SLO 200

Ohio School of the Air

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On November 2, 1920, KDKA Radio in Pittsburg launched the first radio broadcast in the country, announcing the returns of the Harding-Cox presidential election (which you can listen to here).  Soon after, radio purchases exploded; from 1923-1930, approximately 60% of American families purchased radios.  Radio broadcasting exploded in this decade, as well, and by the end of the decade programs included westerns, soap operas and other dramas, comedies, broadcasting for children, as well as news reporting.  Radios, and radio broadcasting, ushered in a new era where “a custom where families gathered around a glowing box for night-time entertainment took root, forever changing American culture

In 1924, Sears, Roebuck and Company of Chicago funded the Little Red Schoolhouse of the Air, with Benjamin “Uncle Ben” Darrow as its schoolmaster.  Darrow “foresaw that radio had created the possibility of a global village” (Bianchi, 2008).  “The central and dominant aim of education by radio,” he said, “is to bring the world to the classroom, to make universally available the services of the finest teachers, the inspiration of the greatest leaders and unfolding events which through the radio may come as a vibrant and challenging textbook of the air.”

With the experience he gained in Chicago, Darrow traveled to Ohio in 1928 and made contact with the Ohio Department of Education.  The following year, on January 7, 1929, the Ohio School of the Air was founded.    By November of that year, at the first Ohio School of the Air conference, Darrow predicted that, with the help of educational broadcasting, “the minds of boys and girls will be dipped directly into the flame of living genius with its correspondingly greater inspirational and ambition-arousing possibilities” (Darrow, 1929).

The Ohio School of the Air continued for eight years, attracting teaching talent from around the state of Ohio.  Lessons focused on the social sciences (history, government, geography), on the arts, on current events…nearly all of the subjects we see today, with the exception of math, were represented.  In a survey conducted during the 1933-1934 school year and sent to 475 schools, 182 schools of the 270 surveys returned reported using Ohio School of the Air lessons, or 38% of schools and 67% of respondents.  Unfortunately, the Ohio Department of Education ceased funding of the School of the Air in 1937, ending its run.

This collection contains materials from the Ohio School of the Air, which continued to educate Ohio’s students until a lack of funding caused its demise in 1936.  Former State Librarian Paul A.T. Noon contributed lessons to the school, primarily on literature, and in this collection you can view transcripts for those lessons, complete with his notes and edits.  You can also view the proceedings from the first Ohio School of the Air conference, as well as the annual report from the 1933-1934 school year and the final annual report from 1935-1936.  

~ “Ohio School of the Air,” SLO 200, accessed June 23, 2018,