Headnote: An earlier version of this article appeared as part of the Novice History Series, Part IX, in the Winter 2010, volume 5, #4, QCWA Journal, pages .
This article is the first in our special topic on school based amateur radio programs in the Novice era. In this article we will tell of the career of an particular high school electric shop teacher, Jack Brown, W6EQH (sk) whose 33 year career at three Los Angeles area high schools resulted in him teaching over 2,000 students (http://www.cadigital.com/buchwald.htm ). While 2,000 plus students is impressive, overly focusing on the quantity may lead to missing the historical-socio-cultural significance of Jack's career which parallels the rise in fall of the industrial arts (sometimes called vocational arts) education movement in the United States.
Few would disagree that that electric shop was the best home for amateur radio in the K-12 educational system. Most hams are under the false impression that electric shop and other shop classes are not being taught, in all but a small number of schools in America due to budget cuts. This was only part of the reason. The greater influence was the school reform movement. The school reform movement mistakenly thinks shop class have little or no academic value and should be eliminated. Inherent in their assumption is a middle-class white collar bias against blue collar work. This kind of thinking values college education and looks down upon people who work with their hands. School reform killed electric shop and with it a home for amateur radio in schools. Before we get back to Jack Brown, we should note the school reform movement has failed. Schools are even worse than before the school reform movement started.
At each school, Leuzinger, Roosevelt and Hamilton, Jack brought amateur radio with him as a means to draw the students into electronics. As a few of his alums pointed out, for Jack ham radio was a means to the end of learning electronics.
Jack did not get amateur radio into the curriculum but instead had an after school ham radio club. He did however spend the first 10 minutes of electric shop class sending code practice. The rest of the class was spent on learning theory and doing electronic construction projects. He actually encouraged his students to get the Technician rather than the Novice because they would have to learn more electronics theory. Some kids however started off as a Technician. Other started off as a Novice. Some already came to Jack's class already having a Technician or General. We should keep in mind that Jack's teaching predated the Novice and Technician licenses which only came into effect in 1951. Jack taught for nine year before this system went into effect. In fact, when Jack got started World War II had begun and amateur radio had been shut down.