Problems of Youth
Interpreting Primary Sources
Every American boy, a hundred years ago, lived either on a farm or in such close touch with farm life that he reaped its benefits. He had all the practical knowledge that comes from country surroundings; that is, he could ride, shoot, skate, run, swim; he was handy with tools; he knew the woods; he was physically strong, self-reliant, resourceful, well-developed in body and brain. In addition to which, he had a good moral training at home. He was respectful to his superiors, obedient to his parents, and altogether the best material of which a nation could be made.
We have lived to see an unfortunate change....It is the exception when we see a boy respectful to his superiors and obedient to his parents. It is the rare exception, now, when we see a boy that is handy with tools and capable of taking care of himself under all circumstances. It is the very, very rare exception when we see a boy whose life is absolutely governed by the safe old moral standards....Degeneracy is the word. To combat the system that has turned such a large proportion of our robust, manly, self-reliant boyhood into a lot of flat-chested cigarette-smokers, with shaky nerves and doubtful vitality...[we need to substitute] the better, cleaner, saner pursuits of woodcraft and scouting.
Boy Scout Handbook, 1910
Out of School Activities of 14,683 Children
Cleveland, June 23, 1913
Where they were seen: On streets 7,799 In yards 3,581 In vacant lots 883 In playgrounds 1,869 In alleys 551 What they were doing: Doing nothing 5,961 Playing 7,358 Working 1,354 What games they were playing: Baseball 1,638 Kites 531 Sand piles 471 Tag 153 Jackstones 325 Dolls 282 Sewing 144 Housekeeping 244 Horse and wagon 113 Bicycle riding 92 Minding baby 60 Reading 52 Roller-skating 47 Gardening 27 Caddy 6 Marbles 2 Playing in other ways, Mostly just fooling 3,171
Questions To Think About
1. What changes had taken place in the lives of youth, according to the Boy Scout Handbook?
2. What, according to the handbook, were the solutions to the problems of youth?
3. How did children in Cleveland spend their leisure time?
Resources Invested in Education Spending on Education Spending Per Child 15-19 Percentage of GNP 1860 $60 $ 5.33 1.4 1900 $503 $20.53 2.9
Improvements in Education % Illiteracy 10 or older High School Graduates College Enrollment Total White Black 1870 20 % 11 80 2.0 1.7 1900 11 % 6 45 6.4 4.0
Proportion of Young Attending School Average Days Attended By Pupils Proportion of 17 Year Olds Graduating High School 1870 57 78 2 1890 69 86 3.5 1910 74 113 8.8 1930 81 143 29 1950 82 158 59
Percent of 18-21 Year Olds Attending College Percent of Adult Population Illiterate 1870 1.7 % 20 % 1890 3.0 % 13 % 1910 5.1 % 8 % 1930 12.4 % 4 % 1950 29.9 % 3 %
Questions To Think About
1. How many days of school did a typical student attend in 1870? What proportion of young people actually attended school? How likely was such a student to graduate from high school or attend college?
2. Describe the changes that took place in educational expenditures, high school graduation, college enrollment, and literacy rates.