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NEA Project News

In 1963, NEA teamed up with Hollywood to create Mr. Novak. The show was about an idealistic young high school teacher, played by James Franciscus, facing problems many teachers would recognize. As producer E. Jack Neumann described the show in interview with NEA Reporter, "[o]ur stories sometimes will be provocative and controversial, they'll sometimes show the bad as well as the good among students and teachers. But we aim to keep everything in its proper, true perspective."

By setting it in a high school, the show offered rich opportunities for drama created when young people find themselves facing the challenges of adulthood for the first time. In order to ensure realism, the producers asked NEA to provide them with a a panel of principals and classroom teachers to read first drafts of scripts. Some of the crises which confront him during the series include: students falling in love with teachers; nurturing highly talented, creative students; students considering quitting school; hazing; and teachers with the wrong priorities. The cast would feature such stars as Dean Jagger, Burgess Meredith, Jeanne Bal, and Marian Collier, and some famous guest stars included Walter Koenig, Beau Bridges, Ed Asner, and Martin Landau among others. Francisicus himself would attend the 1964 NEA Convention.

Activities Report Thumbnail

The NEA Collection in Gelman Library's Special Collections contains records of the Association's relationship with Hollywood. These include activities reports prepared for NEA's Press, Radio, and Television Relations Division, tracking how educators assisted with each episode, one of which can be seen to the side.

Those interested in viewing the Mr. Novak material, or anything else from the NEA Collection, should contact Vakil Smallen, the NEA Archivist, at smallen@gwu.edu or 202-994-1371.

The Research Division of the National Education Association was born in 1922. It's purpose was to develop and use objective information about education that could be used by administrators to help "professionalize" teaching and to serve as as a means of responding to criticisms about how public schools spent taxpayer money. Over time, it would grow to provide raw data and analysis for a variety of programs and projects NEA and its affiliates were involved in. When NEA's records were transferred to George Washington University, the work of the Research Division provided one of the most useful sources of information for researchers.

Most of the material came to the archives with very little context. Often, groups of papers with no relationship come packed together in one box. One group of records to arrive in this manner were a few boxes of papers from the Research Division, unrelated by topic or even by format. Covering a time period from the late 1940s through the 1950s, they include tables, questionnaires, abstracts, hand-written notes, press releases, surveys, reports, legal analyses, newsletters, and even hotel registration forms. Most of the topics involve finances, both of school systems and individual teachers. Other topics include surveys of school legislation, religious education, and guides for foreign visitors to American schools. They vary in length from a single printed page to lengthy, well-cited reports.

With records as diverse in form and function as these, it can be difficult to classify them as a group. Together, the documents require 21 boxes for storage so it would not have been easy to group them. The documents needed to be described somehow. The decision was made to put the documents in folders titled "Essays on Research Division Topics" to represent the variety in style and matter. The documents can be found in the collection inventory for the Research Division series of the NEA Collection. Despite the generic folder title, they can be a valuable resource researchers willing to dig through them.

Gelman Library's Special Collections is always happy to see its material being put to use. It's especially nice when it's used by the original donor returning to see how we've cared for their material over the years. Recently, National School Boards Association (NSBA) celebrated its 75th Anniversary. For a significant period of that time, they were affiliated with the National Education Association (NEA), whose records are in Gelman Library Special Collections. The NSBA asked Gelman Special Collections to help them celebrate their history with photos, documents, artifacts, and old films from the Collection. From those materials, a short film titled NSBA's 75th Anniversary was produced and can be viewed on Youtube. The video references the Brown v Board of Education Supreme Court decision, the space age, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX, Common Core and more significant moments in the history of American education policy. If you want to see some of the original films or pictures used in the video, you can search the collection inventories of the NEA collection for records from the NSBA and contact Special Collections staff by phone at 202-994-7549 or by email at speccoll@gwu.edu to request material.

The first page of the 1847 edition of the Teachers Advocate and Journal of Education

Gelman Library Special Collections recently acquired a rare item as a gift from Alicia Nick of the American Federation of Teachers. The item is the 1847 edition of the Teachers’ Advocate and Journal of Education. This journal was published by the New York State Teachers’ Association, one of ten state teachers’ associations that came together in 1857 to form what would become the National Education Association. The journal itself is a product of its time and contains both language and content that modern readers will find offensive. Nevertheless, it includes articles of interest to parents, teachers and the general public, covering topics such as teaching methods, personal anecdotes, advocacy, and mathematics and science topics.

Of note is an article about how to project an eclipse. At right is one mathematician's illustration providing directions to calculate the time and place of an eclipse given certain criteria. The detailed instructions that follow the image take up a page and a half of text.

The journal is available for researchers to read in the Special Collections Reading Room. It is located on the 7th floor of Gelman Library. It can be found in the Gelman Library catalog. The journal is held offsite and anyone interested in reading the journal should contact Special Collections staff as 202-994-7549 or speccoll@gwu.edu.

Thumbnail of a Letter from Chong-kook Kim to Dr. William Carr

War leaves many victims beyond the battlefield. In 1951, the first year of the Korean War destroyed homes, farms and schools, leaving behind deprivation and want in much of the country. Schoolteachers bravely tried to continue classes amidst the chaos, often just setting up a tent in a field. In an effort to assist their professional colleagues abroad, the National Education Association activated the Overseas Teacher Fund. Warm clothing was identified as the greatest single need and, in an entirely voluntary effort, teachers across the United States pitched in to help.

Thankful Koreans teachers and students wrote letters back to express their gratitude. These letters hint at the troubles they face and provide a rare personal glimpse into the lives of civilians suffering through a brutal war. The N.E.A. gathered these letters together and bound them in a unique set of scrapbooks. Nine volumes in all, these books have hand-written letters in English and Korean explaining how they used the gift, translations of select letters and photographs of the writer wearing the new clothes, providing a rare glimpse into the lives of average people during one of the 20th centuries bloodiest wars.

All nine volumes are available to view in the Special Collections Research Center on the 7th floor of Gelman Library. They can be found in the catalog. Anyone interested in viewing the books should contact Special Collections at 202-994-7549 or speccoll@gwu.edu.

In 1947, the National Education Association created the Overseas Teacher Fund to help "wage the peace." Intended to help ease the financial burden of teachers in countries whose economies had been ravaged by war. Donations were given by individual teachers rather the organization itself, and encouraged by a speech given by soon-to-be NEA Executive Secretary William G. Carr, they donated $272,865.78 in the first year of its existence. In response, those teachers who were recipients of the money wrote thank you letters back. Those letters were collected together by the NEA and have now come to Gelman Library as part of their collection. If you are interested in viewing the books, they can be found in our catalog here and here. Please be aware that these books are stored in an offsite storage facility. If you are interested in looking at them, please contact Special Collections beforehand and let us know that you would like to see the volumes.

Letter from Mina Becker to Willard Givens in thank you

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