The 1968 Exhibit: Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care, 1968 edition

Dr. Benjamin Spock Baby and Child Care: New and Revised Edition, 1968

Dr. Spock belongs on any list of 1968 cultural icons--and I mean the earthbound pediatrician, not the alien on the U.S. Starship Enterprise.  But 1968?  Benjamin Spock had become a household name years earlier. His book The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, was first published in 1946, the exact year that demographers record as the start of the postwar baby boom, and within six months had sold a half-million copies. Ten years later-- the height of the boom in 1956-57--it was selling a million copies a year. I'm sure my mother had a copy by the time I was born in 1950; as I grew up, and more babies were added to the household, I remember thumbing through the well-worn paperback (originally, the only format it was available in) around our house.


In 1968, a "new and revised" edition of Baby and Child Care (the new title), was published. I was interested to see if there were any reflections in this edition of what had become Dr. Spock's other preoccupation in 1968, namely his opposition to the draft. Spock had started speaking out against the war as early as 1965, and, in June 1968, he and three other people (including famed Yale University chaplain William Sloane Coffin) were convicted for conspiring to counsel draft registrants to “violate the Selective Service Act,” that is, to resist the draft. The conviction was later over-turned.

There is nothing in this edition of the Spock baby book specifically about the war or the draft. Nor does it directly address the accusations hurled at him by such authorities as best-selling author Norman Vincent Peale or Chicago mayor Richard J. Dale y (or, later, by Nixon's hatchet-man and Vice President Spiro Agnew) that it was he--Dr. Spock--who was responsible for turning boomers into an unruly generation of rebellious protesters. The blame was sometimes leveled not on the kids but on their "greatest generation" parents who had followed his supposedly "subversive" advice.

The closest he comes to declaring an anti-war stand is in a completely new section in the first chapter. Spock argues that "we need idealistic children" so that, as adults, they can confront the "enormous, frightening problems in our country and in the world."

"We have an overwhelming supply of the most powerful weapons the world has ever known," yet "we are in imminent danger of annihilation." Because of our power, "we are interfering arrogantly in the affairs of other nations and arousing worldwide resentment."

"Our only realistic hope," Spock concludes, "is to bring up our children with a feeling that they are in this world not for their own satisfaction but primarily to serve others."