Equality of Opportunity

24 ПП he frontier is an expression of individual freedom and self-reliance in its purest (and

X most extreme) forms, and it is also a pure expression of the ideal of equality of opportunity. On the western frontier there was more of a tendency for people to treat each other as social equals than there was in the more settled eastern regions of the country. On the frontier, the highest importance was placed on what people could do in their own lifetime. Hardly any notice was taken of their ancestors. Frontier people were fond of saying, “What’s above the ground is more important than what’s beneath the ground.”

25 Because so little attention was paid to a person’s family background, the frontier offered a new beginning for many Americans who were seeking opportunities to advance themselves. One English visitor to the United States in the early 1800s observed that if Americans experienced disappointment or failure in business, in politics, or even in love, they moved west to make a new beginning. The frontier offered millions of Americans a source of hope for a fresh start in the competitive race for success and for a better life. On the frontier there was a continuing need for new farmers, skilled laborers, merchants, lawyers, and political leaders.

26 There were fewer differences in wealth between rich and poor on the frontier than in the more settled regions of the nation. People lived, dressed, and acted more alike on the frontier than in other parts of the United States. The feeling of equality was shared by hired helpers who refused to be called “servants” or to be treated as such. One European visitor observed, “The clumsy gait[45] and bent body of our peasant is hardly ever seen here. . . . Everyone walks erect[46] and easy.” Wealthy travelers to the frontier were warned not to show off their wealth or to act superior to others if they wished to be treated politely.

27 The American frontier may not be the key to American development, as Frederick Jackson Turner said, but it is certainly one major factor. The frontier provided the space and conditions which helped to strengthen the American ideals of individual freedom, self-reliance, and equality of opportunity. On the frontier, these ideals were enlarged and made workable. Frontier ideas and customs were continuously passed along to the more settled parts of the United States as newer frontier regions took the place of older ones during a westward march of settlers which lasted more than two centuries. In this way, many of the frontier values became national values.


Understand Main Ideas

A. Check the predictions you made on page 72 before you read the chapter. Work with a partner. Answer these questions about the main ideas.

1. What are the three values that are traditionally associated with the frontier heritage?

2. What two new values are introduced in this chapter?

3. What are the two types of rugged individualists?

4. Describe someone with a can-do spirit.

5. What personal characteristics did the frontier settlers share?

B. In academic writing, paragraphs often begin with a topic sentence that contains the main idea. Read and highlight the first sentence of each paragraph of the reading. Then choose one main idea from each of the five main sections that you think is the most important. Write these ideas below. Compare your list with a partner’s.

1. _______________________________________________________________

2. ___________________________________________________




Understand Details

Write T if the statement is true and F if it is false according to the information in the chapter.

___ 1. The frontier experience began in about 1890 and is still continuing in

the American West today.

___ 2. One reason why many Americans are still fascinated by the frontier

period is that it represents a time when the traditional basic American values were expressed in their purest form.

___ 3. The settling of the frontier did little to affect the lives of the American


___ 4. Daniel Boone is an example of the earliest type of rugged individualist

hero, a man who fights against the wilderness.

5. The primary qualiries of the American macho hero are intelligence, sensitivity, and caring for others.

6. It is difficult for the average American to buy a gun, so very few people own them.

7. Members of the NRA (and many gun owners) believe the right to own a gun is guaranteed in the United States Constitution.

8. The can-do spirit came from the willingness of the pioneers to work together on a cooperative project for the good of all.

9. On the frontier, family name and ancestry were more important than what a person could do.

10. On the frontier, the rich and the poor rarely mixed, and social class was more important than in the more settled regions.

Complete a Timeline: Scanning

Scanning is looking for a specific piece of information. Scan the chapter to find these dates. Write what happened next to the date to complete the timline. Some are done for you.

1600s: __ Settlers established colonies on the east coast._______________________

1760s and 1770s: ________________________________________________________

1778:___ Boone was captured by Native Americans.___________________________

1860s: ——————————————————————————————-

April 1889: _____________________________________________________________

1890: __________________________________________________________________

until 1960s: __ 25 percent of all American movies made were westerns.__________


1990s: __ Gun control became a critical issue after shootings in schools.___________

2001: _____________________________________________________________________________

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