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Schools, Media & Culture in the 1920s

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  • 0:01 New Morality
  • 0:51 Education
  • 1:39 Consumerism
  • 2:34 Media
  • 3:34 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson explores middle and upper class life and culture in the 1920s. It discusses the new morality and how it affected education, business, consumerism, and mass media.

New Morality

If you've ever gone through a really rough time, you know coming out of it makes you want to exhale and have some fun! This sort of sums up middle and upper class America after World War I. The fighting had ended and it was time to party. To put a bit of an academic slant on this, let's take a look at the changes in education, culture, and mass media during the Roaring '20s.

For starters, the 1920s are often credited with producing a new morality. Although this idea really only applied to middle or upper class society, it asserted that individuals should be free to live life as they see fit. Many young girls dressed as flappers, smoked, danced, and dated, while most young men were rather happy about it!

Education

Besides new fashion and dating, the new morality brought changes in education. During the '20s, places of higher learning became much more open to the idea of co-education. Many universities opened their doors to women, and women walked in! Yes, many stuck to the field of home economics, and many may have been hoping to snag a husband. However, they were there! Standing on the new morality, they earned degrees and opened the doors for future generations!

Apart from women, education as a whole changed. Under the name progressive education, it became more student-centered and student-driven approach to education. Driven by men like John Dewey, a proponent of progressive education, progressive education sought to strengthen the individual, not just the whole.

Consumerism

Moving away from education, the '20s also had a fascination with making and spending money! Within the prosperity of the post-war era, production took off. Individuals got in on the action, too. Consumerism, the promotion of the interests of consumers and an interest in buying and spending, took center stage. Rather than just making railroad ties, plane parts, and war paraphernalia, companies upped their production of washing machines, toasters, and gadgets for the family.

To aid the happy consumer, buying on credit became a handy option. In fact, some sources report that by 1927 $6 billion of consumer goods were purchased on credit! For those with money to spend, the idea of buying for necessity got overshadowed by the notion of buying for happiness.

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