Neither Fish nor Fowl by Bengt Sandin and Maija Runcis by Bengt Sandin and Maija Runcis - Read Online

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Neither Fish nor Fowl - Bengt Sandin

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Educational programmes as a forum for negotiation


Sweden’s first trials of educational radio began in 1928, the same year that the Social Democrats’ leader Per Albin Hansson gave a famous speech proclaiming his vision of a Swedish folkhem; a new and progressive ‘people’s home’, which would accommodate and reconcile conflicting political traditions, and set in place a welfare system to redress the iniquities of unemployment and poverty. It is significant that he used a concept earlier associated with conservative ideology, duly recast and co-opted into a left-wing ideology of modernity that welcomed close collaboration with large-scale industry and believed firmly in state initiative, social engineering, and science.

This was the time when Sweden’s Social Democrats were developing a reformist ideology and forming alliances with the parties of the centre – the Farmers’ Party and the Liberals – while putting clear ground between themselves and the parties of the extreme Right and Left. These alliances were founded on a notion of the responsibility of the state towards the population that was embraced both by socially conscious liberals, who had often joined forces with the Social Democrats on issues of political and social reform, and by farming interests, hard struck by the deepening recession. As it turned out, the alliance with the Farmers’ Party struck during the 1930s would effectively pre-empt any possibility of a significant fascist movement in Sweden.

These political events formed the basis for a different kind of alliance, but one equally important, between the state, the unions, and the employers’ organizations, which was to shape their internal relationships. The unions and employers’ organizations, under the supervision of the state, agreed on forms of negotiation, regulation, and arbitration of labour conflicts that would exist independent of the state – a Swedish experiment that caught the imagination of intellectuals worldwide. Was there such a thing a middle way between capitalism and socialism, as Marquise Childs put it? One important feature was the existence of independent government agencies that were not subject to the vagaries of day-to-day political change, but only to the rulings of the parliamentary legislators. The government had no right to influence the decisions of these agencies directly, and could only manage them through its legislation. It was these independent government agencies that set policy on education, communication, health, and social welfare that formed the fundament for the high level of trust put by Swedes in the state. At the closing of two centuries of conflict over universal suffrage in the late 1910s and early 1920s it appeared to many that the Swedish state had risen above the struggle between the classes under leadership of a reformist Social Democratic cabinet and a developing representative parliamentary democracy.

Another side to this pragmatic reformist culture was the willingness of Swedish intellectuals to learn from the social and political social-welfare experiments of other countries such as Germany, the UK, and the US. Many of these ideas, duly imported to Sweden, were transformed into state ventures or government initiatives, as was the result of the extensive contacts with the welfare schemes Alva and Gunnar Myrdal had so admired in the US in the late 1920s and 1930s. For a long time many of the initiatives, especially in the realm of social services for children, were implemented by non-government organizations in a manner relatively free of conflict with local and central government. Plans to extend the support on offer and develop the welfare schemes, combined with the ambitions of politicians and childcare professionals, led them to seek full-scale state support and legislation; this was the case with child clinics, maternity clinics, and school meals, as well as general hygiene measures for the entire population. General welfare schemes gradually replaced more selective measures. Meanwhile, the state redefined its ambitions to ensure the physical and mental well-being of the population, and to prevent poverty, substandard housing, and so on.¹

The consensus between the main political parties was also founded in a deep-rooted commitment to the traditions of Sweden’s popular movements, from which the parties had emerged. The popular movements represented a vast array of different cultural and social activities – temperance organizations, free churches, food and housing cooperatives, unions, and educational societies – and were the nursery of a wide variety of political initiatives. One objective shared by many of these organizations was an interest in bettering both their own constituencies and the population at large, especially by improving their morals, a set of aspirations that show clear evidence of labour, social – liberal, and populist ideologies. The organizations had their roots in the social conflicts of the eighteenth century, yet in the nineteenth century they had been recruited to the project of modernizing Sweden by making the population moral, sober, and at one with a national, Swedish, cultural heritage. Civic organizations embarked on cultural and social activities, and as non – governmental organizations they constituted an arena for civil society’s agency outside the formal political arena that would eventually be drawn into cooperation with the state and local community. Popular education, or folkbildning to use the unique Swedish term, was an important facet of the popular movements’ efforts to improve morals and exercise political influence. In due course the result was that government-run establishments such as city libraries, local theatres, and galleries and stages became local educational organizations. Modernization meant drawing the population, the whole of civil society, into a nationally defined cultural sphere. Politically, the popular movements and organizations interacted with central government in the development of welfare systems, and as opinion-formers participated in the negotiation of social change. Central government success was clearly dependent on negotiation, which in turn required that trade unions, educational societies, and professional associations remain involved in the governance of society on all different levels of government, national and local.² At the same time, Social Democrats marked their distance from the left-wing and right-wing political parties, and developed close cooperation with the centre, building their long political reign on a tradition of consensus politics formed around the political centre of Scandinavian politics, in which the support of big industry and capitalism went hand in hand with high income taxes, housing subsidies, day care, child support and low cost health care.³

The educational system in Sweden was a permanent reminder of the need for change and modernization. What had emerged from the nineteenth century were a vastly expanded system of compulsory elementary schools and a growing system of secondary education, which together had petrified into a parallel school system. Until the late 1930s, compulsory school for the majority of the population remained under the influence of the state church, and offered only problematic avenues of access to secondary school: the result was a parallel school system that catered for pupils of specific social background or gender. The same was true of the teaching profession, which also reflected very different educational and cultural backgrounds. Attempts to reform the education system were stalled by political conflict and a general inability to form a consensus. It was not until the 1950s that educational reforms got underway, and they were only fully implemented in the late 1960s. In this, the Social Democrats borrowed much of their vision for the new educational system from the US – a ‘bottom school’ for all social classes.

The transformation of Swedish society, the advent of welfare, and the establishment of new forms of education in media can be seen as parts of the same course of events. Radio broadcasting signalled a general interest in the modernization of society, as did the introduction of educational content intended for the entire population. This historical process left its mark on radio broadcasting for schools.

From its very first years, educational programming on the radio was important: both language programmes, which from the start were a regular feature of Sveriges Radio’s schedules, and broadly educational programmes took up considerable space on what was Sweden’s only radio station. Radio was quick to submit to the traditions of Swedish popular education, and became a means of reaching out to all parts of the country, but it also established a close collaboration with the school system. Radio courses eliminated geographical obstacles, broke the monopoly that formal schooling had held on education, and levelled the boundaries between educated and uneducated. The upshot was that educational broadcasting became integral to the construction of the new Swedish society, and a part of a conscious policy. The new media also created unforeseen opportunities to influence social development. A process got under way, the consequences of which could not be foreseen either for the content of the education that was broadcast, or who or what had the right to create that education. This is the history that we will analyse in this book.

The state’s views on the possibilities of radio broadcasting in Sweden and abroad were linked to the need for news and information by all sectors of society. All the people who participated in the process had to varying degrees a vested interest in social development and modernization, and radio became an early means of realizing their vision of a modern society, with the result that the relative independence of the network from the state was sometimes questioned.⁴ In this study, educational broadcasting is treated as a distinct form of media activity, while the transformation of the welfare state in the twentieth century is the background against which any history of educational broadcasting must be viewed. Educational broadcasting has a relationship to political or social change unlike that of any other media, and indeed unlike that of the formal educational system. An analysis of educational broadcasting and its relationship to state and society is the heart of the discussion presented in this book. Educational broadcasting largely mirrored social development, but far more than other forms of broadcasting was linked to the intentional changes Sweden underwent in the twentieth century. There were close – and self-evident – ties both to education policy and to new trends in schools and child welfare, and to broader ambitions of a civilizing and educational nature for the labour market and social welfare policy. It was in this respect that the broadcast medias’ educational programming reflected socio-political changes as they were consciously formulated by the authorities or understood by producers and journalists.

There is good reason to ask why this field is a worthwhile academic subject, but let us first consider some of the stages in its development. Regular radio broadcasts in Sweden began in 1925, and language courses were a standard feature of Radiotjänst (Swedish Radio Broadcasting, hereafter Sveriges Radio) schedules from the very first; indeed, they had even been included in the test transmissions before the official start.⁵ Only three years later, in 1928, a formal collaboration began between the Board of Education (SÖ) and Sveriges Radio with trial transmissions of educational radio. Sveriges Radio was responsible for the programme costs, while the Board of Education arranged the programmes and the accompanying literature. Before it was put on a permanent footing, there was uncertainty about who bore the chief responsibility for educational radio and who would finance it. In 1930 the Board of Education was given a royal warrant to arrange regular educational radio broadcasts, but less than one year later a contract was signed between the Board of Education and Sveriges Radio which transferred responsibility to Sveriges Radio, along with direct control of educational radio. This meant that from 1931 educational radio was financed by the licence fee, while at the same time it became part of Sveriges Radio’s lecture department under Yngve Hugo, previously headmaster at the trade union-owned school at Brunnsvik.⁶ As more radio channels became available, above all Radio Programme Two (P2) in 1955, it was possible to increase the number of courses aired. The increase took the form of Radioskolan (Radio School) for adults, which began in 1958 and was reorganized in 1964, when it was combined with the existing radio language courses to create a specific section for adult education.⁷ Educational television began to broadcast in 1961, and in 1964 a merger of the departments for educational television and educational radio resulted in a separate department for educational programmes at Sveriges Radio (SR). In 1960 a distribution centre for the sale of copies of programmes was set up, along with a network of audiovisual-aids centres to distribute programmes to schools.⁸

The 1960s saw a dramatic expansion in educational broadcasting on radio and television, very much in keeping with the growth of education in society as a whole. Crucial here was the decision that the taxpayer should finance educational broadcasting, although Sveriges Radio did continue to charge fees for some of its adult education. The issues of rapid expansion, finance, and ties with the education system and popular movements, led to uncertainty over the divisions between the various kinds of educational broadcasting and the nature of state involvement. In 1967 the first inquiry into Television and Radio in Education (TRU) was appointed, and in the same year started to produce its own educational programmes, in parallel with Sveriges Radio. A series of trials and exhaustive assessments, together with the appointment of a second TRU (TRU II), resulted in the formation of the Swedish Educational Broadcasting Company (UR) in 1978.

When TRU started work, its main ambition had been to introduce teacher-replacement radio and television at all school levels. Yet at the same time, TRU’s activities were concentrated on bulky study kits for teachers. In both TRU’s concluding inquiry and the government bill that led to the establishment of UR, however, the emphasis was on educational radio’s role in raising standards and complementing teachers’ work. UR started as a subsidiary of Sveriges Radio, but when UR’s remit was reviewed in 1984, its financing was reconsidered, with the result that it went over to being funded by the licence fee. In 1993 Parliament decided to wind up Sveriges Radio, and the three companies – Sveriges Radio, Swedish Public Service Television Company (SVT, hereafter Swedish Television), and UR – were put on an independent footing, with their own broadcasting licences.¹⁰

This short introduction gives a glimpse of just how closely educational broadcasting was linked to the state’s ambition to inform and educate its citizens. It also indicates the extent to which educational broadcasting was integral to the progressive policies that it was hoped would change Swedish society – and the potential conflict between education and journalism. All told, educational programmes offer a unique opportunity to trace political change and its cultural and political expression in a diachronic perspective. The question arises of the extent to which this form of broadcasting contributed to the construal and communication of a particular picture of cultural and social conditions in Sweden; one which meant that the programmes not only expressed the processes of social change, but even contributed actively to them.¹¹ Irrespective of how large a role is ascribed to educational broadcasting, it is clear it affected views on a wide range of issues, including citizenship, equality, child development, children’s role in society, the environment, immigration, gender, and drug abuse; and accordingly became the embodiment of the state’s role as an instigator of change, and its general relationship with its citizens in the twentieth century. Given that educational broadcasting’s organization left it autonomous from the largest of the formal educational institutions, the school system, it was open to others to attempt to influence the shape and direction of the education of society. Part of the job of making educational programmes was to collaborate with a variety of education providers. By studying educational programming in the broadcast media, it is possible to make out the changes to the educational system as a whole, the effect the advent of broadcast media had on the curriculum, and the way in which Sweden’s cultural heritage has been portrayed in terms of ethics, history, and the literary canon, not to mention the general level of awareness of important political issues such as the environment, drugs, gender relations, and childcare.¹²

The earliest programmes on the radio reflected the state’s and a number of organizations’ interests and the popular movements’ educational crusades, and were thus strongly affected by the debate over the education system: a debate that turned on how best to define the role of mass education, a democratic school system designed to accommodate children from all social classes, and the conflict between the interests of elementary school and secondary school. The interest in adult education in the 1950s and 1960s is further evidence of a society in flux, albeit one with an abiding belief in the future, determined to influence all members of society.¹³ New social structures were needed, new professional competence, new social identities – citizens with new qualities. It was at this juncture the art of social engineering found its strongest cultural expression, and it was the welfare state’s experts, leading politicians, and opinion makers who were very much in evidence in educational broadcasting.¹⁴ They had an obvious connection to the modernization and expansion of the educational system, and were decisive in determining the modern welfare state’s cultural meaning.

In the 1960s the situation was to alter in a number of respects. The expansion of education and the coming of television created new possibilities, and the radicalization of social debate meant that new problems and issues attracted attention. In all this – and explicitly in the official inquiries into radio and television – the thorny issue arose of the relationship between the state, public radio and television, and educational broadcasting.¹⁵ In this book we offer new perspectives on the history of media education. Our questions address the crucial issues of educational broadcasting in relation to the state, civil society, and the changing concept of public service. How did the system of governance determine the content and organization of educational media, and how was the educational role ascribed to the broadcast media framed relative to the official education system and journalistic requirements? What, ultimately, is educational broadcasting in this perspective?

Research perspectives – negotiating educational broadcasting

The history of educational broadcasting on radio and television is a challenge since it is not only linked to the formal school system but also to any number of other social actors, and reflects the media’s role in moulding society.¹⁶ The task is not made any easier by the fact that the interplay of different political forces and their relationship with, say, social or employment policy in other political arenas has not been explored in terms of education and public service. Media education is created not only by the traditions that have evolved within the education system; it is also influenced by the press, and is formed in the interaction between professionals both in and outside the education system and the various media. It is striking how little has been written internationally about educational broadcasting in a historical perspective. For the most part, such research as exists has limited itself to general evaluations, or has been pursued as action research.¹⁷

Conversely, the sheer number of terms used to describe educational broadcasting – educational television, instructional television, infotainment, edutainment, entertainment-education – add to the difficulties of distinguishing educational programmes as such, and perhaps also of establishing their overall character,¹⁸ to the point where we can see a negotiation in progress between different actors – both individuals and institutions alike – about the role of educational broadcasting, its content, and the social form it should take. The programmes’ format and subject are evidence of this negotiation, and thus reflect typical values and views on different social phenomena. It is this negotiation, with its results in the shape of new organizational forms and changing views on the nature and meaning of educational broadcasting, that is at the heart of our study.

The negotiation intrinsic to educational broadcasting should be understood against the background of changes in research on the welfare state. Early research on the development of the welfare state illustrated how it could be interpreted as the expression of two fundamental perspectives. The first views socio-political reform and legislation as a tool for the authorities to civilize and control citizens: this perspective holds the welfare state, once a control system with deep historical roots, to have become a system suited to new social conditions and a democratic political system.¹⁹ Historians moved away from emphasizing relatively simple, direct ruling strategies to look for the complicated control mechanisms in modern society, from political decisions and their implementation to discourses and systems of governance.²⁰ The second perspective saw the welfare system as offering the opportunity to cast off the shackles of market forces and antiquated social checks on political influence. Some went so far as to speak of a strong state curbing the market and capitalism to create a more equal and just society.²¹ The same approach lends itself to the history of the educational systems, which can be interpreted either as amounting to systems of governance or as inherently emancipatory systems. The historiography of the educational system bears the