Those of us who grew up in the era of afterschool specials and PC proselytizing for the most part don't have a clue about how blunt and ludicrous the classroom and educational (I use this word loosely) films of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s were.
You might realistically have wanted to know how effective that old standby contraception method 'withdrawal' was. Instead you'd find out that the girl you dig who smokes has probably been around the block. You might realistically have wanted to know about how many beers the average high school male could drink in a night and still be okay to drive. Instead you'd be confronted with endless footage of unrecognizable mounds of steel, glass and melted rubber. The message was clear: THIS COULD BE YOU.
Ken Smith's book illuminates the history of this foul period and the details of a great many of these fantastic contributions to scare tactic cinema.
If you feel you're ready to get up close and personal with these conformist abominations, you'd do well to treat yourself to the Educational Archives DVD series, of which Social Engineering 101 is a particularly bewildering example. Here's someone's stunned survey of what's in store for you:
"School of the Living Dead" - 1960
Strangely shaped children stagger through the world's most terrifying lunch break, as staring adults serve unidentifiable food stuffs. Watch as the scary minions pick at themselves and obsessively collect and arrange used milk cartons, as a lone fly scurries across a freshly cleaned table. Very Bergman; very disturbing.
"Don't Drop the Soap" - 19??
Mike's Xstacy kicks in just at bedtime, opening the door for one of Satan's minions. A foppishly dressed bar of soap attempts to recruit Mike to the gay underworld, tempting him with visions of strapping, sweaty cowboys.
Sign me up!
"Honor Thy Father" - 1950
Tommy attempts to break through sexual stereotypes by taking up both cleaning and construction. Tommy's parents are thrilled, and pay him to continue his chores in a serf-like role. We know Tommy these days as Tommy Tune.
"Bewitched, Bothered, Besmirched" - 1947
Samantha's future husband, Dick "Darrin" York, is fed a line by his old dad, encouraged to emulate the sassy, select, snobbish elite at his new school. Dick gravitates towards the boys and girls with the worst possible hairdos and largest noses, which seems to decrease the size of his ears. The other students ignore him as often as possible because of his internal dialogue, which they can hear, and which terrifies them all. They eventually capitulate when he threatens them with his "oscillator."
"Groovy Kathy, Anorexic" - 196?
Educational films' first ethnic star has a dirty little secret...she won't eat. Even the announcer from the Chicago Dairy Council can't tempt her with hypnotic visions of ice cream or tacos for breakfast. What's wrong with this girl? Lord knows we've tried!
"Squealer" - 1951
Do-gooders ruin everyone's fun by turning in high-spirited teens to the police. Even worse, one is expected to play stool pigeon and turn in the rest of his pals! In this early version of "Scared Straight", we can tell Harry is walking a fine line between good and evil: He has big hair, but it's not greasy. A shyster takes him to his swinging bachelor pad with blonde hi-fi. Tell, Harry, tell!
"Emotion 10, Looks 3" - 1954
Amateur thespians and spooky children chew up the scenery when asked to express "emotion." Abandoned babies, over-crowded classrooms, and hormone-crazed adolescents are only a few of the horrors faced in the brave new world of the atomic age. Let's take a little blue pill called "Compoz."