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ERIC Number: EJ933473
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Nov
Pages: 16
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0018-2745
"Shake This Square World and Blast off for Kicksville": Teaching History with Post-WWII Prescriptive Classroom Films
Neuhaus, Jessamyn
History Teacher, v44 n1 p35-50 Nov 2010
An examination of prescriptive classroom films, particularly films made between 1945 and 1961, reveal a great deal about postwar society in general and youth culture in particular. Using these films in an undergraduate history course presents some very real problems, but the author argues that using them also offers instructors at least three important opportunities for fostering student learning. First, these films can help students deepen their understanding of the postwar period through exposure to cinematically simplistic but culturally complex texts from that time. Second, they challenge students to truly engage a source from the past on its own historical terms, rather than through the lens of their contemporary media environment--they cannot "watch" these films in the same way they "watch" contemporary movies, online entertainment, or TV shows. Third, these films may help students to recognize how, at multiple sites of power and meaning, hegemonic norms emerge, or to put in more student-accessible language, to recognize the complex ways people as a society decide what is normal and desirable social behavior. Reading these films against the grain offers today's students the opportunity to understand more clearly both the complexities of the postwar period as well as the nature of historical inquiry in general. In this article, the author discusses how she incorporates the films into a larger lesson that emphasizes the ways dramatic social change shaped the era erroneously stereotyped as simply dull, naive, and conformist. By incorporating these films, she is able to provide students with analytical tools to better understand the full implications of the films. She also discusses how she has been able to employ the films successfully in undergraduate classes. (Contains 38 notes.)
Society for History Education. California State University, Long Beach, 1250 Bellflower Boulevard, Long Beach, CA 90840-1601. Tel: 562-985-2573; Fax: 562-985-5431; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A