Comparison of 1950s Values and Morals with 21st Century

When it comes to values and morals in American society, there is no difference between the 1950’s and today, the second decade of the 21st century.  The values which I had during the 1950’s as a teenager are exactly the same as those I have now in my seventies.  Only the circumstances differ.

During the 1950’s our society in America held millions of secrets.  Outwardly, people appeared to hold higher values and morals than they practiced in their family and private lives.  Fortunately, many of those secretly-held values are lived openly today.

Some have made positive contributions, others have had negative influences.  Paramount among those are the values is the attitude toward teenage pregnancies. 

During the secrecy of the 1950’s, a high percentage of teenagers, just like adults of that decade, had sexual activities.  Many girls and women became pregnant out of wedlock, as such a pregnancy was called.  Usually, marriage was not only expected; it was demanded. 

A study of Nevada marriage licenses during those years would show the names and addresses of thousands of California teens and adults who rushed to Nevada to get married as soon as they discovered their pregnancy.  Most were adolescents who went there to marry before their family and friends learned of the pregnancy. 

Those were called “shotgun weddings” during that decade because in earlier decades the pregnancy was known first by the female’s family who demanded that the male become the groom even if it meant that an angry father held him at gunpoint. 

To be one of those “pregnancy before marriage”couples was extremely emotional because their secret could become common knowledge in their community, school and church. They were condemned by many people; usually by those who pretended to have higher morals and values. 

Secrecy, hypocrisy, judgementalism and condemnation were prevalent in the 1950’s than in today’s society.  Women and girls who became pregnant carried the heaviest burden, especially when the family of the male would not allow their marriage. 

The saddest and most enraging happening in my school population, class of 1956, was when a delightful, sweet girl became pregnant by “Mr. Big Shot’ who was a student body leader at school. 

Jim might have married Jean but his mother and father demanded he not marry her and they immediately sent him away to a major college across the nation.  The people at church condemned Jean with their gossip but she went through her pregnancy and kept her baby. 

I admired her for being steadfast in spite of how she had been treated. Sometime later, she met her present husband but the pastor of the church would not let her be married in the church. 

Sexual activities and pre-marital pregnancies in this 21st century decade continue to happen; however, condemnation is no longer prevalent.  Secrecy and hypocrisy continue to be paramount in America’s evangelical churches and among the very conservative political groups; however, such is not paramount in society as a whole.  Perhaps this is because church memberships are a much smaller percentage of the total population now than in the 1950’s.

Perhaps the values and morals of people  never really change; just the way they are known by others in a society changes.  The openness of the 21st century seems far more comfortable that all of the secrecy and hypocrisy of the 1950’s.