The Differences of Teenagers in the 1940s Compared to Teenagers Today

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The Differences of Teenagers in the 1940s Compared to Teenagers Today Elizabeth Ann Murphy Keller Regional Gifted Center, Chicago Teacher: Sandra Cap

"Teenager" was not even a word until the late 1940s. Zoot suits, bobby-soxers, soda shops, do not sound familiar. These were all things 1940 teenagers know. A teenager's life in the 1940s and today is extremely different in the areas of high school life and home life. If you stepped into a classroom in the 1940s, you might see girls making dresses and boys training hard in physical education. At Crane Technical High School, physical education was very important because the principal wanted to keep all of the boys in tiptop shape for war. At Lucy Flower High School for girls, the students studied hat making, laundering, and beauty culture. Also, schools that had sewing classes, had a fashion show at the end of the year where the boys and girls alike would fashion what they had made. According to the Chicago Teen Exhibit at the Chicago Historical Society, the reason these classes are so different from today is "many poor and immigrant families saw little value in studying subjects like Latin and Botany. Educators knew that young people and their parents would choose school over work only if it served a practical purpose. In response, schools offered vocational and commercial courses from dressmaking to bookkeeping. Growing numbers of young people soon filled technical schools”. Schools taught lessons in family life, hygiene, and health. According to Joel Spring this was because "What do we do with sixty percent of students who aren't gaining

anything from a college-prep curriculum? We will give them “life adjustment education”. In 1940, eight out ten boys who graduated from school went to war and more than half of the population of the United States had completed no more than eighth grade. In 1945 fifty-one percent of 17 year olds were high school graduates. Today, more than 13 million teenagers report to...
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