High School Lesson Plan - Counterculture and Criticism in the 1950's
written by: Andrew Otocka
• edited by: Carly Stockwell
• updated: 10/9/2013
This lesson plan is the second in a series of five on domestic happenings, trends, and events in the 1950's. It deals with literary critics and nonconformists during the decade and their impact upon the country.
slide 1 of 2
As culture became increasingly homogenized and many Americans seemingly were more and more obsessed with conformity and material well-being, critics emerged to challenge the status quo. Under the seemingly tranquil facade of the 1950's, many people experienced frustration, alienation, and loneliness in a country that they struggled to recognize as their own. The impact of these critics ultimately led to a greater number of people questioning American values and contributed to some of the upheavals of the next decade.
Objectives - Students should be able to describe some of the main criticisms of American society in the 1950's.
Class copies of each poem and excerpt below.
slide 2 of 2
1. Review the portion of the previous lesson that dealt with the flight to the suburbs and the building of the Levittowns. Then have student read the lyrics to "Little Boxes", by Malvina Reynolds, which can be found here:
Discuss the song in the light of what was covered yesterday. What specific criticisms does Mrs. Reynolds put forth? Talk about the evolution of folk music, it's widening popularity in the 1950's, and it's propensity for social commentary.
2. Give each student biographies of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, which can be found here:
Photo of Jack Keroac by Tom Palumbo from New York, NY, USA [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The 1950's: Culture, Conformity & Civil Rights
This series of five high school lesson plans teaches your students the highlights of the decade of the 1950's in America. From middle class culture, to beatniks, rock and roll and the beginning of the civil rights movement.