America in Ferment: The Tumultuous 1960s
|The Youth Revolt||Previous||Next|
|Digital History ID 3336|
During the 1960s, one age group of Americans loomed larger than any other: the youth. Their skepticism of corporate and bureaucratic authority, their strong emotional identification with the underprivileged, and their intense desire for stimulation and instant gratification shaped the nation's politics, dress, music, and film.
Unlike their parents, who had grown-up amid the hardships of the depression and the patriotic sacrifices of World War II, young people of the 1960s grew up during a period of rapid economic growth. Feeling a deep sense of economic security, they sought personal fulfillment and tended to dismiss their parents generation's success-oriented lives. "Never trust anyone over 30," went a popular saying.
Never before had young people been so numerous or so well-educated. During the 1960s, there was a sudden explosion in the number of teenagers and young adults. As a result of the depressed birthrates during the 1930s and the post-war baby boom, the number of young people aged 14 to 25 jumped 40 percent in a decade (constituting 20 percent of the nation's population). The nation's growing number of young people received far more schooling than their parents. Over 75 percent graduated high school, and nearly 40 percent went on to higher education.
At no earlier time in American history had the gulf between the generations seemed so wide. Blue jeans, long hair, psychedelic drugs, casual sex, hippie communes, campus demonstrations, and rock music all became symbols of the distance separating youth from the world of conventional adulthood.