Learn How to Be a Teen in 1950

The sexual education debate has been a chronic one. No one can seem to agree on what age to teach children about sex, what details should be disclosed to different grades, if condoms should be supplied in schools, or if abstinence can be used as an effective approach to sex-ed.

While it seems as though this same song has been sung for decades, it has, indeed, evolved with the times. Educational videos shown in grade schools and high schools today struggle with drug abuse, rape, and coming into your own sexuality. A look at Coronet Films, which were shown in great regularity in American schools in the 1940s and ’50s, shows a completely different world of instructional videos for teens. Teens in the ’50s were taught how to say no to a goodnight kiss, not how to say no to a hit off a bong.

Several are available to view in the Prelinger Archives. While for many this will be a walk down memory lane, the younger generation can now see just how different things were a short 50 years ago.

Some suggestions are highlighted below:

  • Lunchroom Manners
  • Going Steady?
  • Dating: Do’s and Don’ts
  • Self-Conscious Guy
  • How Honest Are You?
  • I Want to Be a Secretary
  • Am I Trustworthy?
  • How Quiet Helps at School
  • Exercise and Health
  • You and Your Parents
  • How to Be Well Groomed
  • The Fun of Being Thoughtful
  • While today these films are primarily screened as novelty pieces to mock, they are no doubt a precious capsule of the 1950s zeitgeist.

    –Cara Binder

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    30 Responses to Learn How to Be a Teen in 1950

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    4. Here you are debating on age of sex education. In India we debate, sex education should be given or not. The biggest problem of developing countries. Narrow minded.

      • The Toronto says:

        What is Narrow minded?
        Is it to have values and traditions to holds the society and makes it strong to be protected and survive?
        or to just live like animal, sleep with anyone anywhere with no value in life.
        wake up man. India has survived and continues to grow due to the fact of it is cultural values. As soon as they become linke the Westerners, India will die. That is a fact. The Western cultural and civilization is going down. It may take 20 50 or 100 years but they are going down. The same as greek and roman disappeared.
        Wake up

      • Dale Kay says:

        To NOT debate is narrow-minded. No worries, mate.

      • Charlotte says:

        Until fairly recently, it was the same here. I am only 24, but when I attended high school, we were given “abstinence-only” education, which was basically a terrifying seminar where they tried to scare us away from ever having sex with graphic pictures and depictions of sexually transmitted diseases.

        It didn’t work.

    5. GrubLord says:

      What is it with all the fake comments on these blog posts? “The Agra Indian” seems to be the only other real person here…

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    8. junior says:

      send me some video at my email adress

    9. Dave_Pet says:

      Hi,
      About the Going Steady movie, this one:
      http://www.archive.org/details/GoingSte1951

      Were these seen as lame and silly by the teens, even back then?
      Or was the “be decent, be good” tone so pervasive in society that most people fell for it?
      Surely some of the WWII vets were far too jaded to fall for this, or let their kids fall for it, right?
      I imagine my Dad laughing at this even back then, he’s a boomer.
      Need more info, a doco on the subject anyone?
      Cheers, Dave_Pet

    10. Hah, this is good stuff. I grew up in the 80s, and I don’t even want to talk about the crazy stuff we did then🙂.

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    12. rj1smith says:

      RE: About the Going Steady movie
      Dave_Pet // October 6, 2009 at 5:27 am | Reply
      Hi, About the Going Steady movie, this one:
      http://www.archive.org/details/GoingSte1951
      Were these seen as lame and silly by the teens, even back then? Or was the “be decent, be good” tone so pervasive in society that most people fell for it? Surely some of the WWII vets were far too jaded to fall for this, or let their kids fall for it, right? I imagine my Dad laughing at this even back then, he’s a boomer. Need more info, a doco on the subject anyone?
      Cheers, Dave_Pet
      ———————————————-
      Obviously, some of the kids were quite jaded, as there always has been, and will be, but I am from the baby-boomer generation, and we were much more innocent than the kids today. If the only things you see at the movies and on tv (and radio) are innocent, and if your parents want to keep you innocent, it takes a while for the other stuff to make it into your life. While I haven’t actually seen documented proof that kids back then “fell for this stuff” as much, I can say many of us did… (and dream of a return to that period, in some aspects of our lives.) For instance, students today see (sometimes) several fights or near-fights at school per day. When I was in school, I only saw probably one fight all the way through, until I graduated. My father says he NEVER saw ANY fight on school property, but saw several outside school, since kids were not protected by parents as much back then.

    13. Absolutely true to life in 1950. I remember it well and might have laughed at some of the stiff acting, since I knew some fine juvenile actors, but not the message, which was in accord with my parents teachings.

    14. Sam says:

      I grey up in the ’60’s and ’70’s – we were all pretty innocent then. But not like the 1950’s. I think by the late 1970’s, a lot of the cultural norms had begun to break down, and bad behavior was getting to be the status-quo.

      Sam

    15. Pingback: How to Be a Teen in 1950 | Collectively Unconscious

    16. Mark Lavel says:

      I often speak to my father about life when he was growing up – it seems like such a different time… He too stated that there were hardly any fights, that people respected each other (and their elders). It seems there was a more coherent social structure. Sometimes I wish we had that; a kind of innocence I suppose.

    17. porno says:

      thanksss.I remember it well and might have laughed at some of the stiff acting, since I knew some fine juvenile actors, but not the message, which was in accord with my parents teachings.

      • Ray says:

        The stiff acting notwithstanding, the messages in all those short films convey a morally upright and ethically conscious society in the USA. One must remember that the nation was founded upon principles that are rooted in puritan behaviour and thought. This continued until the late 50’s when WWII servicemen came home with tall stories of their encounters with those “wild” European wimmen. The fear of STD’s also played a prominent role of how a morally chaste society ought to behave. Look around you today ! It is unfortunate that a little more of those morals did not rub off on the youth of those days. They probably agreed that the acting and the topics were hokey.

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    19. sikiş says:

      Hah, this is good stuff. I grew up in the 80s, and I don’t even want to talk about the crazy stuff we did then.

    20. m says:

      These mostly have good lessons.

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