ERIC Number: EJ1225390
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2019
The Franklin Institute Science Museum's Cold War Consortium for Science Recruitment, 1955-1960
McCullough, D. O.
American Educational History Journal, v46 n1 p107-123 2019
In March 1958, a tense six months after the launch of the Russian satellite Sputnik I sent a shockwave of fear and purpose through the United States, an essay published in the Franklin Institute (TFI) monthly member newsletter, "The Institute News," opened with an oddly defiant, even dismissive tone ("Sputnik, Teachers & Mills" 1958, 2). At the time, TFI was a 134-year-old organization based in Philadelphia that was dedicated to promoting engineering and science, including an interactive industrial science museum that opened in 1934. One would have expected TFI to reflect the dire dedication permeating American society in the deepening Cold War. Instead, the uncredited author grumbled that the Sputniks had led to a "barrage of editorials, in all manner of publications," claiming, "alleged weaknesses in our American educational system." The author lamented being "told that we must have more physicists, chemists, mathematicians, engineers and all manner of highly specialized persons" for a "contest with another world power." But the Institute's legacy of resourceful resolve was communicated with the introductory paragraph's ironic closing: "Well, let's have at it!!" The sarcastic opening was more than a narrative device, however, as TFI's staff and institutional partners, both military and corporate, had been working to bolster America's scientific and engineering workforce well before Sputnik I. Beginning in March 1955, the Franklin Institute Science Museum's (FISM) Department of Education collaborated with corporate specialists working through professional organizations like the Institute for Radio Engineers to host career forums for high school students. Through these programs, the FISM's leaders coordinated the efforts of corporate representatives to create a Cold War consortium for science education, using the museum as a base to achieve their shared goal of recruiting talent to maintain national security and American prosperity. The author argues that the singular combination of TFI's unprecedented history of industrial support and educational innovation, its premier science museum, and burgeoning research program cultivated an institution-wide authority that its partners followed during a time of national need. To better understand how and why TFI's leadership was able to create and cultivate its Cold War consortium for science education, the author draws primarily from articles published in TFI's monthly newsletter, "The Institute News" to explore the career forums offered at the FISM from 1955-1960. "The Institute News" covered the breadth of TFI's activities and is therefore a rich primary source that offers context for how the museum fit into the Institute's broader agenda and activities. However, as a promotional publication, "The Institute News" focused on new and notable programs, often to the exclusion of details about challenges faced or reasons why programs ended. Perhaps most importantly for this study, "The Institute News" presented the ideas and interests of the Institute's leadership, with those its consortium partners rarely and selectively included.
Descriptors: Museums, War, Social Systems, Political Attitudes, Foreign Countries, United States History, Career Choice, Sciences, Engineering, Space Exploration, Recruitment, Exhibits, Student Recruitment
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United States; Russia; Pennsylvania (Philadelphia)