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Tuesday, September 23, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 71.0° F  A Few Clouds
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Collecting MadVideos -- Casting blasts from the past

One of the most significant developments of this mid-term election season is the rise of online video -- through the embedded format of YouTube -- as an important element of spreading everything from campaign ideas to candidates' gaffes. This format has proven significant all the way from the highest-profile U.S. Senate races to the most local of issues.

In Madison, educational activist and Edgewood College history instructor Thomas J. Mertz produced and published online four short videos urging a yes vote on the Madison schools referendum that will be on Tuesday's ballot. Organized as one question with three segments, the referendum would authorize funding for a new elementary school on the southwest side, finance more classroom space at the Leopold elementary school, and refinance district debts in order to provide continuing educational programs and services. Compared to the previous set of Madison schools referenda in May 2005, there is little formalized opposition to this proposal. However, Communities and Schools Together (or Madison CAST) is working to pass the school funding referendum, and it is for this group that Mertz created the promotional videos.

Kicking off with a classic rock track, all four shorts utilize clips from early Cold War-era propaganda films about education to present an object lesson in favor of the referendum. They focus on voter apathy (or opposition), school overcrowding, voter interest, and the economic benefits of educational investment. Each urges a yes vote in the referendum, and points viewers towards the URL

All four Madison CAST promotional spots in favor of this autumn's schools referendum follow below, including the featured video considering the question of the educational chicken or egg.

That was titled The Big Payback, and was the fourth and final pro-referendum short created by Mertz. The first three follow:

  • Shame, Shame, Shame is the shortest at a minute, utilizing footage of six educational elders explaining their votes on "increased school funds."
  • "Just as the community changed, so did the classroom," begins Getting Mighty Crowded, the second short video. This one utilizes footage warning about the educational distractions of a school swarming with students.
  • The longest of the spots is Let's Work Together. This video returns to the same six opinionated persons in the first spot, where they each pledge a commitment to education in the vernacular of early Cold War propaganda.
If it isn't clear, the title of every short is also the title of the classic rock song that kicking off the message.

The archival video used in the shorts -- pro-education propaganda from the late 1940s and early 1950s -- was sourced from the Internet Archive, or more specifically, the Prelinger Archives in the project's collection of movies, films and videos.

Mertz has written extensively about the referendum at School Information System, including a lengthy essay about his work with CAST and his support for the referendum. More information about the issue is available in an elections portal created by Madison schools activist Jim Zellmer.

If you wish to let us know about more videos by, of, and about Madison and Madisonians, please consider adding them to the Isthmus YouTube group or send a message.

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