Part I, Question 2

Question: Explain the difference between shame and guilt.  Then, show how and explain why these two emotions played a key role in the lives of parents and children in eighteenth and nineteenth century America.


As American society moved towards modernity, the concept of "child" and child rearing evolved as well.  Before the 18th century, the concept of childhood was nonexistent.  Children were simply mini adults who to think and act in that context.  However, the emergence of capitalism, Enlightenment values, and industrialization as major forces in determining American life and culture allowed for the first time children to be children, rather than mini adults.  This change in thinking presented scientists and parents alike with the difficult task of raising responsible and moral children to become adults.

The two main themes that emerged during the 18th-19th century were raising virtuous children by employing shame and on them, or building character by using guilt.

The older generation of Chesapeake planter families discuss in the Smith book employ[ed] the method of shame.  They felt that in order to instill virtue in their children, or grandchildren, the child must be publicly ridiculed or corrected.  For instance, Mr. Landon [Carter] decided to spank his grandson for disobeying his mother.  The grandchild was disciplined in front of his parents so as to embarrass and shame him into being sorry, and subsequently into being virtuous or denying himself for the good of the community.

The child's father and mother disagreed with he grandfather's approach.  It is possible that as they came nearer to modernity, the concept of developing character was prevalent in their minds, and, therefore, more acceptable.

In order to develop character, that is discipline and good morals, a parent must employ guilt on their children.  Guilt is internalizing the values of society.  As the community played a smaller part in child rearing, and toys, schools, and scientists played a larger role, building character through guilt became a central theme in many facets of life.  For example, in Utica, N.Y. a women's club developed a maxim for children.  It read: "act as though your parents are invisibly there." Basically, it still supported shame (would one be embarrassed if your parents witness this?), but it called for children to internalize this and eventually be disciplined enough to act accordingly.

Another force that called for the nurture of children through guilt was the American Sunday School Union.  It published hundreds of books with a theme similar to that of "the prize"; sin can be overcome if you decide to change, and then you will be a success.  Guilt and shame, though seemingly very similar, had very different roles in the nurture of children in the 18th and 19th centuries.

My comments:

Excellent.  You make a sound argument and support it with well chosen examples.

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Part II, Question 2

Question: Rituals (e.g. birthdays, Confirmation, Bar Mitzvah, graduation) are an important part of childhood and adolescence in America today.  When and why did such rituals become an important part of childhood and adolescence in the United States?  Did the increasing importance of such rituals indicate a change in American attitudes about hose growing up?  Explain.


Rituals became a very important part of the childhood experience in America during the 18th and 19th centuries.  Each ethnic and cultural group had various rituals to indicate the passage of various stages in the child's life cycle.  Many times these rituals would be religious in nature and often signified the ending of one stage and the entrance into another.  This emphasis on rituals is important in America because it demonstrates the emergence of the idea that childhood is not a solid block of time and that it abruptly ends at a certain age.  People recognized that children were unique individuals that were distinct from adults and needed to undergo certain learning  processes in order to reach adulthood.

Rituals like first communion were designed to demonstrate that the child of about 6 or 7 years of age was capable of learning about religion and moral instruction.  It was definitely an end to infancy and the child was then expected to behave in a more adult-like  manner.  They were certainly understood to not be adults; however, they were seen as adults in the making.

As children got older and underwent puberty rituals like the Bar and Bat Mitzvah among Jews were performed.  In many ways, this marked the end of young childhood and the beginning of adolescence.  Young girls and boys were seen as being on their way to full womanhood and manhood.  However, it was acknowledged that while the children were even physically much like adults and mature sexually, they were certainly not mature emotionally enough to participate in adult romantic relationships.

One of the later experiences of childhood was the high school graduation. Over the years, the age of children when they graduated changed.  During the 18th and 19th century, many children went to school until 8th grade.  At this point they would graduate.  They were usually in their early teens and were then expected to enter the "adult world."  As the 20th century dawned, school became increasingly important as it was realized that more education made people more valuable to society in general.  Children began going to school for more years.  High school was important and many children stayed until 12th grade.  This is important because it prolonged the period that children were dependent upon their parents.  It also caused them to be more reliant on people other than their parents for guidance such as teachers and social workers.  Children also developed stronger peer ties since they were around people of their same age longer.

The overall rise of rituals is an important indication of how prevailing attitudes towards growing up and child had changed.  Children lived longer and and generally made it to adulthood as the 18th and 19th centuries progressed.  Due to lower mortality rates, not as many children were born to families, therefore allowing parents to see each child as unique and valuable.  Parents saw their children as a source of joy instead of just another labor source for the family, especially as the nation became industrialized.

Things like birthdays and other special events were seen as happy events and something to look forward to.  Each event became another step in the child's process to becoming an adult.  Also, as each event marked another state of growth, parents could look upon their children with pride (especially if the child was good) and seem them as something they produced as well.

My comments:

Overall, this is an excellent essay.  It is clear, well organized and uses evidence well to support its generalizations.  You are especially strong on the role of rituals as markers of progress through the early stages of the life cycle.  But you could have said more about the reasons for the sentimentalization of childhood and the role of rituals in this.