There’s a new effort at Dartmouth College to preserve the work of a guy who taught millions of Italians to read and write on TV.
This was Alberto Manzi, who was born today in 1924 in Rome.
He had worked as an elementary school teacher and would write several children’s books.
But he’s best known today for his work in adult education.
After World War II, Italy was not only trying to rebuild its government and its economy, it was trying to address issues that had existed long before the war.
One of the biggest of those issues was that a lot of lower-income adults had never learned to read or write.
Many had never gone to school, and in some cases they may have lived in places that didn’t even have schools.
In the early decades of radio and TV, there was a lot of talk around the world about how to use mass media for education.
The Italian state TV network RAI hired Manzi to come up with a way to teach reading and writing to Italians who hadn’t learned them already.
His show, whose name in Italian translates to “It’s Never Too Late,” went on the air in 1960.
This was not high-tech TV: Manzi didn’t have special effects, graphics or sometimes even a chalkboard.
It was just him talking to the camera and writing on a piece of paper.
But it worked, because he convinced viewers that what he was teaching would improve their lives, and that they could learn what he was teaching as long as they put in the work and kept up with the show.
And they did.
“It’s Never Too Late” drew huge audiences who followed along at home with the lessons.
In remote or rural areas where people couldn’t afford TVs at home, the authorities would install sets in churches or cafes or town halls so people could watch together.
By some estimates, Manzi’s show helped some 1.5 million people prepare to take Italy’s elementary school license exam.
He brought some of his TV students onto the show, including an 85 year old woman who had learned to read by watching and practicing, living proof of the show’s title, “It’s Never Too Late.”
Manzi is considered a pioneer of distance learning today, and a team at Dartmouth is helping to bring his show to a new audience.
They’re watching some of the more than 400 episodes so they can transcribing them, translating them into English and making them searchable online.
Another idea whose time has come.
Starting today in North Carolina, it’s the Cape Fear Kite Festival.
There will be plenty of colorful and creative kites out on the beach during the day, and Friday evening they’re inviting flyers to join them for a “Night With Kites.”
Alberto Manzi, a pioneer of distance education (L’Italo Americano)