Duties of Youth (1857), DBQ
|American History > Westward Expansion and Regional Differences > Antebellum U.S. Worksheets|
The following reading is taken from Town’s Fourth Reader,
published in the United States in 1857.
a popular textbook in the United States in the mid-1800s,
during a time when the number of public schools was
increasing in the nation.
As you read the text and answer the questions placed
throughout it, imagine that you are a student reading
Duties of Youth
First, you are required to view and treat your parents with
tender, inexperienced age requires that you think of yourselves
with humility, and conduct yourselves with modesty; that you
respect the superior age and wisdom and improvements of your
parents, and observe toward them a submissive deportment. Nothing is more unbecoming in you, nothing will render
you more unpleasant in the eyes of others, than froward or
contemptuous conduct towards your parents.
Imagine that you are a student, circa 1860, and have been
assigned this reading by your teacher.
How might you react to the first paragraph?
Secondly, you should be grateful to your parents.
Consider how much you owe them.
The time has been, and it is not a long time past, when
you depended wholly on their kindness, when you had no strength
to make a single effort for yourselves, when you could neither
speak nor walk, and knew not the use of any of your powers.
Had not a parent’s arm supported you, you must have
fallen to the earth and perished.
Observe with attention the infants which you so often
see, and consider that, a little while ago, you were as feeble
as they are; you were only a burden and a care, and you had
nothing with which you could repay your parents’ affection.
more or less
But did they forsake you?
How many sleepless nights have they been disturbed by
your cries! When
you were sick, how tenderly did they hang over you!
With what pleasure have they seen you grow up in health
to your present state!
And what do you now possess which you have not received
at their hands?
God, indeed, is your great parent, your best friend, and from
Him every good gift descends; but God is pleased to bestow
everything upon you, through the kindness of your parents.
To your parents you owe every comfort; you owe to them
the shelter you enjoy from the rain and cold, the raiment which
covers, and the food which nourishes you.
Would a reading like this be used in a public school today?
Why or why not?
subjected to seizure
The author us implying that children reading this text have
never disobeyed their parents.
What greater monster can there be than an unthankful child,
whose heart is never warmed and melted by the daily expressions
of parental solicitude; who, instead of requiting his best
friends by his affectionate conduct, is sullen and passionate,
and thinks that his parents have done nothing for him, because
they will not do all he desires?
My young friends, your parents’ hearts have ached enough
for you already; you should strive from this time, by your
expressions of gratitude and love, to requite their goodness.
Do you ask how you may best express these feelings of
respect and gratitude which have been enjoined?
In answer, I would observe:
Based on your knowledge and personal experience, do you believe
that children are more or less respectful of their parents than
they were circa 1860?
Explain your answer.
Thirdly, that you must make it your study to obey your parents,
to do what they command, and do it cheerfully.
Your own hearts will tell you that this is a most natural
and proper expression of honor and love.
For how often do we see children opposing their wills to
the will of their parents; refusing to comply with absolute
commands; growing more obstinate, the more they are required to
do what they dislike, and at last sullenly and unwillingly
obeying because they can no longer refuse without exposing
themselves to punishment?
Consider, my young friends, that by such conduct you very
much displease God, who has given you parents, that they may
control your passions, and train you up in the way you should
In the United States today, is it commonplace for parents to
“train up” their children?
Explain. Consider how much better they can decide for you, than you can
for yourselves. You
know but little of the world in which you live.
You hastily catch at anything which promises you
pleasure; and unless the authority of a parent should restrain
you, you would soon rush into ruin without a thought or a fear.
In pursuing your own inclinations, your health would be
destroyed, your minds would run waste, you would grow up
slothful, selfish, a trouble to others, and burdensome to
Consider how much better they can decide for you, than you can for yourselves. You know but little of the world in which you live. You hastily catch at anything which promises you pleasure; and unless the authority of a parent should restrain you, you would soon rush into ruin without a thought or a fear. In pursuing your own inclinations, your health would be destroyed, your minds would run waste, you would grow up slothful, selfish, a trouble to others, and burdensome to yourselves.
“You know but little of the _____ in which you live.”
Submit, then, cheerfully, to your parents.
Have you not experienced their goodness long enough to
know that they wish to make you happy, even when their minds are
most severe? Prove,
then, your sense of their goodness, by doing cheerfully what
they require. When
they oppose your wishes, do not think that you have more
knowledge than they.
Do not receive their commands with a sour, angry, sullen
look, which says, louder than words, that you obey only because
you dare not rebel.
If they deny your requests, do not persist in urging them; but
consider how many requests they have already granted you.
Consider that you have no claim upon them, and that it
will be base and ungrateful for you, after all their tenderness,
to murmur and complain.
This text assumes that all parents are caring and operate in
their children’s best interests.
Fourthly, you must further express your respect, affection, and
gratitude, by doing all in your power to assist and oblige your
can very soon make return for the kindness they receive.
Every day, you can render your parents some little
service, and often save them many cares, and sometimes not a
There have been children, who in early life, have been great
supports to their sick, poor and helpless parents.
This is the most honorable way in which you can be
employed. You must
never think too highly of yourselves, to be unwilling to do
anything for those who have done so much for you.
You should never let your amusements take such a hold of
your minds, as to make you slothful, backward and unwilling,
when you are called to serve your parents.
According to the text, what is the most honorable way in which a
child can be employed?
Fifthly, you should express your respect for your parents, and
your sense of their kindness and superior wisdom, by placing
unreserved confidence in them.
This is a very important duty.
Children should learn to be honest, sincere, and
open-hearted to their parents.
An artful, hypocritical child is one of the most
unpromising characters in the world.
You should have no secrets which you are unwilling to
disclose to your parents.
If you have done wrong, you should openly confess it, and
ask that forgiveness which a parent’s heart is ready to bestow.
According to the text, what “is one of the most unpromising
characters in the world”?
Do you agree?
Why or why not?
If you wish to undertake anything, ask their consent.
Never begin anything in the hope that you can conceal
your design. If you
once strive to impose on your parents, you will be led on from
one step to another, to invent falsehoods, to practice artifice,
till you become contemptible and hateful.
You will soon be detected, and then none will trust you.
Lastly, you must prove your respect and gratitude to your
parents by attending seriously to their instructions and
admonitions, and by improving the advantages they afford you for
becoming wise, useful, good and happy forever.
You must prove your gratitude to them and to God, by
listening respectfully and attentively to what they say; by
shunning the temptations of which they warn you, and by walking
in the paths they mark out before you.
You must labor to answer their hopes and wishes, by
improving in knowledge; by being industrious at school; by
living peaceably with your companions; by avoiding all profane
and wicked language; by fleeing bad company; by treating all
persons with respect; by being kind, generous, and honest; and
by loving and serving your Father in Heaven.
According to the text above, in order to prove their gratitude
to God and to their parents, children must avoid “all profane
and wicked _____.”
My young friends, I have now set before you your duties.
Let me once more beseech you to honor your father and
mother. Ever cling
to them with confidence and love.
Be to them an honor, and ornament, a solace and a
support. Be more
than they expect, and if possible, be all that they desire.
To you they are now looking with an affection that
trembles for your safety.
So live, that their eyes may ever fix on you with beams
of hope and joy. So
live, that the recollection of you may soothe their last hours.
May you now walk by their side, in the steps of the Holy
Savior; and through his grace, may you meet again in a better
and happier world.
“Be more than they expect, and if _____, be all that they
“So live, that the recollection of you may _____ their last
Now that you have finished reading the entire text, again
imagine that you are a student reading this circa 1860.
How might you react?
Compare and contrast your reactions today with your
possible reactions circa 1860.
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