Human Beginnings (1950)

7 Jul

After the phenomenal success of Human Growth (1947), a sex education film for 7th grade children, my man Lester F. Beck heard enough feedback from parents and teachers that there ought to be a film for even younger children. He wrote Human Beginnings (watch it online here) especially for children in kindergarten and first grade. Eddie Albert produced this film, too, and although the E.C. Brown Trust wasn’t involved in this edition, they sponsored later different editions titled Human and Animal Beginnings

Human Beginnings has all of Beck’s signature elements: a mixed gender classroom, a warm and competent teacher who guides the students through productive discussion (and who speaks directly to the camera to encourage the students watching the film to do the same), lots of visual aids, and a white nuclear family calmly discussing human reproduction as part of a normal evening together. His goal was to demonstrate how “sex talk” could take place with kids of all ages in the classroom and family room without drama or embarrassment.

babies

In Lester Beck’s progressive world, both boys and girls like to play with dolls.

In this film, the students make pictures about what they think a baby looks like when it is still inside the mother. As the children share their artwork with the rest of the class, it is clear that the children have different attitudes and feelings about babies and their own parents.

egg

“The baby starts as an egg.”

pocket

“The baby is in the mother’s pocket.”

belly

“This mother is having triplets.”

The second half of the film shows Tommy and his parents as they get ready for the birth of a new baby. Thanks to his parents giving him plenty of information ahead of time and involving him as much as possible, Tommy easily accepts his new sister and eagerly helps with her care.

book

The best resource for sex information turns out to be Lester Beck’s own book, “Human Growth”!

canal

Visual aid within the visual aid.

 

breast

Breastfeeding the new baby.

Human Beginnings was critiqued for not offering enough details about how babies actually get inside the mama, and one professional association actually warned against showing the film to its intended audience. Lester Beck himself downplayed the sex education uses of the film in a 1950 New York Times article: “The film is designed as a clinical instrument for use by classroom teachers to uncover both the thoughts and feelings of children toward their parents and their brothers and sisters–particularly their younger brothers and sisters.”

lee

Poor Lee says that “some mothers don’t want their babies,” so he drew a mother without a head or arms.”

 

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