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3 January 2008

New Participatory Project: Classroom Propaganda of Yesteryear

by Sheldon Rampton on 1/1/08

"Capitalism", a Coronet film, explained the American economy through the story of a corner grocer and kids buying supplies for a wienie roast.

We've started an article on Sourcewatch about Coronet Instructional Films, a company that produced cheesy "social guidance" films in the period following World War II, dealing with topics such as personal hygiene, appropriate dating behavior for teenagers, and American economic and social values. The unintentionally humorous qualities of these films have made them ripe targets for ridicule on Comedy Central's Mystery Science Theatre 3000 and elsewhere. However, they had a serious purpose, according to Ken Smith, who has written a book about what he calls "mental hygiene" films. "Adults were scared," he says. "We forget that nowadays and look back on the '50s as an innocent time. No, parents were scared shitless of the same things they are now. Whether it was how to teach a kid to behave on a date or not to have sex or to drive safely, there was a world full of dangers, and that's why these films exist." In addition to amusement, therefore, studying these films can provide insights into social attitudes as well as the propaganda techniques used to indoctrinate a generation of Americans.

You can help with this research by expanding the article on Coronet Instructional Films or by adding articles about similar filmmakers, such as Sid Davis or the Centron Corporation. Perhaps you'd like to watch one of the films -- many of which can be found online at the Internet Archive -- and add a description, summarizing and analyzing its content. If this is your first time editing on SourceWatch, you can register here, and learn more about adding information to the site here, here and here

Have fun, and thanks for your help!

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