|Scrub Harder Your Shirkers (Child Labor from Flickr, by Clogozm)|
Republican Presidential hopeful (charlatan) Newt Gingrich has called on schools to fire their unionized janitors and replace them with underpaid, underage school children, especially in low income schools (from Politico.com).
In a wonderful bit of double speak, Gingrich said that the "Core policies of protecting unionization and bureaucratization against children in the poorest neighborhoods, crippling them by putting them in schools that fail has done more to create income inequality in the United States than any other single policy. It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in, first of all, child laws, which are truly stupid.”
In Gingrich’s world, poor children are poor because of lousy teachers, lousy schools and greedy union janitors who refuse to give up their jobs to juveniles. They are poor because they have not been allowed to work by misguided child labor laws, denied the right to “learn how to make money.” Childhood poverty is a problem that must be fixed by the kids themselves, if we would only give them the chance. If we only let them have jobs, they would rise to the occasion, work hard, and achieve the American dream that their deadbeat parents failed to even attempt.
This delusion of course ignores the fact that many poor children do in fact work after school, evenings and weekends. Others do unpaid work at home helping their families survive, caring for siblings, doing the shopping, cooking and laundry. It also presumes that the low paid work available to kids, like paper routes, lawn mowing, burger-slinging and babysitting, necessarily leads to a successful later career and class mobility.
Of course putting kids to work at schools makes good economic sense. They don’t have to be paid much, certainly less than the adults who are doing the janitorial work at union wages, something schools can hardly afford in these bleak economic times. If we did fire all the union janitors and replaced them with kids, think of all the money that would be saved.
But why stop there? Why not fire the secretaries and replace them with students. Schools don’t need copy clerks. Any teenager can photocopy tests and worksheets. Students are just as capable as adults at running barcodes through scanners—so why not replace the librarians with students, too?
Students could also dispense bandages and help call home when their peers are sick or injured. We could put the tech-savvy ones in charge of computer and website maintenance. Rather than having the go-getters take student leadership class and limit themselves to organizing dances and rallies, why not have them facilitate faculty meetings and public relations? In fact, maybe the school president could replace the principal and the class vice president could be the assistant principal?