Education Reporting on Public Television


Notes to Front Page

1 James Henry Jr., An Address upon Education and Common Schools (Albany, 1843), quoted in Johann N. Neem, Democracy’s Schools: The Rise of Public Education in America (Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press, 2017), 31.

2 Robert J. Blakely, To Serve the Public Interest: Educational Broadcasting in the United States (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1979), 84, quoted in Carolyn Norah Brooks, “Documentary Programming and the Emergence of the National Educational Television Center as a Network, 1958-1972” (PhD diss., The University of Wisconsin - Madison, 1994), 43.

Notes to Education Documentaries in the NET Years, 1953-1972

3 James Day, The Vanishing Vision: The Inside Story of Public Television (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1995), 65.

4 Day, Vanishing Vision; 62, Brooks, “Documentary Programming,” 87.

5 Brooks, “Documentary Programming,” 47-60.

6 Ibid., 20.

7 Ibid., 100.

8 Ibid., 78.

9 Ibid., 97.

10 N.E.T. Program Philosophy and Purpose: A Guideline for Staff Planning, November 1964, from NET Papers, Vice-President for Development Files, Series 3, Box 2, Folder 17, 1, quoted in Brooks, “Documentary Programming,” 156-57. The complete document is available in the appendix of Brooks’s dissertation.

11 Dana Goldstein, The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession (New York: Anchor Books, 2015), 113.

12 Day, Vanishing Vision, 23.

13 Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).

14 Goldstein, Teacher Wars, 113.

15 “Johnson's Remarks on Signing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act,” April 11, 1965,

16 Ira Katznelson and Margaret Weir, Schooling for All: Class, Race, and the Decline of the Democratic Ideal (New York: Basic Books, 1985), 12.

17 Goldstein, Teacher Wars, 140-43.

18The Library of Congress is in the process of digitizing and making available in AAPB its extensive NET Collection. All programs mentioned in this exhibit that are not currently accessible online in AAPB are available to be viewed at the Library of Congress Moving Image Research Center.

19 “News from NET” America’s Crises: Marked For Failure, n.d., from NET Programming Files, 1; Untitled document which lists NET’s Public/Cultural Affairs, 16, quoted in Brooks, “Documentary Programming,” 168.

20 Other episodes include “Marked for Failure,” “Semester of Discontent,” and “The Teacher Gap.”

21 Brooks, “Documentary Programming,” 168.

22 “Coverage of the Civil Rights Issue During the Summer and Fall of 1963,” n.d., from NET Papers, Vice-President for Development, Series 3, Box 4, Folder 4, 1-2; Ed Pfister, “News from NET: Confronted,” 26 November 1963, from NET Papers, Vice-President for Development, Series 3, Box 4, Folder 4, 1, quoted in Brooks, “Documentary Programming,” 110.

23 Ibid.

24 Brooks, “Documentary Programming,” 186.

25 Donald Dixon interview, quoted in Brooks, “Documentary Programming,” 186.

26 Peter C. Stuart, “National Education TV Digs below News Surface,” The Christian Science Monitor, March 14, 1970, ProQuest Historical Newspapers.

27 N.E.T. Program Philosophy and Purpose, quoted in Brooks, “Documentary Programming,” 1.

28 Brooks, “Documentary Programming,” 205.

29 Ibid., 199.

30 Ibid., 209.

31 Ibid., 252.

32 Day, Vanishing Vision, 104. Created to provide the first live weekly program to the interconnected stations in the NET network, in the first year, PBL offered a “proto-magazine show” with different segments in each episode. By year two, PBL segments extended in length, often featuring a single long-form documentary for the entire program.

33 Zipporah Films, Inc.,

34 Howard Brick, Age of Contradiction: American Thought and Culture in the 1960s (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1998), 169-70.

35 Brooks, “Documentary Programming,” 261-62.

36 Day, Vanishing Vision, 176.

37 Brooks, “Documentary Programming,” 272.

38 Ibid., 291.

39 Ibid., 291-92.

40 Ibid., 289.

Notes to Capturing Education Battles on Television, 1972-1980

41 Sarah-Ann Shaw, “The History of Say Brother,” The Say Brother Collection, last modified 2001,

42 For ways that non-commercial radio covered the Civil Rights Movement in the South, see the AAPB exhibit, "Voices From the Southern Civil Rights Movement."

43 Katznelson and Weir, Schooling for All, 186, 209.

44 Moakley Archive and Institute, “Busing in Boston: A Research Guide,” Suffolk University in Boston, last modified 2015,, 1.

45 Bruce Gellerman, “‘It Was Like a War Zone’: Busing in Boston,” WBUR News, last modified September 5, 2014,

46 Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Movement, “The Keys to the Kingdom (1974-80),” episode 7, PBS, first broadcast February 26, 1990, directed by Jacqueline Shearer and Paul Stekler, written by Steve Fayer.

47 Gellerman, “It Was Like a War Zone.”

48 Moakley Archive and Institute, “Busing in Boston.”

49 Dana Goldstein, Teacher Wars, 167-68.

50 Katznelson and Weir, Schooling for All, 206.

51 WGBH Archives, “History,” The Ten O'Clock News, last modified 2003,

52 Ibid.

53 Shaw, “History of Say Brother.”

54 Dana Goldstein, Teacher Wars, 114.

Covering Education in the 1980s

55 United States. National Commission on Excellence in Education, A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform (Washington, DC: The Commission, 1983), 1.

26 Ibid., 5.

57 Ibid., 8.

58 Katznelson and Weir, Schooling for All, 211.

59 For summaries of these texts, see Joseph L. DeVitis, ed., Popular Educational Classics: A Reader (New York: Peter Lang, 2016). The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching also funded the public television documentary High Schools (1983) to complement the report by Boyer. High Schools is available for viewing at the Library of Congress Moving Image Research Center.

60 Terrel H. Bell, “Education Policy Development in the Reagan Administration,” Phi Delta Kappa International 67, no. 7 (March 1986): 488,

61 Goldstein, Teacher Wars, 168, 174.

62 Mary Ellen Schoonmaker, “The Beat Nobody Wants,” Columbia Journalism Review 23, no. 5 (January/February 1985): 38, Ebsco Humanities Full Text (H. W. Wilson).

63 E. Patrick McQuaid, “A Story at Risk: The Rising Tide of Mediocre Education Coverage,” The Phi Delta Kappan 70, no. 5 (January 1989): K4,

64 Ari L. Goldman, “Covering Education: What's Our Grade?” Columbia Journalism Review 39, no. 3 (September/October 2000): 34, ProQuest Central.

65 George R. Kaplan, “TV’s Version of Education (And What to Do about It),” Phi Delta Kappa International 71, no. 5 (January 1990): K2,

66 George R. Kaplan, “A Gentleman’s C for TV's Education Coverage,” in Imaging Education: The Media and Schools in America, ed. Gene I. Maeroff (New York: Teachers College Press, 1998), 200.

67 John Merrow, The Politics of Competence: A Review of Competency-Based Teacher Education (Washington: Basic Skills Program on Teaching, National Institute of Education, 1974).

68 Kaplan, “Gentleman’s C,” 201.

National Education Reforms on Local Television, 1990-Today

69 Wayne J. Urban and Jennings L. Wagner, American Education: A History, 5th ed. (New York: Routledge, 2014), 325.

70 Urban and Wagner, American Education, 330.

71 See, for example, David C. Berliner and Bruce J. Biddle, The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud, and the Attack on America's Public Schools (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1995). For summaries of these books, see Urban and Wagner, American Education, 361-67.

72 Alyson Klein, “No Child Left Behind: An Overview,” Education Week, April 10, 2015,

73 “Race to the Top,”

74 Urban and Wagner, American Education, 353.

75 “Who We Are,” Annenberg Foundation, last modified 2018,

76 PBS, “Longtime NewsHour Education Correspondent John Merrow Retires,” PBS NewsHour, last modified August 5, 2015,

77 “Charter Schools Make Gains, According to 26-State Study,” news release, June 25, 2013,

78 Jack W. Mitchell, Wisconsin on the Air: 100 Years of Public Broadcasting in the State That Invented It (Madison, WI: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2016), 154.

79 Ibid., 160.

80 E. B. White, quoted in Day, Vanishing Vision, 10.

Image from School Days (1999), a documentary about education from WXXI Public Broadcasting.

School Days (1999)