Showmanship in Education
William W. Newcomb
[Reprinted from Land and Freedom, May-June
With mankind searching as never before for its Shangri-la, with this
new awareness of the people in the social ills of our times, with the
Press still "free" in the democratic countries, it behooves
us to leave no stone unturned in preparing leaders to promulgate the
Science of Economics. Now, that the other sciences are pretty
generally accepted by the masses, the problem of leading these same
people into the knowledge of this science becomes simplified. We have
reached that time, I believe, when we should make our reply to those
who have studied our text (and countless other books on "economics")
who are always saying to us Georgeists: "Now, what are you going
to do about it?"
Is it not our moral obligation to enlighten the newspaper and
magazine reader, the movie, play-going and forum audience, the radio
and television public? Enlighten them on what? The School! The Henry
George School of Social Science should become as well known to the man
in the street as any of our great universities. Endowments for its
perpetuation and expansion can come speedily through two major means:
- Improving its physical equipment. All of us want to see the day
when the School is housed in a properly located building that
speaks for its dignity, its strength, and its utility; when its
faculty are full-time salaried workers.
- The School's utilization of all resources that the various
fields of information and entertainment offer for promotion to
attain the ends of point one, above.
It is because this second point practically becomes the foci upon
which the School's progress rests, that I intend to devote this
article to such a programme. Space limitations necessitate my merely
mentioning the means of attracting the thinking public; not the
From the smallest pants presser shop employing the walking sandwich
man, to the mighty utility buying the services of the oak-paneled
publicity office, there is only one thought: Make the public conscious
of our service to mankind.
Thuswise, should we make the public conscious of the service of the
First. The newspaper. There is hardly a story appearing in the daily
press that does not revolve around an economic matter. Have we got
writers who are taking these points up, as they appear in the papers,
and writing letters to the editor? People want to know what makes the
wheels go 'round. Surely, it is our job to show what wheels have the
wrong spokes or badly worn tires. Letters to the editors are read and
There is not a play on Broadway that would last three nights if a
publicist were not supplying the papers with salient points about the
inner involvements behind that piece despite the tremendous influence
of crochety drama critics. Thus, with our School; keep it in the minds
of the people. Every item that lends controversy to the theorem gives
us a wedge on which to put our story on the editor's desk.
The magazines. Is there a single teacher writing on Fundamental
Economics, in terms of reader acceptance. By that I mean, is this man
sending in articles to Scribners, in Scribner's style, and that man to
Liberty, in Liberty's style. There is a lot of "tripe" in
magazines, economic and otherwise. A magazine depends more on
presentation and subject matter, than it does on truth of contents. We
have the truth. If we use the right style, presenting our subject
entertainingly (I hate to use that word, too) more students will
enroll for the course in a year than $5,000 worth of magazine
If our field men could get to the editors of the village and rural
weeklies, where land is more a drain than an income to its people, our
programme touches that element that otherwise hardly scans our ads. in
the Nation or The New York Times. Let the editors of these weeklies
start the classes!
I can't begin to guess how many little magazinelettes are published
in the country, but their circulation must total many hundred thousand
people. These magazines go to the cream of the rebels, the minority
that reads then takes pen in hand, or mounts a soap-box. The readers
of these little four-and-six sheet monthlies are the teachers of
tomorrow. But it is patient contacting by the field men that will
bring these media into our fold.
The stage. Almost fifty years ago a play called "Shore Acres"
made a fortune for its author, James A. Herne It was an attempt to
discuss the land problem in the days when propaganda could be used
only as a distillant in the main creative product. It is history to
repeat that the play, despite its subtle evasion of the fundamental
problem, did arouse people to that same problem, and interested them
in Georgeism. Is there a modern play on the problem? Yes, at the
Adelphi, called "One Third of the Nation," which treats of
slum clearance in terms of land.
We are not interested in the platform and programme of the Left-Wing
parties, but we can certainly take a leaf from their book of
experiences: We can form dramatic guilds among our graduates, and
thereby acquaint a new audience with the School at the same time that
we are keeping our graduates close to us. Like the Federal Theatre
play, indicated above, our writers should be creating other dramatic
pieces on war, vice, political corruption to bring to the attention of
an ever-expanding prospective body of students the necessity of our
government collecting economic rent.
Maybe you are one of those who look down on the movie as being fit
entertainment only for 12-year olds. Go and see The March of Time's "Inside
Nazi Germany." Look up "Zola," "Louis Pasteur,"
"Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, "Lost Horizon" at your
neighborhood theatre. No propaganda in these pictures? The finest
kind, and with no curtailment of entertainment value. Read what
Frances Marion, highest paid scenario writer in the work has to say
about the presentation of social factors being gently woven into the
fabric of a film story. It's all the rage now. Haven't we fiction
writers in our movement.
Are we overlooking the 16mm. film? Most assuredly. More goods are
being sold, more education being driven home, by 16mm. films than ever
in history. There is a technique to this. This is the one medium
wherein the largest total can catch the true essence of Georgeism
without the editorial repressions inflicted by an acoustic medium of
expression. The 16mm. film is produced exactly as we want to explain
our work. With the recognition that the eye is the most potent factor
in getting attention, and maintaining retention, this is the one
medium that should be pursued immediately. It is inexpensive, it is
entertaining; it provides an illustration for both lecturers and
Every social problem can be attacked, with the film, to show the
solution as propounded by Henry George. Or, any author of a
fictionized account of natural economics practice, conversant with our
School's programme, I am sure, would make his story available. I can
think of Ralston's "Shovelcrats" or Berens and Singer's "Story
of My Dictatorship" as two good stories.
These pictures need not be in sound; they need not require expensive
projection equipment. In almost every Georgeist class there is likely
to be a member who owns a projector. A print of the film can be
shipped from the School, so that cost of projection amounts to what
transportation charges come to. A picture running a half hour, 800
feet in length, will do more to start a class off successfully with
all large attendance of high caliber zealots, than any other promotion
programme providing the film is well publicized before the showing.
Radio. While I am not one of those persons especially influenced by
radio promotion, this media must be tremendously powerful, else
government, industry and commerce would not utilize it on so mammoth a
scale. A series of broadcasts emanating from an original programme
prepared by the School, in dramatic depiction, debate or simply
well-prepared announcements, will further enhance the value of each
class to its community.
Forums. We have never seen so many before. Why should the
organizations which are contributing to fallacious economic thought
have a monopoly on this media? When Town Talk of the Air is given each
Thursday night, are there Georgeists in the audience who show that our
economic ills must be approached from the natural economic point of
view? Should the communists do all the boring within ...?
And local forums. Are the graduates from our various classes offering
their services as speakers in the Sunday Evening Clubs in the
churches. There is a high strata of intelligence in these clubs; the
members are in the 20-30 age brackets.
Downtown window displays are a happy medium for making people
acquainted with classes. Lacking dignity? Windows are used by the Boy
Scouts, the Community Chest, the Chamber, and countless other civic
associations. Every city has its share of empty stores. Every city has
a Georgeist with a downtown shop. Twenty-five copies of Henry George's
books, some bright placards, the Freeman and other publications spread
about make your window. And, if you will do the job right, a lad or a
girl to pass out the yellow pamphlet, and to make people acquainted
with the locations and dates of classes.
I could go on with ten thousand words more, but better a little at a
time. In Rochester we are endeavoring to see what sort of a laboratory
we can establish for classes elsewhere. Our first class graduates the
ninth of February. We meet in a court room in City Hall Annex. Point
One for Publicity: Quality location. The Mayor is giving the diplomas.
Point Two: Justifies the attendance of the Press.
Our new term opens the following week: One class at the JYMA, and two
more classes at City Hall Annex. Two of our teachers are old-time
Georgeists, the third teacher, a graduate student (and instructor) at
the University and a graduate of our class.
As before, we are sending out 500 triple post cards supplied by the
School. In each of the dailies will appear a "Letter the Editor"
by myself, as Executive Secretary, and other letters over the
signatures of various graduating students. In most cases I either
supervise or write these letters to avoid duplication and provide
correlation. Simultaneously with the letters appears a news story of
the class opening. For the next two Sundays, five co-workers,
secretaries and students, will distribute the pamphlet, "The
School and the Course," with the local classes indicated by
rubber stamp on the pamphlet's cover. These seven hundred pamphlets
will be distributed to at least twelve young people's groups, meeting
about 6:30 each Sunday evening; to the university library, to the
economics department at the Public Library, and to the "Y's."
The Federation of Churches already has our announcement for their
bulletin, with a request that pastors make announcements in the
churches. Another announcement goes to the Chamber of Commerce
bulletin. Of course, the weekly sectional newspapers will each receive
a story; they are greedy for fillers, and their readers scan their
papers from cover to cover. We also expect that Congressman Eckert
will send us his address, "Land, Labor and the Wagner Act,"
in time for several thousand of those to go out.
We are hoping the day will come when a national service, originating
from Headquarters, will supply us with movies, radio scripts, plays,
carefully written feature articles for the newspapers, etc. For the
time being we are utilizing our local resources. In our registration
of 63 students for our first class, we checked back on each student
and learned that:
Thirty came from daily newspaper announcements and Letters to the
Editors; 6 from sectional weekly papers; 2 from Young People's Forum
Announcement (made by an unknown friend); 7 through friends of
Georgeists; 4 were Georgeists originally; 14 from 500 triple-cards.
If much of the travail that the average secretary goes through in
writing a story acceptable to the newspaper (in order to get a decent
amount of space) could be eliminated if supplies other than the window
posters could be sent the secretary, created, organized, and
correlated by a New York publicity service or a full-time promotion
man working for the School and all its extensions, the percentage of
enquiry and registration could be materially raised. I believe in the
advertising programme the School has undertaken in the New York Times
and the weekly journals, but under the School's present restricted
budget, I believe it worthwhile to divide that appropriation between
advertising and the buying of either promotion service, or the
outright hiring of a publicity man who devotes all his time to selling
the work of the Henry George School to the nation. In other words,
showmanship in education.