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With the announcement that Harvard is about to go on the air comes a creeping fear that the talent of this University will not measure up favorably with the more extravagant and better advertised radio programs. Perhaps this very fear will do more than anything else to make lectures here the best-planned and most informative in the country. For when Yale and Chicago follow our lead to the microphone competition will have begun in earnest and America's oldest university will have the chance to show the world its real appeal.
It is significant that President Lowell who so often said that this is the "age of advertising" should live to see Harvard's men of learning go on the air along with Chase and Sanborn and Dainty Dot Hosiery. The days are gone when Santayana could sit in his cloister and ponder upon the mysteries of the universe. Now he is known to every stenographer as the author of "The Last Puritan," soon to sell for $1.69 a copy at Liggett's. Those members of the faculty who find themselves unable to write, and shudder at the thought of President Conant's dictum: "Publish or Perish," should take new heart. They may soon discover that they have "radio appeal," and to them the future certainly belongs.
Certain aspects of the plan betray a surprising lack of generosity on the part of the University. Morning lectures are to be recorded and not put on the air until later in the day when the audience is larger. This is rank discrimination against the American housewife, and promises to become a breeder of privilege. Imagine the pleasure that would come into the lives of our wives and mothers if during mornings spent bent over a hot stove or steaming washtub they could turn a switch and hear a lecture from Mallinckrodt, perhaps by Professor Kohler, giving them some new pointers on biscuit-mix.
The question of a sponsor assumes great importance. The Yale football team has already bagged the Atlantic Refining Company, and Harvard professors can not do less. General Motors would be a happy choice, and Professor Sorokin could supply the running comment. There is danger in allowing professionalism to capture the University too completely. The whole program should be run as an amateur hour. Listeners in each city could telephone their choices to a central office or telegraph direct to Cambridge. Each week's winner should get a free trip to New York and a three day contract at the Radio City Music Hall. President Conant should be on hand at all times to give the gong.
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