It was an explosive generation alright but the explosion was yet to come. This is a high-school class of Baby Boomers in 1961 who are coming to realize that they can made demands on authority figures and win. No guns yet. Just a general strike by the students and then the silent treatment in every class.
What are the students demanding? They want to ask "relevant" questions of one of their more accommodating teachers, a handsome young William Shatner. Shatner, in response to students' anxious questions in class, has had them write about their sexual feelings and their emotions. "Sex education!", some parent cries. The rumors spread that Shatner is teaching them things that only parents should pass on to their kids. In cute, blond Patty McCormack's case, she and her boyfriend are deeply in love, but should she go "all the way"? She confesses to being tempted. On the other hand, propriety requires that the couple done get past first or second base. I never understood what the baseball metaphor worked out to in real life, although I can guess at the meaning of "home run." There is a movement afoot in some of the United States to return to the values of yesteryear and delete sex education or anything like it from the high school curriculum. And it makes sense. Sixteen- and seventeen-year-old kids know nothing at all about sex. They don't know what goes where. I'm all for kids being deprive of sex at that age but only out of spite, because it was so difficult for my generation.
It's a TV-style movie with flat lighting, unimaginative settings, non-actors in major roles, and an unbelievable solidarity among the students, all of whom look alike -- white, prim, proper -- except for one guy who looks like an Indian.
Yet, perhaps unwittingly, it's not as stupid and exploitative as it was intended to be. It illustrates Karl Marx's argument that progress is achieved only when "false consciousness" ("It's all my fault") is replaces by "class consciousness ("It's the system's fault and we can overcome it by sticking together").
It's also an illustration of the ongoing transfer of jobs from the primary institutions, like the family, to secondary institutions like schools and medical corporations. I'll give you a personal example. An old man, my grandfather, would soak his feet and somebody -- namely me -- would have to trim his toenails because he couldn't reach them. When my mother reached the same age, a podiatrist paid by the insurance company visited the house and trimmed her nails every few weeks.
Shatner doesn't ham it up. I like him just as much now when he's got the faucet turned on full blast and overacts bombastically. Patty McCormack is a cute teen but Hollwyood was full of cute teens. There is only the faintest echo of her pre-pubescent maniac in "The Bad Seed." Stephen Dunne is a likable character, a pragmatist, as the father of one of the boys. He and the other parents, as well as the principal, Edward Platt, are given their due as people of principle who are all a little befuddled by what's going on with the kids.
Just wait until 1968 rolls around.