The Evolution Of Children’s Records
While President Nixon’s administration has its hands full with Watergate, schools throughout the nation are having their own problems with the administration.
Thus far, somewhere in the area of $140 million is being withheld from schools because of what HEW Secretary Casper Weinberger has termed “unneeded social programs” in the schools.
Many of those “unneeded social programs” are programs involving children and audio (and visual) communication. Without those funds – which three States are currently suing the Federal Government over – the so called children’s instructional records that are normally bought by schools, have taken a considerable dip.
But, even if those funds weren’t being withheld, children’s education records would be in the midst of change. “The change” explains Ruth White, a producer of educational material for a number of years, “is a social change. Kids read less and look at more pictures today than ever before. It’s TV, of course. The fund shortage” continues Ruth, “is, hopefully, only a short-term thing.
“Once it’s resolved you’ll see more work in audio than ever before. But, the audio will take on a different approach than previous records. For one thing, the ‘see spot… run spot’ approach is out. The audience is too sophisticated. If you’re going to sell a school a children’s record, it had better be entertaining as well as educational.
Ruth maintains that the administrators and teachers have finally come to this conclusion too. “Before, all you could see was the ‘run spot’ type of record. Today, you’ve got more chance to sell an unusual package than anything else.”Ruth, however, believes that the day of the straight children’s record has disappeared. “We’re already seeing more audio-visual in schools than ever before. Records and cassettes are being used with film strips. It’s not just records, but a ‘multi-media’ approach.”
Del Kacher Productions, which has educational production facility, has done similar work in the field. “How do you turn a kid on with ‘Mother Goose’ after he’s spent the night before watching ‘Emergency’ or ‘The Rookies’? You can’t.”To do something relevant for children in the field, a record has to have several elements. First, it has to have rhythm. Whether its rock, r&b or some other contemporary beat, it has to have it if you’re going to get anything across. Remember, a lot of these kids have older brothers and sisters and even if they haven’t been turning on rock radio, their brothers and sisters have. they’re bound to be influenced from the age of three up.”
To appeal to that “influencing factor.” Kacher’s firm recently put together an education record for black ghetto kids. “We took the lyrics from a well-known black poet and put an r&b beat to it. It was the first time they could relate to what they heard. Kacher agrees with Ms. White about the changing attitudes of schools and administrations. “I think you could divide the country up into a liberal-to-conservative spectrum. In some areas new ideas would e readily grabbed up and accepted; in others, you wouldn’t have any luck at all.”
Kacher sees the East and West Coast as most receptive to ideas with conservatism increasing as you move toward the Midwest. Both Kacher and Ms. White act as independent producers for educational publishers. “I have to,” Kacher says, “learn to translate an educator’s non-musical description of what must happen and direct that into musical arrangement that will reach children. Today, a good part of that reach depends on the beat.”
Ms. White prefers to call herself a “multi-media producer”. “That’s where children’s records are going. They’re practically there now.” Next fall, she’ll be introducing a new children’s character – via records, tape and other means – to schools. He’s called “Mr. Windbag.” Mr. Windbag will be a “multi-media” figure and Ruth will utilize all audio-visual areas – film strips, cassettes, records – to introduce him.
“Mr. Windbag will be a contemporary figure.” she explains. “He’s a result of the media explosion in the school market. And, even though the market may be somewhat depressed today because of a lack of funds, Mr. Windbag will, when the funds permit, be an example to schools of the new type of personality on records and in other media, it will take to ‘get the message across’.”
“In the future.” Ruth says, “audio without visual, except for dance records, will be worthless.”
The changing attitudes towards children’s educational records goes along with the realization by schools that “Kids aren’t all the same even if they are the same age and look alike. Individual Pupil Instruction, IPI, is becoming a way of teaching in schools.” explains Ruth. “Teachers realize that children are individuals and sometimes they have to learn at their own rate. Thus we’re going to see more audio and visual material that kids can relate to and utilize at their leisure. But, they won’t utilize those aidsif there is no entertainment value in them, and records alone won’t get it.”
Utilizing records to help teach average (or normal) children is one thing, however, Kacher was recently involved in a project to help teach Mentally -retarded children via records. His production company took a group of seven retarded children from the Hope School in Orange County, California. The seven, all musicians, whose ages range from 14 to 24, records an album called “High Hopes” an LP, Kacher says reflected, in words and music, the high hopes kids could have even if they were handicapped.
“Many people,” Kacher says, “think of retarded children as being stupid and not normal. That’s not true. They can ‘feel’ your attitude better than the normal kid and they can sense things much faster than the average individual. Mentally, none of these kids was beyond the age of 10, but they all feel, and have tried to transmit to other handicapped children through this album the message – ‘we can make it.’ The material, which they wrote, tells others that they can succeed. We think the album will be of great value to many schools that teach mentally-retarded or other handicapped children. This is the kind of project that makes producing albums for children truly rewarding.”