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"Mental Hygiene"

The Benefits of Looking Ahead (1950)

The Benefits of Looking Ahead (1950), produced by Coronet Instructional Films, acted as a warning to children on the dangers of laying idle. The film follows a group of successful high schoolers voted most likely to succeed in the yearbook, showing that they achieved their success by planning ahead, working hard in school, and making friends. The film was screened in schools as a way of teaching children how they should be preparing for their futures.

Am I Trustworthy? (1950)

Am I Trustworthy (1950), was produced by Coronet Instructional Films, and depicted a young boy learning the importance of being trustworthy, and how that trustworhtiness could be achieved. The film emphasizes the importance of doing what your told and taking responsibility. It was screened in schools across the country.

Educational films during the Cold War did not only relate to international threats, but also focused on the home front. The films on the left represent a sub-genre of educational films known as “Mental Hygene” (Garrison 13). These films told viewers which types of behavior were acceptable, with segments on proper dating etiquette, how to be popular, and how to properly control one’s emotions. Films even put forth opinions on which types of public spaces and activities were more acceptable than others, such as a skating rink being more appropriate than going for a drive (Garrison 13).

The Benefits of Looking Ahead (1950) and Am I Trustworthy? (1950), were aimed at children of all ages, giving clear instructions on how one should conduct themselves in everyday life so as to be successful. While many films acted as “scare films” in order to keep children on the straight and narrow, films such as these two followed a less dramatic method, starting with a child or young adult upset at the success of a fellow peer, before learning the steps they had to follow to achieve that same success (Garrison 8). These films showed how being popular, doing well in school, and taking responsibility as prescribed by authorities would lead to a more fulfilling life.

However, this emphasis on social structure was also related to the threats of the Cold War. For example, The Benefits of Looking Ahead  operated as a way of keeping children “believing in a future” at a time when annihilation from an atomic bomb seemed imminent (Jacobs 37). Am I Trustworthy? often states clearly the need to listen to those who are older and follow instructions to earn trust.

Though the subject matter of these films was very different from the civil defense works such as Duck and Cover the morals were actually quite similar, showing an overarching theme between all aspects of Cold War educational films. These films acted as teaching tools, spreading propaganda deemed neccesary by the government and higher education to America's youth. Whether instructing how to react to an atomic bomb, warning on the dangers of communism, or explaining the need to plan for one's future, these films were a key facet of Cold War era education across the United States.

"Mental Hygiene"