The sixties were a time to explore and be free. A time where anything went, and it did. The sixties were known as the ‘the age of youth’, most popular as being the “Hippie” era. Around this time, America’s youth wanted change. These changes affected education, values, lifestyles, laws, and entertainment. Many of the revolutionary ideas which began in the sixties are continuing to evolve today. Once branded as immoral, anarchistic, and revolutionary, the counterculture of the 1960s is now playfully imitated. Its sounds, styles, and slogans are the subject of high school spirit days and rally skits. However, let’s take a look at the changes in education, fashion, and society that the sixties produced.
Let’s start off with education. During the sixties, college campuses became centers of debate and scenes of protest more than ever before. Great numbers of young adults, baby boomers, reaching military draft age and not yet voting age, caused a struggle which played out on many campuses as the country became more involved in the Vietnam War. The generation gap became a growing phenomenon. Problems in secondary schools, discovered in the fifties, were being addressed in books such as James B. Conant's The American High School Today. Returning to basic teaching skills was thought to be the solution. In grade schools, phonics made a comeback, as reading specialists tried to fix what went wrong with education in the fifties.
Fashion is a big part of everyone’s life. It’s how you express who you are as a person and how you make a statement. The sixties veered away from the fifties, with its knee length skirts and bouffant hairstyles on women. The women in the sixties began to wear short skirts or hot pants with go go boots with short or long and lanky hair. Men’s hair became longer and wider with beards or mustaches and they usually wore bright colors with polyester suits or turtlenecks. By the end of the decade unisex clothing was very popular. Some examples include bell bottomed jeans, love beads, and embellished t-shirts. Clothing was as likely to be purchased at surplus stores as boutiques.
Society itself took a large leap in the sixties. Martin Luther King Jr. started off the civil rights movement for blacks. This movement started peacefully until 1965 when the Watts riots broke out in Los Angeles. The term blacks became socially acceptable, replacing the term “Negroes”. Around this time, men had been launched into space, thus creating a new frontier. People became more concerned with their health and their environment, as well. Rachel Carson's Silent Spring awakened the environmental movement and the Sierra Club gained a following. Ralph Nader's book, Unsafe at any Speed, led to the consumer movement. During the 1960s, young Americans on and off campuses challenged conventional lifestyles and institutions. They protested the materialism, consumerism, and mania for success that drove American society. They urged people to explore alternative patterns of work and domesticity. They challenged traditions surrounding sex and marriage. And they argued that all paths to deeper fulfillment, even those involving illicit drugs, could be justified. They believed they were creating a new America.
As you can see, the sixties offered us many changes in American society. This wild and free decade of American history was all about exploring possibilities and anything and everything went. Many changes were brought about, women wore pants, blacks were accepted in society, education improved, man walked on the moon. These things were thought impossible before the decade came along. The sixties may be considered as the age of hippies and Vietnam and peace and love and whatnot, but this decade was really the decade of moving forward. If it wasn’t for some of these advancements, we probably wouldn’t be as advanced in society as we are today. So, thank you sixties for all the steps to move forward!
Goodwin, Susan and Becky Bradley . "1960-1969." American Cultural History. Lone Star College-Kingwood Library, 1999. Web. 7 Feb. 2011.
Shmoop Editorial Team. "The 1960s Summary & Analysis"Shmoop.com. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 30 May 2013.