Post 86— Epilogue (Part 1)

samoa_TV StudioThings went downhill quickly in the ETV program after the Broquets left American Samoa. There were rumblings of problems within the ranks of the project as early as 1967 when Governor H. Rex Lee’s term was over. His successor, Owen Aspinall, had other priorities for the islands and absolutely no investment in the master educational plan that had been crafted by the National Association of Broadcasters under Lee’s watchful guidance. Money was shuffled from the educational budget to meet different objectives and Aspinall flirted with other teaching methods that may have guaranteed results at the university level but were wholly unsuitable for elementary-age children.

There was a bugging scandal that had nothing to do with the infamous roaches found on the island, but occurred in the form of wiretapping. It was discovered that several high government officials were being eavesdropped on, including the Director of Education. Funds were directed away from the program, and the final blow came when Aspinall attempted to institute a bizarre salary increase that would have paid newly-hired personnel up to 30% more than what the eight-year plus experienced employees were already receiving. The threat of mass resignation caused him to back down, but staff morale was at an all-time low and the NAEB stepped in.

We just heard that a 30% raise is going to go into effect with the new contract. Larry knew there was a possibility a couple of months ago, but it is fairly official now. Would have been a good raise, but they are talking about it for the new people, not the old experienced ones. The money here hasn’t kept up with the increases in the states and something had to be done to aid the recruiting. Oh well. We are still unemployed as of 7/31/68.


On February 17, 1969, a letter was sent to The Honorable Owen S. Aspinall from the president of the NAEB. It was five pages long, and William G. Harley made no attempt to hide his disdain.
Here are a few excerpts:

For nearly eight years, the NAEB has been actively engaged in the basic design and development of an educational system for American Samoa. The accomplishments of the system have attracted worldwide attention and have illustrated that it is possible to provide relevant educational opportunities for children whose situation presents them with fundamental and serious learning handicaps.

The NAEB is proud of what has been undertaken and what has been achieved in American Samoa. It is especially aware of the personal and professional contributions that a large number of American educators have made in order to give life and meaning to a unique educational plan. We are also aware of the willing and confident trust of many Samoan educators and leaders for whom the plan was designed and upon whom its success will continue to depend.


Since assuming office in the summer of 1967, your public statements to the contrary notwithstanding, it has been clear that the Governor’s tolerance of the NAEB and the main officials in the Department of Education was grudging and impatient. All conversations between the NAEB and the Governor of American Samoa have illustrated a major failure to understand the central characteristics and needs of the education system, and an unwillingness to support it. 


It is conceivable that the important educational lessons being demonstrated in Samoa would persuade the NAEB to maintain its interests, at considerable professional risk and inconvenience  to itself, if it were not that the same tactics and behavior have seriously affected the leaders in the Department of Education. They have been publicly maligned and humiliated; they have been capriciously treated with respect to contract renewals, housing, early departures  . . . prorated budget cuts have seriously jeopardized the education program, and a recent memorandum outlining Major Program Issues for FY1971 does not include education.

The 5-page letter finishes with this:

In withdrawing from our relationship with the Government of American Samoa, I wish to underline that we intend to communicate no lack of confidence or support for the Samoan and American educators who have played such a central role in making the program so successful. But we do not believe that our continued tolerance of the present circumstances will improve the conditions under which they work.

Feb 17, 1969

William G. Harley

After the NAEB pulled their support from the program, Aspinall decided that teachers should have control over whether or not they used television lessons. Over the next few years, television – both the production of lessons and their use in the classroom – was cut further and further back. By 1975, high schools were not using instructional television at all. KVZK was separated from the Department of Education in 1976, and today is used for commercial broadcasting.

Was the great ETV experiment a success or a failure? Depends upon on whom you ask. The program was dismantled before enough data was gathered to determine if it would have remained a viable way to bring education to places without easy access to teachers or textbooks. To the teachers and administrators who were involved from the beginning, it was groundbreaking and fulfilling, and they could point to the hundreds of students who became fluent in English and were able to pursue their studies with many more available resources. The experiences of the ETV staff and their time in American Samoa changed the lives of all who had been pioneers, and their hope and belief was that they had given back as much as they had received.

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