Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Dr. Horwich's Video Nursery School

Happy birthday to Frances Horwich (July 16, 1907 - July 22, 2001), the professor of education who unexpectedly became an early TV star hosting the popular kids' show Ding Dong School. Seen five days a week on NBC-TV from 1952 to 1956, Dr. Horwich's "nursery school of the air" was one of the first shows to demonstrate television's capacity for teaching the young. After leaving the network, Ding Dong School continued in syndication until the mid-1960s, and was widely viewed by the Baby Boomer generation.

Committed to her beliefs as an educator, Dr. Horwich didn't abandon her principles when she went on television -- she vetoed sponsors whose products she thought shouldn't be peddled to her audience, and resisted efforts to make her gentle, low-key show splashier or more frivolous. When NBC executives wanted to expand her show to an hour, she balked; she thought 30 minutes was enough time in front of the set. Asked in 1954 how television impacted children, she said, "I am torn between my background as an educator and my current status as a network performer. But I do feel that television should not interfere with outdoor play, nor should it function as a baby sitter." 

If you've never seen Ding Dong School, you can visit Dr. Horwich's video classroom here.

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