After World War I, America went through a great shift in moral and social values. Before the war, most people believed in traditional values of hard work, family, and religion. After the war, many people felt suspicious and afraid. They disagreed on what should happen in America.
- Schools adopted new progressive educational practices. Teachers were instructed to let children learn through hands-on methods. Children were taught by looking at and memorizing words, rather than through phonics instruction. Tests were used to measure performance. Most schools still use these techniques.
- People distrusted others who were different than them. The Klu Klux Klan dressed in white robes and hoods, holding parades and demonstrating against Catholics, Jews, foreigners, African-Americans, and radicals. They controlled the politics of many small towns and sometimes terrorized others.
- New political ideas emerged, such as Communism. People worried that a Communist revolution might happen in the U.S. Radicals sent bombs in the mail to prominent U.S. citizens and politicians. No one was killed and the post office found most of the bombs, but Americans were frightened.
- Women began wearing short skirts, cutting their hair, and wearing makeup. These women, known as flappers, were part of a young crowd that wanted to have fun. They enjoyed going to dances, drinking, and living a life with few rules. Moving pictures and radio offered entertainment. Crossword puzzles, beauty pageants, and dance marathons became fads.
- Others longed for a return to traditional values. Prohibition was a law that made it illegal to make, sell, or buy alcohol. It didn’t work very well. People went to hidden bars and clubs (speakeasies) to get alcohol.
- Phonics: the system of learning to read based on the sounds of the alphabet
- Radical: someone with extreme political views
- Communism: a form of government found at the time in Russia and China. In Communism, all forms of religion are generally prohibited. The government owns all property and citizens are given work assignments.
Questions and Answers
Question: How did this time change America?
Answer: For the first time, American culture was driven by media. Radio, moving pictures, and easy access to magazines and newspapers influenced people’s ideas. Many people felt rebellious and cynical. Family life seemed less important. This shift in values had a profound effect on America. Do you think it was positive?
Visit Scholastic to learn more about Communism.