Nah, I’m just messing with you. What he actually did is say that we are hurting America’s children by not working them hard enough, early enough. No, seriously, this is what he thinks is a problem in the ol’ U.S. of A. From CNN: “It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in child laws which are truly stupid,” That’s right, the problem with America’s youth is that they aren’t working early enough. Remember all the good times that were had in the US before the early 1900s, when states started passing child labor laws? Back in the good ol’ days, if a company wanted to pay its workers just enough to survive, they could do so at even lower levels, because the parents could always just pull their kids out of school early and get ’em some nice, cozy manufacturing or mining jobs. Newt continues: “Saying to people you shouldn’t go to work before you’re 14, 16. You’re totally poor, you’re in a school that’s failing with a teacher that’s failing.” Perhaps he doesn’t know that kids 14 and up can work in most states, with the Federal minimum being 14, and so if kids over 14 aren’t working its because of STATES RIGHTS AND 10th AMENDMENT AND BLAH BLAH REPUBLICAN BLAH so obviously he is trying to get across here that kids under 14 should be working.
Now, here is the goldmine: “I tried for years to have a very simple model. These schools should get rid of unionized janitors, have one master janitor, pay local students to take care of the school. The kids would actually do work; they’d have cash; they’d have pride in the schools. They’d begin the process of rising.” So, that’s right, Newt has a simple solution for fixing America’s slowing school performance: get the unions out and replace them with child labor! Brilliant! What a genius way to reclaim our intellectual glory! Stop spending so much wasteful time educating underprivileged kids and have them spend more time cleaning. Because the problem with our education system clearly isn’t underfunding and cronyism at an administrative level, clearly the problem is that kids are spending so much time learning that they aren’t developing a healthy work ethic by early puberty.
There’s a lot of things to hate in this vile spew of free market bile, however my personal favorite is this: we all know that the parents of your average above-poverty-level child are probably going to be slightly hesitant about signing up their 6th grader to clean elementary school bathrooms. What Newt is really saying here is “you’re poor, you have a teacher that’s failing, you have a school that’s failing” so why bother even educate you when you could better spend your time working? Realistically, where is the time for this work going to come from? Is it going to come from their current in-school time, or are they going to have to spend an additional 4-8 hours at school per day? If it is the latter, then where are they supposed to get time for out of class education, such as studying and homework? Look, I have had a job more on than off since I was 14, which is the youngest a child can legally work in my state. It did not make it easier to stay or perform in school, it actually made it incredibly difficult; and it certainly wasn’t a matter of choice, it was a matter of being an incredibly poor kid in a single-parent household. One wonders if Newt recently read “the Jungle” and just thought to himself “Now those were the days….“