'Life Isn't Fair': Listeners React to Gingrich's Child Labor Comments

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Child laborers in Macon, Georgia in 1909 (Library of Congress/Wikipedia Commons)

Yesterday, The Takeaway spoke with Diana Furchtgott-Roth from the Manhattan Institute and sociologist Pedro Noguera about Newt Gingrich's policy proposal to change the child labor laws to allow 9-year-old kids to go to work. The Takeaway listeners had a lot to say about child labor. Takeaway listeners Bill Arnott, from Columbia, South Carolina, and Carol, from Wellesley, Massachusetts, discuss their experience working as children through the prism of Gingrich's comments. (Carol asked The Takeaway not to use her last name.)

Guests:

Carol and Bill Arnott

Comments [18]

Domenick from Massachusetts

So glad to hear you legitimizing and dignifying Gingrich's call to repeal child labor laws with a celebration of people who had early work experiences - under current child labor laws. Perhaps next you can launch a thoughtful conversation on throwing out workplace safety laws. After all, dealing with more dangerous workplaces might lead to a more prudent, cautious citizenry. Release of the coal mining accident report might offer a hook. It will be great...

Dec. 06 2011 11:08 PM
MARIE CRESTE from New Jersey

Listening to the show today, I heard many callers reasoning that because they have fond memories of working on the family farm, or helping Grandpa sweep the school, that Newt must be right. Dreadful to think of the dearth of critical thinking skills in the country, if social policy is to be based on anecdotal, personal experiences. It was as illogical as "Well, I enjoyed sweeping out the horse stalls, and got a quarter for each one, therefore, we should abolish child labor laws." One woman reasoned that because much of the clothing we wear already has its roots in child labor in the third world, it is inevitable that we follow that path here in the US. And these are the NPR listeners. sigh.

Dec. 06 2011 09:26 PM
Elizabeth from 37375

When I was in grammar school in the late fifties and early sixties in the rural south, the poorest boy in our school had to spend the lunch time cleaning the plates for the rest of us because he didn't have a quarter for lunch. He must have worked at least an hour for that daily quarter, scraping our plates in a huge garbage pail and then dragging the pail off to wherever. That boy was a bad student and a mean bully who was eventually sent off to reform school in the mountains and never heard from again. It wasn't a pretty picture then and it's a bad idea now. I don't know whether being humiliated in front of the whole school turned him into a bad boy, but I don't think it helped him.

Dec. 06 2011 01:15 PM
Barbie from Detroit

Wow...I'm surprised that no one has addressed the fact that Newt's comments were completely narrow-minded. Of course there is nothing wrong with young people learning the value of a dollar by "working' a job every now and again. My husband and I are both small business owners and allow our 8 and 12 year old to "work" and earn money. My issue is that Newt's assertion that children from deprived families have never been exposed to work. How can he seriously make this claim across the board? It's ridiculous! He stereotyped an entire group of people, based on his narrow-minded perception. I find that troubling.

Dec. 06 2011 12:45 PM
Paul from New York City

Having grown up on a dairy farm in upstate New York, I was required to perform a few chores beginning at around the age of seven. The work was neither onerous nor dangerous, and unlike many other farm kids, I received a small (abeit non-negotiable) wage. My parents always stressed that helping the family was important, as was learing the value of money, but my first obligation was to my studies.
Later, when I was about 16, I took a job at a local supermarket. Many of the managers were agreeable, but at least one could be particularly nasty. I also found that most of my earnings went for gas and cigarettes. This experience cast working for my Pop in a much more agreeable light, and it also provided an additional motivation for me to go to college.
My feelings about young people working are mixed. My early experiences taught me the equilvalence between work and money, but I have observed that many teenage workers spend too much time working and not enough time studying. I fear that they will learn the value of a dollar but not the means to earn very many of them.

Dec. 06 2011 11:35 AM
Mary from Keene, NEw Hampshire

We all lament the increase in young children and early teens hanging around on corners,yet there is no work available to keep these young folk busy. Would you rather have the rules that are in place now where one would be foolhardy to allow a neighbor child to use your lawnmower,or a society where personal industry is rewarded. That is the point I think Newt was trying to make.

Dec. 06 2011 11:33 AM
dan from OKC

I'm all about impressing a good "work ethic" to our children, but how does child labor help the job problems that exist now?

Dec. 06 2011 11:10 AM
Rosemary Smith from Guthrie, OK

My first job was delivering newspapers in a small Nebraska town when I was ten--on my bicycle. My parents never commented that it wasn't a "girl" job in that time period.

My husband pumped gas at the Goose Egg Service station in Wyoming when he was nine.

Dec. 06 2011 10:55 AM
listener

A picture of child laborers in Macon, Georgia in 1909 is just a little misleading, isn't it?

"It took about $40 dollars out of my pocket"
"OUCH"

How about a 15 trillion dollar debt which will be paid by the same kids?
"Do realize your taking money from me.."
Indeed.
Maybe they will realize how they are really being ripped off. If a local adult is tough to argue with than how about the Federal Government and their media enablers who will deride and defame a citizen who objects to being swindled?

Gingrich is talking about what young person can earn and Obama speaks of what he is entitled to in life.
Which is a healthier outlook?

Dec. 06 2011 10:22 AM

I agree with Bryan. Why are we talking about putting children to work, when so many millions of adults are out of work? Why aren't the serious issues being addressed in this campaign?

Dec. 06 2011 09:28 AM
Bryan from Michigan

Gingrich's proposal is to REPLACE adult workers making a living, middle-class wage with children making minimum wage (or less).

How is that helpful to the family? Even if the adult is replaced by his/her own child, the household income drops below poverty and benefits (like health care) disappear.

This is not about teaching children about work. It is all about breaking another union and putting people out of work. That's the lesson children will learn

Dec. 06 2011 09:11 AM
D.L.Mc from Staten Island

Carol from Wellesley feels people would not pay her for delivering the paper because she was a child. My 50 yr old neighbor delivers papers and has plenty of trouble collecting from certain homes. Age is not a factor.

Dec. 06 2011 09:09 AM
Eddie Boyd, Jr. from Salisbury, MD

For years government funded summer jobs programs were available to teenagers, especially teenagers from low income families. Now most of those programs have been eliminated in the name of budget-fat cutting. I wouldn't be surprised if Newt didn't lead the efforts to cut those programs. How is his new idea a "big idea"? What position did he take on those old jobs programs for teenagers?

Dec. 06 2011 09:05 AM
Sharon Finch from Detroit, MI

I had my first job at age 8. I was my father's file clerk for his insurance investigation business, which operated out of our home. I was paid 50 cents a week, which was my allowance. (So my allowance was not a gift.) I think I worked about a half hour a day after school. The main benefit, in addition to the money, was that I learned the alphabet and filing skills inside and out, and this helped me very much in office jobs later on. My first job outside the home was as a teen model at a local dept. store, a job for which I had to get an official work permit at age 14. Then I made $1 an hour. After that I worked for my father and family friends as a babysitter, at the dept store, and also a part-time legal secretary in summer. My husband started working at age 9, in his family's grocery store. Both of us went on to be professionals, he with a business of his own. I don't think children should be janitors, but the basic idea of kids learning work ethic early is not a bad one. They should NOT be working without protection, especially in these times when there is so much danger to children from adults and strangers.

Dec. 06 2011 08:51 AM
natalie espino from MA

I worked from early age however it was my choice and I don't regret it...but I am afraid of the USA it's losing the standards that I most admire from this country "the Dagwood America" the one family earner etc etc. On a nutshell I believe that if a pre-puber decides to work, so be it, but to make this into a policy is reverting to Dickeson's England. Just a bad idea.

Dec. 06 2011 08:44 AM
david from detroit

i had a paper route at 12 - 16, then i was washing dishes and busing tables through high school. it gave me a work ethic but really just distracted me from school work and after school activities like sports or tutoring.

Dec. 06 2011 08:34 AM
David from Upper West Side, Manhatan

I joint the American Federation of Musicians at age 15, because I started playing in a union band -- a jazz combo. I was the only person under the age of 40 in the band, but played almost every weekend in bars and clubs around central Illinois. Of course, I didn't really see it as work.

Dec. 06 2011 08:31 AM
Jessica from London, England

Newt's assertion that child labor laws should be amended to allow children to work as janitors in their schools is pure political hyperbole meant to raise the blood pressure of liberals. Children attend school to learn, at least in theory, both academically and socially. If their parents want to instill a good work ethic at such a young age, they can make chores mandatory in the home, as long as those chores do not negate from the learning process (this is my opinion, of course). The real focus here should be on proper funding for our schools, but not by cutting the jobs of janitors (as Newt's comment alludes to).

Dec. 06 2011 08:05 AM

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