According to the New York Times:
In poverty stricken K-12 districts, Mr. Gingrich said that schools should enlist students as young as 9 to14 to mop hallways and bathrooms, and pay them a wage. Currently child-labor laws and unions keep poor students from bootstrapping their way into middle class, Mr. Gingrich said.
Ok, let’s think about this for a minute. Presumably, since children would be janitors, the adults currently performing this job, would be … that’s right, unemployed. Presumably, the child janitors wouldn’t be earning as much as their current, adult counterparts, especially since Newt is also adverse to the minimum wage.
Here is Newt’s logic in his own words:
“You say to somebody, you shouldn’t go to work before you’re what, 14, 16 years of age, fine,” Mr. Gingrich said. “You’re totally poor. You’re in a school that is failing with a teacher that is failing. I’ve tried for years to have a very simple model. Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors, have one master janitor and pay local students to take care of the school. The kids would actually do work, they would have cash, they would have pride in the schools, they’d begin the process of rising.”
Newt is known for his expertise when it comes to American history. I wonder if he has read anything about the history of child labor in America.
For one thing, we tried using children to do adult jobs. It didn’t work out anywhere nearly as the great lesson in develooping a work ethic that Gingrich claims. According to the Child Labor Education Project:
Forms of child labor, including indentured servitude and child slavery, have existed throughout American history. As industrialization moved workers from farms and home workshops into urban areas and factory work, children were often preferred, because factory owners viewed them as more manageable, cheaper, and less likely to strike. (my emphasis)
The Child Labor Education Project’s account of the history of child labor is very enlightening because it tells us the real consequences of Gingrich’s policy, which of course would only apply to poor children. The real consequences is that manageable and cheaper children will be exploited. Gingrich knows it, otherwise if this really was about teaching children a work ethic, he would advocate that all children should be child janitors, not only poor children.
Aside from the problems that come with an absence of child labor standards, the adults currently holding the job of janitor will be unemployed. Earth to Newt: How about working on creating jobs for the unemployed adults, rather than trying to drag us back to the pre-industrial age? Otherwise people might just start thinking that you are really Ebenezer Scrooge masquerading as Newt Gingrich.
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