This 55 minute documentary from the National Film Board of Canada profiles a 1960s-70s "great experiment" in school films and multi-media lecturing that went down in flames... as seen and heard in interviews with film makers, participants, teachers and children (grown up now in 2004) remembering.
While Encyclopædia Britannica, Coronet Films, Bailey-Film Associates, Weston Woods, Centron and others were simply providing 16mm films and 35mm filmstrips to school districts in the sixties, a few innovative companies decided to stretch the definition of "educational media" to go beyond just movies on a projector. After Sputnik, the US government was so paranoid of Soviet threat education-wise that the federal money was just pumping away into the public school systems. This was a time of great experimentation... some successful and some disastrous...
The saga of Educational Services Inc. backing MAN: A COURSE OF STUDY (abbreviated to MACOS), with support from the National Science Foundation, is a bizarre and fascinating tale of high ideals, shocking the masses and eventually involving conservative politicians to destroy it.
In 1963, a series of films featuring "Nestilik Eskimo" were filmed in Pelly Bay (Northwest Territories in Canada) by National Film Board of Canada veterans Quentin Brown and Douglas Wilkinson as part of a multi-media project for 4th and 5th graders that also included interactive charts, games, filmstrips, LP records and all kinds of "toy" artifacts so that students could imagine themselves in a completely different culture. Later (by 1968) the project added additional films that, for example, even compared baboon and salmon lifestyles with humans.
Almost immediately, teachers balked at the amount of time and energy needed for this nontraditional style of teaching, when a history lesson of Europe was so much easier. Also anthropology high brows were outraged by the project's attempt to "match up" Eskimo lifestyles to US children. Although rural school kiddies used to blasting Bambi in their backyards were hardly shocked by a key seal hunting scene (with blood stained snow), urban kiddies and animal lovers (and I admit to being one) were in a total state of shock. Then... all of the religious right creationists were up in arms, including the California State Board of Education which was already fed up with all of the "evil" Darwin talk going on in the classrooms and comparing the Christian raised to "beasts" was the last straw. It was a repeat of the Scopes Monkey Trial all over again. The project was only beginning to see a profit when Arizona Republican congressman John B. Conlan had to step in and help, with avid conservative voters behind him, to destroy this (as one concerned parent called it) "hippy dippy philosophy" a decade after it began.