History 397U: History of Youth in America

University of Massachusetts

Fall 2012

T, Th 1:00-2:15

Herter 111



Professor Laura Lovett                                            

635 Herter Hall



Office Hours:  T, Th 2:15-3:15pm and by appointment


Course Description: This course will explore the history of childhood and youth from the late nineteenth century to the present.  We will examine the changing experiences of childhood and youth especially in light of industrialization, the rise of consumerism, and changes in the educational system.  Special consideration will be given to youth movements and the role of children and youth in the civil rights movement and other forms of political activity.


Expectations and Outcomes:

In this course, we will study both source documents and historical narratives, and will discuss conflicting scholarly interpretation of a number of issues related to childhood and youth in America. The critical thinking skills developed as a part of this course will prepare you for enlightened and engaged citizenship as well as a wide range of cognitive tasks that may be required of you in the future. You will learn about both societal forces and individual agency, both categories vital to their discerning the complexities of power in any time and place. Class assignments require you to grapple logically and creatively with historical topics, to incorporate theories and methods from allied disciplines, and to gain skills in oral and written communication. You are expected to complete the assigned reading before class. Your evaluation will be based upon participation, several short papers, and exams.


Texts:  (Books are available at Food For Thought Books)

Steven Mintz, Huck’s Raft: A History of American Childhood (Harvard University Press, 2005).

Horatio Alger, Ragged Dick, or, Street Life in New York. (Boston, 1868).


Rebecca de Schweinitz, If We Could Change the World: Young People and America's Long Struggle for Racial Equality (University of North Carolina Press, 2011).

Ernest Cline, Ready Player One. (Crown Books, 2011). (Provided by UMass Common Read Program)


Course Website: Moodle login at http://www.oit.umass.edu/learning-management



Participation                                                                                    15%    


Media Assignment                                                               10%

Horatio Alger and Child Reform                                      15%

Children's Voices in the Civil Rights Movement            15%                

Midterm Exam                                                                                20%

Final Exam                                                                                       25%          



Your participation grade has three components: (1) Attendance, (2) Contribution to class discussion, and (3) Moodle discussion participation. You are expected to attend every class meeting, to be prepared, and to contribute to our discussion. Each week you will be asked to respond to a reading question on the Moodle discussion pages for your section. Questions will be posted on Moodle in advance.  Your responses will be due by Wednesday at 9pm.  Your responses should demonstrate that you have read and thought about the class material.  If you cannot post your response, you may bring a one page response paper to section in its place. Each response will be graded on a two point scale: depending on the quality of your response, you will receive two points, one point, or no points.


Contemporary Media Assignment:

As part of this class, you will be asked to skim media sources for articles relevant to childhood and youth.  It is your responsibility to bring an article to class and be prepared to present it by describing its content, its historical precedents, and its consequences or implications.  Your presentation should be no more than five minutes in length and should foster class discussion.  

A 2 page write-up of your presentation is due on the day of your presentation.  Your write-up should concentrate on how the contemporary events described in the source you have chosen can be placed in historical context or what your source suggests about change over time.

You will be required to present one article. Bring in something that interests you and is relevant to our class in some way. A signup sheet will be circulated during the first week of class.



Grade Scale

The University Grade Scale will be followed:

A = 93 and above; A- = 92-90; B+ = 89-88; B = 83-87; B- = 82-80; C+=79-78; C = 73-77; C- = 72-70; D+ = 69-69; D = 60-67; F = 59 and below.


Late Assignments

Numerous problems are lurking out there to help you miss assignment deadlines.  Computer failures, family crises, and misreading the syllabus will all send you scrambling to complete work on time.  Please plan ahead and be ready to work around such problems where possible.  Papers are due at the beginning of class.  Late papers will be docked one third of a letter grade for every day they are late.


Academic Honesty

Plagiarism is a serious violation of expected academic conduct.  Your work must be your own.  If you quote or paraphrase work from someone else, you must give credit and provide a reference for that source.  Links to guidelines on plagiarism, including the official policy on academic honesty, can be found on the following webpage: http://www.umass.edu/history/links_writing.html.  The penalty for plagiarism in this class is zero credit for the assignment in question.



If you have a documented disability that may affect your performance in the class, please speak to me as soon as possible so that appropriate arrangements can be made.


Lecture Schedule (Subject to Change): Please read & prepare the materials assigned before the class meets.


Week 1           Introduction  (9/4-9/6)


Defining Childhood and Youth

Should youth be defined in terms of social role or in terms of age? 


Mintz, Prologue and Chapter 4 


Begin Reading -- Horatio Alger, Ragged Dick: Or, Street Life in New York with the Boot Blacks


Week 2           Children at Work in the Nineteenth Century  (9/11-9/13)


Mintz, Chapter 5, 6, and 7

Zitkala-Sa (Gertrude Bonnin). "Impressions of an Indian Childhood." The Online Archive of Nineteenth-Century U.S. Women's Writings. Ed. Glynis Carr. Online. Internet. Posted: Winter 1999. http://www.facstaff.bucknell.edu/gcarr/19cUSWW/ZS/IIC.html

Harriet Hanson Robinson, Loom and Spindle or Life Among the Early Mill Girls (New York, T. Y. Crowell, 1898), 83–86.


Olaudah Equiano, "The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano: Slave Auction [Excerpt]," in Children and Youth in History, Item #145, http://chnm.gmu.edu/cyh/primary-sources/145 (accessed September 4, 2012). Annotated by Colleen A. Vasconcellos


Horatio Alger, Ragged Dick: Or, Street Life in New York with the Boot Blacks





Week 3          Child Saving in the Progressive Era (9/18-9/20)


Mintz, Chapter 8


Mary van Kleek, "Child Labor in New York City Tenements,"Charities and the Commons 18 January 18, 1908



Lewis Hine Photograph Collection on Massachusetts for the National Child Labor Committee



NOTE: We will be reading the Hine photographs FROM the perspectives of the subjects, rather than the photographer. This article will help you think about ways to visually reinterpret Hines’ work.

See James Curtis, "Making Sense of Documentary Photography," History Matters: The U.S. Survey Course on the Web,http://historymatters.gmu.edu/mse/Photos/, June 2003.



Week 4           The Science of Childhood  (9/25-9/27)


Mintz, Chapter 9

Alexandra Stern, "Beauty is not always better: Perfect babies the tyranny of pediatric norms," Patterns of Prejudice 36 (2002) 68-78.

Peter N. Stearns, "All are Above Average: Children at School" in Anxious Parents: A History of Modern Childrearing in America (New York: NYU Press, 2003), 81-124.


Week 5           Immigrant Children  (10/2-10/4)


Mintz, Chapter 10

Anzia Yezierska, Bread Givers (excerpts)


Week 6           The Perils of Modernity  (10/9-10/11)

            No class on Tuesday, October 9th.


Mintz, Chapter 11

Vicki Ruiz, “The Flapper and the Chaparone,” Out of the Shadows.


Week 7           The Great Depression (10/16-10/18) 


Mintz, Chapter 12

De Schweinitz, Chapter 1, Appendices A and B

Social Security Narratives, including Brief and Extended History of the Children's Bureau


Health and Human Services HistoryNarrative: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/


Week 8           WWII  (10/23-10/25)


Mintz, Chapter 13

Frank Baraja, "The Fifth Column of Sleepy Lagoon: A Convergent Struggle Against Fascism, 1942-1944," Aztlan 31 (2006) 33-62.


Week 9           1950s (10/30-11/1)


 Mintz, Chapter 14

De Schweinitz, Chapters 2 and 3, Appendix C

Thomas Hine, "The Teen Age" in The Rise and Fall of the American Teenager: A New History of the American Adolescent Experience (New York: Perennial Books, 1999), 225-248.


Week 10         Youth and Politics (11/6-11/8)


Mintz, Chapter 15

De Schweinitz, Chapters 4 and 5

Port Huron Statement of the Students for a Democratic Society, 1962


Judy Baca and the Great Wall of Los Angeles Project


Judy Baca's Art



Week 11         Parental Panics        (11/13-11/15)


Mintz, Chapter 16

Rotskoff and Lovett, Eds, When We Were Free to Be (Excerpts)

Patrick Dobson (excerpts)

Cheryl Kilodavis, My Princess Boy.


Week 12         1970s  (11/20-11/22)

            No class on Thursday, November 22nd


Mintz, Chapter 16


 Week 13        1980s  (11/27-11/29)


Mintz, Chapter 17

Cline, Ready Player One


 Week 14        Contemporary Childhoods (12/4-12/6)


Cline, Ready Player One