The American School of the Air

The American School of the Air

"The American School of the Air" was a half-hour educational radio program presented by CBS as a public affairs teaching supplement over an 18-year period during the 1930s and 1940s. CBS followed the lead of the first "School of the Air" which began in 1929 at Ohio State University.

Program policies for "The American School of the Air" were established by an advisory board. The series began February 4, 1930, broadcast on weekdays at 2:30pm. In 1939, it aired at 9:15 in the morning and was heard nationwide in over 100,000 classrooms by an estimated 3,000,000 children every day. Its success prompted NBC to launch Its "University of the Air" in 1942.

Retitled "The American School of the Air of the Americas" in 1940, it expanded to 15 countries by 1941. The program moved to a late afternoon timeslot, 5:00pm, in 1945.

Different topics were featured throughout the week under the umbrella title. As established by 1939, industry and agriculture were the focus of the Monday series, "Frontiers of Democracy," including such subjects as "Frontiers of Work in Industry," "Science & Human Progress," "Health and Food," "Health in Childhood," "Frontiers of Work on the Farm" and "Frontiers in the Professions."

Tuesdays were devoted to "Folk Music of America" and other musical genres. During 1939-40, Alan Lomax wrote, produced and directed a 26-week historical overview, the "American Folk Songs" series, a survey of English language folk songs from the holdings of his underfunded Archive of American Folksongs.

A work by composer William Grant Still was commissioned by CBS in 1940. In 1949, for "The American School of the Air", Amadeo De Filippi composed "Raftsman's Dance," based on two Ohio river songs, "Raftsman Jim" and "Going Up the River."

American explorers and exploration were heard in "New Horizons" on Wednesdays, with "Tales from Far and Near" on Thursdays. The week ended with dramatizations of modern life in "This Living World." Helen Garman did the radio adaptation of "Citizen Tom Paine", an episode of "Tales from Far and Near" broadcast on February 18, 1946.

The musical theme was Beethoven's "Lenore Overture Number 3". Robert Trout and John Reed King were the announcers. Scripts were by Howard Rodman and others. Actors who appeared on this program included Orson Welles, Ray Collins, Walter Tetley and Parker Fennelly.

The series came to an end on April 30, 1948.

Listen to

* [ "Radio in a Modern School Program": rereading of a March 20, 1939 broadcast by Gertrude Metze]

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