurricular activities of yesteryear. Shall I go on Alvin boy. Go ahead uncle Wadsworth. I. Love that stuff. Stop Uncle Wadsworth. Honestly uncle I don't see how you can bear to say it. Imagine having to beat poor little children with a stick. Thank God those dark days of ignorance and fear and compulsion are over and we've come out into the sunlight of appealing to the child's better nature and getting him to adjust and making him do what we want him to do by making him see that he likes to do it. The finish down of the finished uncle was worse now so
I can't seem to get going on this song every fifty yards I get a blow out and have to stop for air. You were on for a while and let me interrupt you. Besides I never did like that queen of the calico when it comes to Queens it's Ermine or nothing or may throw it out but go ahead where forget about those dark days of ignorance and fear and compulsion. It makes my flesh creep and I'm just like that boy I like to have my flesh creep. What sad boy. Well the one in Pickwick Papers you know. Pickwick Papers. Oh yes that's a book son a book by Charles Dickens. Ever read any Dickens. Oh sure sure I read The Tale of Two Cities in high school and Oliver Twist. Well really I didn't read it exactly. I read it in Illustrated Classics and I saw great expectations in a movie. Why you and Dickens are only friends but what you want about the
schools of yesteryear. Well I will Uncle Wadsworth because it's a subject I feel deeply about. After all it's just because I'm lucky enough to be born now but I didn't have to go to go to one of those schools myself. I can just see myself trudging to school barefoot in my overalls. Because they didn't even have school buses in those days you know. Not a one of a school bus had come from a I'd of thought it was a patrol wagon someone had painted orange for Halloween. Well there I am trudging along and I'm not only trudging. I'm limping. Stub your toe stubbed my toe. I am limping because I'm sore sore all over where the teacher beat me all over isn't where the teacher beat you out. I know. All right all right. When I get to school is that the Consolidated School. Is there a lunch room and a shoot to shoot and a jungle gym is it. Is it like schools ought to be that school has one room and it's
red. You mean even a Lowes days the comment is no no not read read read like a barn. And when I get inside the teacher is an old maid that looks like a broomstick or Also a man that looks like a broomstick too or or that looks like about crane and then this crane type teacher says to me real stern Alvin McKinley stand up. Are you aware Alvin that it is three minutes past seven. Three minutes past seven. What do you want about a crane doing a school of thought on godly hours. That's when school starts then. Or six maybe. Then he says point is think of it me in a terrible voice three minutes tardy and what elven did I warn you would happen if you ever again were so much as one minute tardy. What did I tell you I would do you. And I'd seen little boys because I'm scared I'd say with me. And he says yes with you and I say you say well don't whip poor Uncle Tom oh master if only you won't whip him he was stopped at Uncle
Wadsworth that's not what I say at all and you know it. How can I tell about the schools of yesteryear if you won't be serious. Well anyway he says to me Have you anything to say for yourself. And I say please Mr. Crane it was four miles and I had the cows to milk it and ma was sick and I had to help sister cook the hoe cakes at home OK. OK yes. Why how I haven't had any home cake since. How did you hear about a whole gig Zevon boy Uncle Wadsworth. If you keep interrupting me about irrelevancies How can I get anywhere. I apologize out of them silent. Well then he looks at me and he smiles like like somebody in Dick Tracy. And he says Alvin spare your breath. And he walks over to the corner next to the stove and you know what's in the corner what's in the corner. Steaks of every size hundreds of steaks and he takes the biggest one and he beats me.
So to be praised for a minute I was afraid he was going to burn you at the stake. Go ahead out and go ahead. It was just ten minutes after seven. Tell me about your day your school day your dear old golden rule. Well then he says take your readers and I look around and everybody in the room from little kids just 6 years old with their front teeth out to great big ones. Grown men practically what look like they ought to be on the Chicago Bears. Everybody in the room picks up the same reader and they all start reading out loud out of the coffee reader. The McGuffey reader. Why do you lie. Because it's funny that's why I got the reader have you ever seen a McGuffey reader. How could I Uncle Wadsworth. I didn't go to school back in those days. Your account of those days was so vivid that for a moment I forgot that. McGough adds It is a ludicrous name. It's almost the same as the word go for all has the word goofy isn't it. Yeah that's right.
You've never seen such a reader. Well I have Sure sure use one in school yourself didn't you. You know Alan. Strange as it seems I did not. Nor did I ever shake the hand of Robert E. Lee nor did I fight in the War of 1812 nor did I ever get to see Adam and Eve in the serpent. My grandfather use McGuffey reader. I did not. I'm sorry Uncle Wadsworth. No need no need. If you go over to the bookcase and reach into the right hand corner of the lowest shelf you'll find a book a faded reddish brown dusty old book. Here it is it's all worn and there's gold letters on the back it says Appleton's Fifth Reader exactly Appleton's fifth read it. As you know I collect Rand there flasks. Now that my physician has told me that I can.
It will matter a week before last I had an antique dealers over near Hillsborough side by side with a bottle green glass brandy flask bearing the features of the Father of our country George Washington. I found this reader looking yellow the paper is in a brown spots all over. Gee they must use it all over the country. It says New York Boston and Chicago 1880 and it was printed eight hundred seventy eight thousand nine hundred seventy nine two can look at the picture across on the other page. It's one of those old engravings I guess they didn't have photographs and I was they guess again out of NY and what is the subject of this Oden graving girl with a bucket and back behind her somebodies plowing and it's dawn and there's some poetry underneath the ploughman there are ten whistles all the photo on the milkmaids sing it live. That's right. You mean to say you memorized forty years ago album. It
doesn't any of it have a the milieu ring. Well to tell the truth uncle Wadsworth What does it say in small letters down on the right hand corner of the page it says Love Allegro page for 20 Allegro. Sure sure when I read it in sophomore English the year before last we spent two whole days on the poem and on you know the other one that goes with it there by John Milton. That's right John. And then that second was where you don't mean to say you had Milton in a fifth grade reader when we were sophomores in college and they were two football players that were juniors and believe me it was all Professor Taylor could do to get us through that poem. How could little kids in the fifth grade Read know that down the road. Do you remember reading a poem called Elegy written in the country. Well Gray's Elegy I kind of believe Samy some uncle Wadsworth who many a gem of purest ray serene the dock on Fathom
caves of ocean bear many a flower is born to blush unseen and waste its sweetness on the desert there. She who I remember that one. I like that one. Now in that very poem No uncle Wadsworth you're not going to tell me that Paul was in a Fifth Reader. No album I am not. I haven't. I want you to to steel yourself. That poem was not in Appleton's Fifth Reader. That poem was an Appleton's Frost reader you know and words where you studied Wordsworth and your soft morning letters. There are still a lot of Wordsworth's poems in Appleton's Fourth Reader. I guess in a sixth grade they were reading Einstein. No but in the Fifth Reader There is a piece by Bishop Berkeley the great philosopher in the Fifth Reader when you ride on the table of contents album their last elections by Addison Bunyan Byron Carlyle savant
is Coleridge the home Ancient Mariner Alvan the foal the Quincy Dickens Emerson fielding Hawthorne George Herbert Hazlitt Victor Hugo Doctor Johnson Jefferson Shakespeare Shelley Stern swift Tennyson thorough Mach 20 hard to believe and there are also selections from simpler writing. Yeah simple ones simpler writers such as Scott Burton Longfellow Hooper Audubon pole Oliver Wendell Holmes Benjamin Franklin Washington Irving in the fifth grade. Have you ever at college perhaps ever read anything by gator. I don't believe so. Well Alvin boy if after milking the cow and making the whole cage so you would limp for miles bare forth to that one room red schoolhouse of yours and been beaten by that crane of a schoolteacher you would still have got to read in your
Appleton's Fifth Reader one poem and five pages of prose from Getty's immortal very high meister. As it is you don't limp. Nobody beats you when you're read. Do you read album. Tell me some of the writers you read in the fifth grade. I don't exactly remember their names over there on the bookcase that red and yellow and black go off by itself is the fifth reader of today days and D. That's what it's called. It is I believe the most popular Fifth Reader in the country. That's right that's right handed There are now here on page three. Is its table of contents read out to me the names of the writers from whom the children of today get their knowledge of life
and literature. Well the first ones Fletcher deice later and then Nora Bergman and Sterling North and Ruth G plow ahead plow ahead. Yeah that's what it says. That then Ruth the candle. Gertrude Robinson. Philip K. Rowlands jaywalker makes badan Marilyn M.. You're sure you're not making up some of those names I don't know how could I Marilyn M. Taylor Sanford Tousey Gladys M. wick Marie Barton Margaret Litan Edward S. James know Jayne's Leonard K. Smith P.L. Travers Esther Shephard James Seebohm and Dr. sauce then. No US so us. I speak figuratively that I mean that here at last. Dr. saw is a name I can recognize the name of a well-known new interest in cartoonist O. Then there's I'm strong Sperry Meyer and Dobbs Alden G Stevens of any R. Davis Lucy M. Crockett Raymond Jensen
Hubert Evans Ruthie Tanner Three Boy Scouts Three Boy Scouts and Indian no doubt never heard of him or heard of them there's three of them. Three thirty three hundred. They're all Boy Scouts. These are names only a mother could love. Names only our mother would know. That they are honest named respected names the names of where the citizens are have not the slightest doubt. But when I reflect that it is these names that have replaced those of Gates a Shakespear of swift servant tears of Dr. Johnson. Of all the other great good writers of the Appleton Fifth Reader when I think of this album I am confused I am dismayed. I am astounded uncle Wadsworth. You've got all red in the face. They're also in the apple in the Fifth Reader album. I thought for a little bit analyses of the style rhetoric and organization of the literary works included penetrating discussions of their logic detailed highly technical instructions about the most effective way of reading them
aloud discussions of their scansion their versification careful considerations of etymology spelling pronunciation vocabulary and the general development of the English language. All these are not written in the pre-digested Baby Talk thought appropriate for children today. Let me illustrate here in a paragraph from Don Quixote is one of the fifth graders typical discussions of logic. I quote the question here involved is the overall Sufism of you beauty's is the man a liar who says that he tells a lie. If he is then he does not tell a lie. And if he does not tell lies is he a liar. If not then it is not his assertion a lie. It will be noticed that the perplexity comes from the fact of self relation. The one assertion relates to another assertion of the same person and the one assertion being conditioned upon the other. The difficulty arises. It is the question of self contradiction of two mutually contradictory statements.
One must be false. It is a Sufism but one that continually occurs among unsophisticated reasoners. It is also a practical Sufism for it is continually being acted in the world around us. For example a person seeks pleasure by such means that while he enjoys himself he undermines his health or sins against his conscience and thus draws inevitably on his physical suffering and an uneasy soul. It is therefore well worthy of study and it's purely logical for all universal negative assertions and the law is a negation are liable to involve the assertion itself in self contradiction. If I'd gone to the school then I'd have to know what that means in the fifth grade. You would have known it. Or else you never would have got into the sixth grade. I'd be the oldest settler in the fifth grade then because I'm a senior in college and I still can't understand it believe me college was never like this.
Has hit is surprising what those fifth graders know. He's another of those poems the kind that you read in your sophomore year in college and that your great grandfather read in the Fifth Reader. It's by George Herbert the great religious poet George Herbert. Read it to me Alan. And when you read it tell me what it means. Sunday by George Herbert. Oh Damon was most bright. The fruit of this the next World's But the endorsement of supreme delight read by a friend and with his blood accounts of time cares calm and day that week were dark but for the light towards death show the way the other days and I'll make up one man whose face thou art knocking at heaven with my brow the working days are the back part. The burden of the week lies there making the holder stoop and vow till die release appear. Man had man had Uncle Wadsworth. I'm all mixed up. I've been all mixed up if
you ask me that fifth grade was all mixed up too. Where did you first begin to feel confused. I never did not feel confused. Surely the first lie Yeah yeah the first line was all right oh de most common most bright that means it's Sunday it's all calm and bright the weather is all calm and bright. Then it says the fruit of this the fruit of this. What's the fruit of this. The fruit of this the next World's Bud World is Understood understood. Yes the fruit of this world in the bud of the next world. Oh. The endorsement of supreme delight. The endorsement of supreme delight I could watch with a line like that. You've got to admit a line like that's obscure what it means. It says that Sunday is like the endorsement of a check on a note because of the endorsement. The supreme delight also of ation is negotiable. We can cash it all off like endorsing a check.
Written by a friend. Friends got a capital F. Oh that means it was written by a Quaker. Well that's what it does mean we live on a road named friendly road because it goes to a Quaker church and a friend doesn't mean quicker than wise or got a capital I have written by a friend and with his blood. If you're talking about church and Sunday in the next world and Mention a friend who has written something with his blood. Who is that friend told him. Oh I see. The couch of time cares calm and day. Uncle Roger what do we have to read poetry. Of course not Alvin. Nobody else reads poetry so why should we. Let's get back to prose. Here's the way the Fifth Reader talks about climbing a mountain. I quote again. Some part of the beholder even some vital part seems to escape through the loose grating of his ribs as he is and he is more than you can imagine.
There is less of substantial thought and fairer understanding in him than in the plains where men inhabit his reason is dispersed and shadowy and more thin and subtle like the air vast Titanic in human nature has got in that disadvantage called him a little pill for him of some of his divine faculty. She does not smile on him as in the plane. She seems to say sternly why I came here before your time. Why you see me where I have not called you and then complain because you find me but a stepmother. So it's now free of all shut her life away. Here is no shrine or altar nor any access to my ear. Chaos an ancient knight. I come with purpose to explore to disturb the secrets of your rather watch words if a prose is like that I just as soon have stayed with the poetry.
Now Didn't they have any any plain American writers in that fifth reader plain American writers. That was thorough I was reading you. Well if he's too hard Here's what the fifth reader has to say about him. It's talking about his account of the battle between the black ends and the Red Book. The style of this piece is an imitation of the heroic style of Homer's Iliad and is properly a mock heroic. The intention of the author is twofold have seriously endowing the incidents of everyday life with epic dignity in the belief that there is nothing mean and trivial to the poet and philosopher and that it is the man that adds dignity to the occasion and not the occasion that dignifies the man half satirically treating the human events alluded to as though they were non heroic and only fit to be applied to the events of animal life. It's just like all Taylor. Professor Taylor would lecture to you in just that style. He'd get going that way and pretty soon he'd see we didn't know what he meant and then he'd talk so we could understand him. Well if the Fifth Reader sounds like that about ants I
sure don't want to hear it about scansion and etymology but I haven't. Wouldn't you like to be able to understand it. All of it. Don't you wish you had it in the fifth grade and known what it was talking about. I guess I do but when I made old Taylor's eyes pop out. All we ever got in the fifth grade was Boy Scouts going on hikes and kids going to see their grandmothers for Thanksgiving and stuff like that. It was easy and interesting. It was corny. Same old stuff. How can you make stuff like that interesting how in deed. But how did things like Shakespeare and good and Dickens ever get in a fifth grade reader. They've always been there. Yesterday here in the United States those things were in the Fifth Reader today. Everywhere else in the world those things or their equivalent are in the Fifth Reader. It is only here in the United States today that the Fifth Reader consists of Joes is a home run by rules Gee plow ahead and a
midnight lion hunt by three Boy Scouts and oh oh oh. You should see the first and second and third graders in Macmillan's first three readers there are only twelve hundred eighty four different words. A trained dog performing horse can learn to respond to two or three hundred words. By the time they finish the third grade these Macmillan trained children are able to read recognize five or six times as many as a trained dog who are true I am. She was worth I read in a recent bestseller this quote For the first time in history Americans see their children getting less education than they got themselves unquote. That may be and certainly for the first time in history Americans see a book on why their children can't read. Becoming a national bestseller being serialized in newspapers across the nation.
About school buildings held lunches civic responsibility kindness good humor spontaneity. We have nothing to learn from the schools of yesteryear. But about reading with ease and understanding the best that has been thought and said in the world about that we have much to learn. A child who reads and understands the Appleton Fifth Reader is well on the way to becoming an educated cultivated human being and if he has to do it sitting in a one room schoolhouse if he has to do it sitting on a hollow log Alvan he's better off than our boys sitting in the Pentagon reading days and deeds. And here's a jug of apple cider and two glasses out and let's drink a toast to the Appleton Fifth Reader. Long may she read. And now Alvin let us conclude the meeting with a song. WHAT SONG WHAT
SONG OF THEM CAN YOU GUYS. Start us off. Not. For the past half hour you've been listening to a program written by Randall Jarell. The series is listen in America directed by John Clayton and produced by Johnny Lee for the University of North Carolina communications center. Irwin director this series is produced on a grant in aid from the National Association of educational broadcasters made possible by the Educational Television and Radio Center
on each program of the current series one of the best of our American writers will present his views on the theme of his choice either dramatized or more directly as he chooses. And Mr. Jor-El's program the part of Uncle Wadsworth was played by Irwin that of Calvin by George Brown holds our actors are students professors and townspeople of the university community. And listen America is recorded in the studios of the department of radio television and motion pictures on the campus at Chapel Hill. The preceding program was made available to this day by the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is the end E.B. Radio Network.
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Listen America
Randall Jarrell
Producing Organization
University of North Carolina
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program features a script by Randall Jarrell about an education in present-day America.
Series Description
A series of 13 programs featuring the works of selected contemporary American authors.
Broadcast Date
Media type
Actor: Wynn, Earl
Director: Clayton, John S.
Producer: Ehle, John, 1925-
Producing Organization: University of North Carolina
Speaker: Kuralt, Charles, 1934-1997
Writer: Jarrell, Randall, 1914-1965
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 56-50-3 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:10
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Chicago: “Listen America; Randall Jarrell,” 1956-08-06, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 25, 2024,
MLA: “Listen America; Randall Jarrell.” 1956-08-06. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. April 25, 2024. <>.
APA: Listen America; Randall Jarrell. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from