Youth Culture and the Generation Gap

By Gerhard Falk; Ursula Falk | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1. THE YOUTH CULTURE FROM THE PURITANS TO
THE MlLLENNIALS

PURITAN CHILDHOOD

The history of childhood in the United States begins with the Puritan settlements in New England in the 17th century. The Puritan community, which had arrived in Massachusetts from England and the Netherlands in 1620, was settled on the assumption that they and their children would be “saved” because they had demonstrated an act of faith by coming to the wilderness that was North America.

Whatever the meaning of “saved” may be, the early Puritans believed that their children had strayed from the truth and were exhibiting conduct that was threatening the entire Puritan experiment here.1

An important Puritan concept was “grace.” The reception of God’s grace was believed to depend on a number of actions the Puritans took to insure this state for themselves and their children. They therefore built schools and colleges, demanded that families promote literacy and instituted apprenticeships for their older children, all designed to bring about the salvation of the young.2

The purpose of Puritan education was to create an adult infused with God’s mercy and grace. This terminology may have no or little meaning to 21stcentury Americans, but it was viewed as vital in the New England of the 17th

1. Michael Zuckerman, Peaceable Kingdoms: New England Towns in the Eighteenth Century, (New York: Vintage Books, 1972).

2. Edmund S. Morgan, The Puritan Family, (Westport, Con. Greenwood Press, 1980) :185.

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