To the Discussion Leader

Why does television challenge every forward-looking American? Is it one of the greatest contributions science has made to democracy? Does it promise a new era in communication of ideas and information?

Everybody has opinions about the innumerable uses of television as soon as scientists have improved it and manufacturers have produced receiving sets at prices average Americans can afford. The idea of sitting at home and seeing important events hundreds of miles away while they are happening stirs the imagination. Television is new, also, and most people have enough pioneer spirit to be intrigued by the novelty and adventure in newness.

Not even the scientists can say just what lies ahead for television. It has been sufficiently developed, however, to give rise to some very practical and important problems-personal, social, economic, and political. These are the problems that members of your group are likely to be most interested in discussing.

Reading and preparation

As discussion leader, you have a double task: presenting information from the front lines of television research and then encouraging an exchange of ideas by members of your group. This is one GI Roundtable subject that challenges you. You cannot turn to a map and say, “This is television.” You cannot draw television on a blackboard. It will be un-usual if you have a member of your group to whom you can turn and say, “John, tell us about your experiences in television.” Chances are that John has not even seen a television receiving set.

Your own careful preparation is particularly necessary to make your discussion of television a success. It is suggested that you study this pamphlet thoroughly. Place copies in libraries, dayrooms, service clubs, and other reading centers. Call attention to it in advance publicity about your program. This may accomplish two important things for your meeting: stimulate more individuals to attend, and give them background information for more intelligent participation in the discussion.

You will find at the end of this pamphlet suggestions for further reading on television. Libraries to which you may have access may have other good materials. From their periodical indexes you may find interesting and valuable material on the subject in recent magazines. Perhaps your librarian would arrange a special display of this material so it could be used by interested readers.

What type of discussion?

You will find detailed suggestions on techniques of con-ducting discussion meetings in War Department Education Manual, EM 1 GI Roundtable: Guide for Discussion Leaders. Suggestions on radio discussion techniques are available in War Department Education Manual, EM 90: GI Radio Roundtable; this will help you greatly if you wish to broadcast your discussion program over radio stations or sound systems of the Armed Forces Radio Service.

Television could be discussed by any of the methods described in the discussion Guide-forum, panel, symposium, debate, or informal discussion. You can best judge which type will lest suit your situation. Factors to consider in making this decision are the size of your group, the facilities of your meeting place, the availability of one or more speakers who have valuable firsthand knowledge of television and its postwar possibilities.

This pamphlet discusses television under eight major headings: Is television ready for the public? (pages 1–4); Uncle Sam looks at television (pages 4–7); Who are the leaders in the fight? (pages 7–14); Television and family life (pages 14–20); What kind of television? (pages 20–30); Science where magic failed (pages 30–34); A picture becomes a parade (pages 34–41); and Movies and television (pages 41–44). These may help you in outlining your program.

Whatever type of discussion you decide to use, your objective is twofold: to present important facts that inform members of your group about the developments of television and emphasize the pros and cons of its future possibilities; and to engage members of your group in a lively, enthusiastic discussion of television’s future.

In any type of discussion, your role as leader is to keep the thinking of the group on the more important issues. Television may tempt trivial discussion. A hot debate could be developed, for example, on whether actress X possesses more televising appeal than actress Y; but this would waste a lot of valuable time. Members of your group have gathered for more important things. Don’t disappoint them.

Questions for discussion

You have no doubt noticed that questions for discussion have been arranged at the end of each of the eight major sections of this pamphlet. In preparing an outline for your discussion, you may wish to use some of these questions and to add others of your own. If you arrange for other speakers to appear on your program, get their suggestions for further questions. Members of your group will undoubtedly ask their own questions as the discussion progresses, but it is well to have a carefully arranged list before you.

Hints to help leaders

You will be host and chairman combined in your role as discussion leader. Whether your meeting will be an enthusiastic success or a boring failure will depend largely on how well you plan your program, present the subject to your group, and keep the train of discussion on the main track. Here are some hints that you may find helpful:

  1. Publicize your meeting adequately in advance.
  2. Outline and prepare your program carefully.
  3. Rehearse, if possible, with all persons taking part in talks.
  4. Place three or four major questions on a blackboard or chart before the meeting.
  5. Start your meeting on time.
  6. Make everyone feel comfortable, relaxed, “at home.”
  7. Keep the discussion lively; don’t be afraid to use humor.
  8. Maintain an open-minded attitude toward all points of view.
  9. Clarify the purpose of the meeting and then carry out that purpose.
  10. Phrase questions that challenge members of your group to express their views.
  11. Invite full participation of everyone, but embarrass no one by a cutting remark because that person’s idea may sound ridiculous.
  12. Don’t let one or two loquacious or prejudiced individuals dominate the discussion and turn it into a debate or a quibble.
  13. Make your whole discussion personal, enthusiastic, informal.
  14. Allow three minutes for summarizing major points of view discussed.
  15. Don’t let the program ramble wearily overtime; close it on time.

From EM 27: What Is the Future of Television? (1945)