Father Knows Best Because He Knows Science

Via Bora's blog, a delightfully cheesy1955 filmstrip about why science education is more important than anything else - even fishing. It starts out slow, but this Sputnik-era treasure turns into a veritable propagandafest about how science literacy is a civic duty. Plus, it raises vital questions like "Why do these kids have weird pseudo-Southern accents even though their parents don't?" and "How can science help Betty 'hook some guy'?"

Remember, women need to know as much about science as some men do! Are you going to be ready?

(Look how bored Betty looks by the end.)

Provenance: Prelinger Archives

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Yes, I noticed the Betty character looked a bit bored, and the young man what's his name looked like he was going to bloom into a scientist at any moment.

One could go through the text and make a list of the scientific endeavorers the boy could aspire to vs. the girl, according to the film, and ... hey, wait, that's bloggable...


"Why do these kids have weird pseudo-Southern accents even though their parents don't?"

That's an easy one! The answer is: They all have Southern accents, but the adults are actors involved in local theater and/or television, and have worked hard to adopt a bland, generic American accent for professional reasons. If you listen closely, they each falter a bit once in a while. My best guesses for the filming location is Florida or Texas, which both once boasted busy independent film production companies.

Propaganda-wise, it's fairly mild compared to a lot of stuff put out during the Red Scare era. In fact, the emphasis on using science for "peaceful purposes" like food security, and the warnings against the use of science for "destructive purposes" make this a fairly lefty film by the standards of the day.

And at least they emphasized the importance of science education for young women, even if they did it within the context of standard gender roles. Lord knows if they'd've promoted women in the workplace in non-gendered jobs, on top of everything else they advocated, they would've wound up testifying before HUAC.

(A personal story: It was right around 1955 that my Mom, then 18 years old, announced that she had met the man she wanted to marry. Grandpa didn't approve, and told her that if she didn't get married, he would "let her" go to college. The world has changed a hell of a lot since 1955, and each step was a baby step.)

I was actually thinking along the lines of "why are we supposed to think it's plausible that the kids have weird pseudo-Southern accents even though their parents don't," but thanks for the comment and memory, HP! ;)

Does that mean enthusiasm for science in Kansas has actually declined since 1955, Bora?! ;)