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Issued Weekly 
Vol. XX July 16, 1923 No. 46 

[Entered as second-class matter December 11, 1912, at the post office at Urbana, Illinois, under the 
Act of August 24, 1912. Accepted for mailing at the special rate of postage provided for in 
Section 1103, Act of October 3, 1917, authorized July 31, 1918.] 





Frederick Dean McClusky 

Instructor, College of Education 


ho. ZO 

Place of Moving Pictures in Visual Education 

Visual education not new. The recent emphasis upon visual 
education has created the impression in the minds of many persons 
that the movement is very new. This is not true. Slides and stereo- 
graphs have been used in schools for over two decades and such visual 
aids as charts, models, diagrams, pictures and museum exhibits for 
a much longer period. Dudley Grant Hays of Chicago, A. W. 
Abrams of Albany, New York, C. R. Toothaker of Philadelphia, W. 
M. Gregory of Cleveland and others have been at the head of city 
or state distribution centers of visual education for many years. 

The rapid development of the art of photography and the per- 
fection of the moving picture have opened up new opportunities and 
greatly added to the enthusiasm for visual education. The moving 
picture was used with success in training mechanics in army canton- 
ments during the World War. The wide-spread interest at the pres- 
ent time, in "education-through-the-eye" is largely due to the fact 
that the moving picture has been introduced as a means of education 
in the schoolroom, and has, moreover, during the past five years 
become so prominent in the field of visual education that the average 
person today thinks of the "movie" and "visual education" synony- 
mously. This state of mind is unfortunate because all of the evils 
and limitations of the moving picture as a means of instruction are 
associated with all types of visual education. 

Evidence of recent emphasis upon the moving picture as a 
means of visual education. Immediately following the World War 
a number of commercial enterprises were launched in Chicago and 
in New York for the purpose of producing and distributing non- 
theatrical moving pictures for educational purposes. Men who thought 
they saw in the army use of films for instructional purposes an ink- 
ling of the future possibilities of educational films plunged ahead and 
invested their money as evidence of their faith. Some of these men 
at least appear to have had no very clear understanding of the edu- 
cative processes and the function of visual materials. One might say 
that they were on their way not knowing their destination. A few 
are still on their way, but some have reached the end of their jour- 
ney abruptly. 


Additional evidence of the emphasis given to the moving picture 
as a means of education is found in the magazines established in the 
field of visual education. A number of these publications indicate by 
their titles that they were established to promote the use of moving 
pictures for educational purposes, and all have given prominence to 
this phase of visual education. The first issue of the Reel and Slide, 
"a monthly magazine to make the screen a greater power in educa- 
tion and business," appeared early in 1918. This title was changed 
in 1919 to the Moving Picture Age. In January 1920, the first 
number of Visual Education appeared. This is the official publica- 
tion of the Society for Visual Education, Incorporated. By April, 
1921, there were four publications serving the field of instruction, 
namely, Moving Picture Age, Educational Film Magazine, Visual 
Education and The Screen. Early in the year 1922 the fifth maga- 
zine was launched bearing the title of the Educational Screen. This 
marked the high point in expansion and was quickly followed by the 
discontinuance of certain magazines and the combination of others. 
Both The Screen and the Educational Film Magazine ceased publica- 
tion in the spring of 1922. In December, the Moving Picture Age 
and The Educational Screen merged, the new magazine bearing the 
title of the latter. At the beginning of the present year, 1923, there 
are two magazines, Visual Education and The Educational Screen, 
whereas a year ago there were five such publications. 

The commercial interest in visual education. As indicated 
above, the men who produce educational films are deeply interested 
in visual education. These commercial men are interested also in 
making a return on their investment and we find considerable evi- 
dence that commercial interests, without intelligent consideration 
of the fundamental educational questions involved, have carried on 
a campaign of propaganda in order to influence educational policies 
and practise. 

National organizations devoted to visual instruction. In the 
field of visual education there are two organizations, the National 
Academy of Visual Instruction and the Visual Instruction Association 
of America. The former organization is four years old. Its member- 
ship is limited to teachers and other educators and it is functioning 
on a national basis. It is now petitioning to become a Department 
of the National Educational Association. The Visual Instruction 
Association of America is literally the offspring of the Visual Instruc- 


tion Association of New York City, and as yet is more or less a local 
organization. Its membership includes both educators and commer- 
cial men on the basis of equal privileges. The question naturally 
arises why there should be a second national organization in a field 
so new as that of visual education. An editorial in the final issue of 
the Moving Picture Age comments upon the situation as follows : 

Feeling among experienced visual educators who have no bias in the matter is 
that the Visual Instruction Association of America is a fifth wheel. At the time of 
its formation, at Chicago during the meeting of the N. E. A. Department of Super- 
intendence (1922), Dudley Grant Hays and the writer protested the step on the 
grounds of duplicated effort. The answer given was that the new group would 
specialize in work that the Academy had neglected — visual instruction in the elemen- 
tary branches of education. Ostensibly this answer was sufficient, for the Academy 
could have done more with public-school work than it had up until that time. As 
a matter of fact this reason was not enough to justify a new organization. Another 
argument presented was that the commercial interests had no representation in the 
Academy, and would be given a better opportunity in the new group. The upshot 
is that the Visual Instruction Association of America is composed of both educa- 
tors and commercial men, on a basis of equal membership privileges for all. Obvi- 
ously such an off-balance grouping will never be accorded recognition or authenticity 
in educational circles. 1 

Propaganda for visual education. The virtues which have 
been claimed for the moving picture have been brought to the atten- 
tion of the public through newspapers as well as through publica- 
tions explicitly devoted to this field. Some of the statements appear- 
ing are based upon the opinions of persons prominent in some field 
other than education and also upon investigations regarded probably 
as scientific by an undiscriminating public. The following statement 
published in the Chicago Tribune for October 3, 1920 is typical of a 
number of newspaper accounts: 

Test shows "movies" surpass textbooks. 

Members of the faculty of the University of Chicago interested in the teaching 
of children by "movies" instead of textbooks yesterday told of a test made in 
Detroit's public schools. 

The Detroit children, under the examination of Professor J. H. Wilson of Co- 
lumbia University, were given ninety minutes of film instruction. On examination, 
the average mark was 88. Using the same subject and instructing the children 
from textbooks for eighty 2 minutes, the average examination mark was 78, thus 

Editorial, Moving Picture Age, 5:5, December, 1922. 

2 Other accounts of the same experiment show this figure to be "three hundred 
and sixty" instead of eighty. 


demonstrating, according to Professor Wilson, that the first class of students learned 
10 percent more in one-third of the time needed for book instructing. 

The Society for Visual Instruction, with a branch at the Chicago University, 
will conduct other tests in the near future. 

It is only natural for a newspaper to emphasize the story value 
of the articles which it prints, and for this reason one would not be 
greatly surprised to find that such an account involved some exag- 
geration of the facts. However, Visual Education, the official publi- 
cation of the Society for Visual Education, Incorporated, garnished 
the editorial in its first number bv the following epigram by Turgenev, 
"This picture tells me in an instant what would be spread over ten 
printed pages." In a later number of the same magazine we find the 
account of an experiment conducted by a member of the Society in 
the public schools of Evanston which resembles in spirit the news- 
paper account quoted above. The experiment involved the showing 
of a film picturing the life history of the Monarch Butterfly. Fol- 
lowing the film there was a brief general discussion and then the 
pupils were asked to write "frankly and freely their opinion of the 
film and the motion picture way of teaching nature study." Eariy in 
September the pupils had studied the Black Swallowtail Butterflv 
and its larva, using the textbook, mounted butterflies, and actual 
specimens of larva and chrysalis. The following are two of the con- 
clusions which were drawn from this so-called experiment: 

The majority testified that they had a better understanding of the Monarch, 
after this fifteen-minute showing of the film, than of the Black Swallowtail after 
two weeks of specimen and textbook study .... 

And since we base our judgments even more upon our own experience than 
upon what we learn through books of the experience of others does it not follow 
that any educational method which requires the child to make his own observations, 
comparisons and deductions direct from the object studied, must inevitably accom- 
plish far more for his mental development than a method which makes it necessary 
for him to gather from a textbook, ready-made, not only the materials on which 
his judgments must be based, but the very judgments themselves? 1 

In the issue of Visual Education for May 1921 there appears 
an article in which the author tries to answer introspectively the 
question, "What is the psychological effect of reading a book after 
having seen the film version?" His answer is typified by the follow- 
ing quotations: 

a Belfield, L. and Bausch, E. H. "An experiment in nature-study-teaching by 
moving pictures," Visual Education, 2:16, January, 1921. 


The titles .... when accompanied by the appropriate facial expression and 
screen action, revealed the real personality as much as several pages of reading 

Here the twitch of a mouth, the elevation of an eyebrow, the tension of a 
muscle tell more than a page of print .... 

But of scarcely less value than these expression registers were the scenic and 
artistic effects impossible to the stage: in thirty seconds an impression was pro- 
duced rivaling that of many paragraphs of the book. 1 

In the Chicago Daily News for October, 1921, an article was 
headed by the captions, "Teach it by movies educators now cry." 
"This suggestion by H. G. Wells is finally meeting approval." In the 
Moving Picture Age we find an article entitled, "Preparation for 
college via motion pictures." 2 

In McClure's magazine for November, 1922, there appears a 
signed statement by Thomas A. Edison in which the following sen- 
tence occurs: "I believe that the motion picture is destined to revo- 
lutionize our educational system, and that in a few years it will 
supplant largely, if not entirely, the use of textbooks in our schools." 

Caution urged by certain educators. While this propaganda 
has been appearing in newspapers and magazines devoted to visual 
education, a few educators have urged caution in passing judgment 
upon visual aids in education, particularly the motion picture, until 
reliable data concerning the educative value of these materials has 
been secured. In an article bearing the title "Research versus prop- 
aganda in visual education." 3 Professor Freeman of the University 
of Chicago has called our attention to the fact that an educational 
movement usually passes through three stages: (1) the stage char- 
acterized by indiscriminating propaganda, (2) reaction and decline, 
(3) "the return of the pendulum toward the state of equilibrium." 
It is very clear that visual education has been and is still in the throes 
of the first of these stages, and it is highly desirable that we avoid 
or minimize the period of reaction and decline. Another educator 
has attempted to furnish an antidote to the indiscriminating propa- 
ganda by calling attention to some of the fallacies involved. In 
an editorial in the Elementary School Journal for March, 1921, 

Mollis, A. P. 'The screen and the book," Visual Education, 2:22-23, May, 1921. 

2 Koch, F. J. "Preparation for college via motion pictures," Moving Picture 
Age, 4:13, 20-22, August, 1921. 

Treeman, F. N. "Research versus propaganda in visual education," The Journal 
of Educational Psychology, 13:257-258, May, 1922. 


C. H. Judd makes the following comment upon the experiment de- 
scribed on page 6. 

The country has been flooded of late with propaganda material for visual edu- 
cation. Much of this material has been of the cheapest and most sensational type. 
Some of it has confined itself to the statement of the true merits of the visual method 
of instruction and will do more for the promotion of visual education of the right 
kind than will the cheap variety .... 

The most egregious fallacy of the visual educators is that which they make 
when they try to vend their wares as complete substitutes for textbooks. An ex- 
ample of this sort of thing was perpetrated in a circular which came to the editor 
some days ago. With various personal data deleted, the circular sets forth its claims 
in the following terms: "Whether the screen or the textbook is more desirable and 
effective in nature-study teaching has just been put to the children in two public 
schools. One hundred and seventy out of the one hundred and eighty voted in favor 
of the screen as a choice of methods." 

As an educational experiment by a science teacher this seems to be, to say the 
least, a bit biased. The Monarch butterfly seems to have had a background of the 
Black Swallowtail, but no credit is allowed the humble black moth for all the prepa- 
ration which he supplied for his more brilliant successor. 

After all, are the visual educators of the Simon-pure type going to gain their 
point by putting out this sort of stuff? Visual education is too good a possibility 
to fall into this kind of quackery. The textbook is too good an instrument of scien- 
tific teaching to be elbowed around in this way. 

Impartial experimentation necessary. One means of avoiding 
the wasteful period of decline and disuse which has usually followed 
the period of indiscriminating propaganda is by hastening impartial 
and scientific experimentation for the purpose of determining the 
relative merits of visual aids of instruction. The so-called experiments 
already referred to are worthless because of the unscientific manner 
in which they were conducted. Furthermore, the investigator was 
not a disinterested party. In order for research in visual education 
to be effective it must be carried on in such a way that there will be 
no suspicion of the results having been influenced by commercial 
interests. This need for unbiased research exists in other fields but 
it is particularly accentuated in visual education because of the very 
direct interest which producers of visual materials have in the results. 

Scientific experimentation applied. A small amount of re- 
search has already been carried on. Up to January, 1922, three 
notable investigations had been completed and the fourth was well 
under way. The first of these experiments was conducted by J. V. 
Lacy and reported in Teachers College Record for November, 1919, 
pages 462-65. Mr. Lacy compared three methods of instruction: 


(1) the motion picture film, (2) reading the printed page, (3) oral 
instruction. He did not carry his investigation far enough to justify 
a final conclusion but his results indicated that oral instruction was 
slightly better than the reading method which in turn was slightly 
better than the motion picture method. The second experiment was 
conducted by J. J. Weber who compared the effectiveness of four 
methods of instruction: (1) the printed page (2) the teacher (3) 
the silent film and (4) film accompanied by remarks. Mr. Weber's 
investigation was more elaborate than that carried out by Lacy and 
involved nearly twelve hundred seventh-grade pupils in New York 
on the lower east side. He summarized his conclusions in the follow- 
ing words: "While we can not say yet what is the exact influence of 
moving pictures we have strong evidence that it is greater than either 
the printed page or the teacher upon the behavior of our boys and 
girls." 1 

The third investigation was conducted by Dr. Ray Davis of New 
York University and was completed before Weber's thesis appeared. 
Dr. Davis made a study of the psychology of perception of motion 
pictures and for that reason his results do not have a direct bearing 
upon the effectiveness of the different methods of instruction. 

During the spring of 1921 the writer began some experiments 
in visual instruction. By March, 1922, fourteen experiments in the 
schools of Evanston, the elementary school of the University of 
Chicago, and the public schools of Urbana, Illinois, were completed. 
The information obtained shows that in no instance do we find evi- 
dence which would warrant the enthusiastic claims for the superiority 
of the motion picture over other methods of presentation, and that 
a good deal of careful experimentation will have to be completed 
before we are able to tell just what the effectiveness of this new device 
in teaching will be. Certain of these experiments were used as a basis 
for a request in January, 1922, for an appropriation from the Com- 
monwealth Fund, New York City, for the continuation of research 
of the same sort. This request for an appropriation was granted and 
the $10,000 was turned over to Professor F. N. Freeman who, with 
the assistance of the writer, carried on further experiments in the 
public schools of Cleveland, Detroit, Oak Park, Chicago, and Evans- 

Weber, J. J. "Influence of moving pictures upon choice and conduct," Moving 
Picture Age, 5:14-15, July, 1922. 


Influence of scientific experimentation upon commercial 
interests. There is evidence that these scientific investigations are 
already influencing the attitude of those who are commercially in- 
terested in visual education. Shortly after the first three investigations 
mentioned above were published the following statement appeared in 
an editorial in Visual Education, written by Professor W. C. Bagley: 

On the other hand, it is true that many extravagant claims have been made for 
visual instruction which have not been substantiated by careful experimentation, 
and many of which probably could never be substantiated. The policy of the Society 
for Visual Education has been decidedly against such claims, and especially against 
the quite unwarranted supposition that pictures and projectors are to displace — or, 
indeed, do anything more than supplement — textbooks and teachers. One of the first 
steps taken by the Society was the appointment of a Committee on Research and 
Experiment under the chairmanship of Dean W. F. Russell of the University of Iowa. 1 

It is gratifying to find from this and other evidence that those 
producing non-theatrical motion pictures and slides and stereographs 
now realize that the only way to put visual education on a sound 
basis is to approach the questions involved in an unbiased and scien- 
tific manner. Most of the commercial concerns may now be said to 
recognize the value of scientific experimental work in visual educa- 
tion and it is hoped that such research can be carried forward so that 
one movement at least in education will be saved the wasted energy 
of rapid decline which usually follows blind enthusiasm. 

Difficulty in securing films for school use. There is one ad- 
ditional matter which deserves comment. The distributors in charge 
of films which could be circulated for schoolroom use have taken the 
stand that only those films which have no story running through 
them and which are to be shown only in connection with an actual 
lesson will be rented to school men for school purposes. This action 
has been in evidence in Kansas City, Cincinnati, San Francisco, and 
other points in the country, and tends to prohibit the use of many 
films which school men would be glad to obtain. For example, Super- 
intendent Miller of Galesburg, Illinois, reports that a distributor 
has allowed him to give shows to pay for the projection equipment 
but has refused to let him show any more films with that equipment 
when paid for unless the films are shown in the classroom and in 
such a form that no story runs through them. 

*Bagley, W. C. "Research in visual education," Visual Education, 3:324, Sep- 
tember, 1922. 


Visual Education Association of Illinois. Recently there has 
been organized the Visual Education Association of Illinois. The 
members of this organization are teachers and instructors interested 
in the problem of visual education. This organization will devote its 
time and energy to the solution of problems in the field of visual ed- 
ucation, and should serve as a clearing house for information con- 
cerning this new movement and facilitate the distribution of visual 
aids throughout the state. 

Need for further research. As we have already indicated there 
is need for further scientific research. It is to be hoped that in the 
near future we will be able to establish with a large degree of cer- 
tainty the educational value of the stereograph, the slide, the moving 
picture, and other forms of visual instruction. There are indications 
that funds for such a program of research will be forthcoming. 



No. 12. Monroe, Walter S. Announcements of the Bureau of Edu- 
cational Research for 1922-23. 

No. 13. Monroe, Walter S. Definitions of the Terminology of Edu- 
cational Measurements. 

No. 14. Streitz, Ruth. Gifted Children and Provisions for Them in 
Our Schools. 

No. 15. Monroe, Walter S. Educational Tests for Use in Elemen- 
tary Schools. 

No. 16. Odell, Charles W. The Effect of Attendance Upon School 

No. 17. Mohlman, Dora Keen. The Elementary School Principal- 

No. 18. Monroe, Walter S. Educational Tests for Use in High 

No. 19. Streitz, Ruth. Provisions for Exceptional Children in 191 
Illinois Cities. 

No. 20. McClusky, Frederick Dean. Place of Moving Pictures in 
Visual Education. 

A limited number of copies of these educational circulars are 
available for free distribution to superintendents and teachers in Ill- 
inois. We shall be glad to add to our mailing list for these circulars 
the names of any teachers or superintendents who care to receive 
them regularly. We shall be glad also to send additional copies of any 
circular to superintendents or principals for distribution among their 
teachers. Address all communications to the Bureau of Educational 
Research, University of Illinois. 




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