On October 6,1889 inventor Thomas Edison showed his first motion picture.
These are excerpts from an article describing Edison’s ideas for using motion pictures to revolutionize education appeared in Frank Leslie’s Weekly on September 19, 1912. This article was prefaced by this note:
EDITOR’S NOTE: Motion pictures, as many believe, are destined before long to play a most important part in the education of the young. This article sets forth Thomas A. Edison’s ideas as to this matter and the plans he has in view for their practical application. The writer, William H. Meadowcroft, is Mr. Edison’s very competent assistant at the inventor’s laboratory at Orange, N. J., and is qualified to do full justice to the subject. As his article shows he has the true literary gift as well as scientific enthusiasm.
How Edison Would Educate Children
With an inquisitiveness that remains unsatiated after fifty-five years of experimentation, Thomas A. Edison still continues his endeavors to take a sly peep through any minute crevice he can find in the door of Nature’s laboratory. It is a long cry from the little nook in his mother’s cellar, where he began experimenting at the early age of ten, to his present elaborately equipped and well-manned laboratory.
Edison’s inquiring mind is ever alert, but never wastes any energy out of mere idle curiosity. Only a definite plan, based on logical reasoning, is acceptable for any specific work that may be undertaken. The experiments may call for a variety of knowledge and may lead very far afield, but there is always a well-defined object in view and specific lines of work are laid out as a basis for exploration.
It is not surprising, therefore, that he holds some pronounced views on preparing children for their later work in the world, by giving them an education that is based upon their own personal observation and the exercise of their own power of thought. While these views are not of recent origin, they have been emphasized in later years by reason of the interminable questions of his young son, who inherits no small share of the paternal inquisitiveness.
Like every other thoughtful schoolboy, before whose opening mental vision a vast world of wonders is looming up, Edison’s son finds himself hampered by the impossibility of satisfying the yearnings of his mind as to the true inwardness of things by knowledge derived from text-books and mere oral teaching. Boylike, he asks many incisive questions relating to his studies, which the father thinks might well be forestalled through the application of modern inventions to educational practice by appealing to the eye as well as to the ear and the intellect.
The extensive exploitation of the motion picture in recent years and the vast possibilities of its development have of late impressed Edison more and more with an idea of its practical value as an educational adjunct. Possibly his one infirmity, deafness, has made him more keenly alive to the avidity with which the brain grasps the meaning of things seen with the eyes. Be that as it may, however, his convictions are strong as to the permanent value of ocular demonstration in the process of educating the child.
By the time a child can talk, it has acquired an amount of knowledge that is much greater than we appreciate and probably more in extent than it ever acquires in the same period of time later in life.