Newt Gingrich is not a stupid man.  A graduate of my undergraduate alma mater Emory University (we both graduated with a B.A. in history), and a recipient of a Ph.D. in History from Tulane University, Newt Gingrich in many ways is accurately labeled the “thinking man’s Republican.”  Admittedly, his Ph.D. is in modern European History, but that’s truly beside the point.

Given all of that, it’s even more staggering that Newt Gingrich said this:

It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in, first of all, child laws, which are truly stupid.  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. (Emphasis added)

Now I’m not an expert in labor history, but I do know a few things about the subject.  Perhaps a slight amount of background information would be helpful.

In earlier times, children were routinely subjected to basic enslavement and terrible work conditions.  Children were manipulated into working dangerous jobs for long hours for almost no pay.  It was not until 1938 and the Fair Labor Standards Act that nationally, we had laws on the books prohibiting such deplorable activity.  I would invite everyone to search for pictures and stories of children working in sweatshops, and perhaps you will glean a picture of conditions before child labor laws existed.

It was in large part thanks to organized labor that we now have laws that prevent such cruel exploitation of young Americans (and you can thank unions for your weekend, while you’re at it).

So I invite Dr. Gingrich to regale us with some of his intellectual elitism, and tell us why these child labor laws are “truly stupid.”  Why he would rather us return to a time where young people could legally be forced into near-slavery in the most deplorable of conditions.  To me, his lack of historical perspective is just staggering.

 

18 Responses to Historical Perspective

  1. JMPrince says:

    Still more unfortunate history that Newt would rather folks forget or not know:
    Via Economist and former Reagan era Presidential advisor Bruce Bartlett:
    “How Newt Gingrich Added $16 trillion to the National Debt”

    http://capitalgainsandgames.com/blog/bruce-bartlett/2423/how-newt-gingrich-added-16-trillion-national-debt

    “According to the latest Medicare trustees report (p. 146), the unfunded liability of Medicare Part D is $16.1 trillion”.

    And on AEI letterhead for the WSJ in 2003. He’s leading the Romneyborg in NH too. We might be more seriously entertained for longer perhaps, who knows? JMP

  2. JMPrince says:

    Hey Tim, I’m glad you have had such work experiences in your past. Now then, how many Teens or Younger kids have you supervised on how many jobs? See here’s the problem that Steve has tried now repeatedly to highlight.

    1.) Newt did indeed suggest that ‘ALL child labor laws were silly & unnecessary’. So no, unless there’s a Law specifying otherwise, this means children Under 10 YO too. As it had Historically in this country, and indeed world wide to this day.

    2.) So ergo, though you may imagine that you know ‘enough’ about janitorial work to suggest that any random teen (under say 16) might do fine? Again, Historically this just has not been the case. Children put to work before they are ready cognitively or physically get injured at higher rates than ‘normal’. Many had their lives shortened by decades by going to work early in dangerous environments. Many do still die premature deaths in excessive or large numbers to this day in many varied contexts, some of them doing no more dangerous work than most of those specialties you cited.

    3.) This is why child labor laws were among the first true progressive reforms of the 20th century, some occurring long before the New Deal. If you want to build up a knowledgeable work force that’s not bone tired before school from doing hard labor, or unable to do the necessary after school reading & homework? You really can not have many of them still doing & laboring as adults and trying to go to school at the same time using their immature and ill informed minds & bodies.

    4.) So contra Newt, Child Labor laws were some of the first work place safety laws enacted in this country. Previously stores, homes and workplaces could easily catch fire and be burned down or seriously damaged by careless kids who were often sleeping on the job when they needed to be tending fires/boilers.

    Adult work needs adult responsibility. Child labor always needs to be carefully supervised, structured & regulated, and has been for most of the past century in one form or another.

    5.) Which brings up the next problem. Who supervises these workplaces to ensure that they’re safe for kids? How is the insurance and liability handled? How many school systems might be interested in taking on this fairly substantial risk? Yes, there’s actually quite a bit of injury accruing from after school activities, sports in particular. But someone doing work for the school on school grounds is almost certainly part of that schools responsibility. Hence the need for a substantial adjustment of the liability portfolio of every school participating.

    6.) And again, just like the rampant hypocrites on the Right & Newt in particular, all this convoluted social engineering, overturning a century of labor law reform, (that’s the true feature here, not the bug), all to do what? Instill in these tykes something of value that chores and work at home are reasonably supposed to do?! That’s not only asinine, that’s an insult to every parent trying to raise up their kids right. No, the ‘Gumminit’ Knows Better! Newt’s very own goon squad will basically impress those laddies & lassies just like the British Navy might in the 18th century. That’s the complete picture here. It’s yet another benighted political attempt to appeal to the oldsters for the restoration of an imaginary ‘more pure & simple’ past that none of them actually inhabited, and for the hard won values of ‘work & thrift’ few of them actually posses or came honestly by.

    That the argument is being made by Newt renders it automatically suspect in too many dimensions to count. The man’s a walking, talking moral leper and as corrupt as they come for almost any venue or job description he’s ever held. A nuclear class hypocrite. That’s our DC Newt, a transparent lobbyist for the last decade who still denies this simple fact to this day. Don’t take his drivel seriously Tim. That was your fist mistake. JMP

  3. wini says:

    Yup, get rid of the janitors and let the kids do the work. This is one silly argument . Why are we talking about getting rid of jobs? We should be talking about job creation…. .

  4. Tim says:

    Steve,

    I can’t believe I hadn’t thought to look into this first, but most video clips you see of Newt’s remark are, not surprisingly, complete. Here’s the quote in its entirety.

    “You say to somebody, you shouldn’t go to work before you’re what, 14, 16 years of age, fine. 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,” he said. “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.”

    He added, “You go out and talk to people, as I do, you go out and talk to people who are really successful in one generation. They all started their first job between nine and 14 years of age. They all were either selling newspapers, going door to door, they were doing something, they were washing cars.”

    “They all learned how to make money at a very early age,” he said. “What do we say to poor kids in poor neighborhoods? Don’t do it. Remember all that stuff about don’t get a hamburger flipping job? The worst possible advice you could give to poor children. Get any job that teaches you to show up on Monday. Get any job that teaches you to stay all day even if you are in a fight with your girlfriend. The whole process of making work worthwhile is central.”

    This should add a little more insight into what Newt meant and what Newt thought were appropriate tasks. Now it’s not just my assumption, we have a little more context to go on.

  5. Steve says:

    Last I saw, “children” is not restricted to 13-15 year olds, and I’m not sure how you’d know that’s what Gingrich meant. But just to dispute a few specific points:

    Cleans, shampoos, and/or disinfects:
    Carpets and rugs
    Restrooms in accordance with established procedures
    – With supervision, children should be able to perform these tasks. [Really, let children work with chemicals?]

    Opens and secures building; sets security alarm.
    – If you are ok with putting a 15 year old behind the wheel of a car, then you should be ok with children doing this. [I should be okay with giving children the keys to the school, and the code to an alarm? Really and truly? That’s just absurd.]

    And you still aver that, even given all of the things that you said children can’t do, that having a single adult supervisor plus any number of unqualified children acting as school custodians is remotely possible? Please, tell me how.

  6. Tim says:

    Here’s the link to the job duties of a custodian (janitor) again.

    http://www.atlanta.k12.ga.us/site/Default.aspx?PageID=1186

    Here are the duties listed. By “children”, I mean 13-15 year olds. 16 year olds are allowed to work, last I checked.

    Conducts routine building inspections daily and identifies areas requiring follow-up action. Informs Maintenance Supervisor immediately.
    – Not suitable for children because they probably won’t know what they are looking at

    Performs clean-up tasks on surrounding grounds and structures.
    – Children could perform these tasks in many circumstances.

    Cleans, shampoos, and/or disinfects:
    Carpets and rugs
    Restrooms in accordance with established procedures
    – With supervision, children should be able to perform these tasks.

    Opens and secures building; sets security alarm.
    – If you are ok with putting a 15 year old behind the wheel of a car, then you should be ok with children doing this.

    Receive and store school custodial supplies.
    – Boxes, bottles, etc… no problem for children.

    Dusts and polishes furniture, window ledges, and all horizontal surfaces.
    – As long as we’re not talking high ladder work, no problem for children

    Assist in setting up facilities for special events
    – Children could easily assist with this.

    Move materials, equipment, and furniture as necessary
    – Highly dependent of the size and type of equipment, furniture, etc, but there will be instances where children could do this.

    Ensures floors are cleaned, mopped, stripped, and waxed as necessary.
    – Sweeping and mopping, yes. The rest, no.

    Maintains equipment to ensure proper working condition, cleanliness and stores equipment
    -Obviously not for children

    Collects, cleans, and empties trash cans when necessary.
    – Of course children can do this.

    Stock restrooms with paper and soap and changes light bulbs and ceiling tiles
    – Restocking, yes. Relamping and ceiling tiles, no

    Washes windows on lower levels and on doors, both inside and outside.
    -Very easily done by chldren

    Operate autoscrubbers, buffers, and vacuums and help keep equipment in working condition.
    – not for chldren

    Assist site manager or operations manager in the performance of basic building maintenance
    -not for children

    If you read further, you’ll see that a HS diploma or GED is preferred but not required and there is no licensing involved.

    Nobody is suggesting we put 5 year olds in electrical rooms.

  7. Tim says:

    Steve,

    Did you read my post or just skim it? Read my post again. I posted a link to the job description of a janitor (custodian) in the Atlanta Public School System.

    The list you reposted are COMPLETELY DIFFERENT POSITIONS within the APS system. That was my point. Nobody is suggesting kids work with live wires, or even all of the tasks in the custodian’s job description.

    To make this as simple as I possibly can, the Atlanta Public School System hires janitors (custodians). The APS system hires custodians (janitors) to do the tasks as outlined in the link I posted above. The APS system ALSO hires electricians, plumbers, welders, maintenance staff, etc etc. These people are not janitors. NOT JANITORS.

    “You’re digging yourself a hole. If you want to subscribe to your interpretation of the Gingrich doctrine of labor (what with one responsible person and a bunch of tweenagers), at least have the courage to stand up to it.”

    Please read the job description of a custodian. I posted it above. I wouldn’t feel comfortable with a 15 year old doing everything on that list, but there are a lot of things that a 15 year old can easily and very safely do. In most schools, having a single janitor (custodian) and hiring teenagers to do the safe tasks is completely sane and rational.

    Yes, you may have swept the floor at school, but Gingrich is making the point that child labor laws make it illegal for you to be compensated for it. That’s all that This makes child labor laws, as they stand today, truly stupid. Gingrich was saying, and I agree with him.

    • Tim says:

      Wow, that got chopped up…

      “That’s all that This makes child labor laws, as they stand today, truly stupid. Gingrich was saying, and I agree with him.”

      This makes child labor laws, as they stand today, truly stupid. That’s all that Gingrich was saying, and I agree with him.

    • Steve says:

      I did read it, thank you, and I’d still beg to differ. You’re offering up an opinion not stated by Newt Gingrich, and making presumptions about his view, that is, unless your name is Newt Gingrich. Again, he didn’t say “Child labor laws as they stand today are stupid.” He said that “child laws” are “stupid.” He then made a suggestion following that, which you are now defending.

      Look, read the link I posted above, and it dispels even the idea of using kids as custodial labor. And then go back and tell me how child labor laws are absolutely terrible.

  8. Tim says:

    “Umm ‘TIm’, got any idea what ‘simple janitorial work entails? I imagine not.”

    Yes, I have worked in janitorial and maintenance positions before.

    Here are the job duties for a Custodian in the Atlanta Public schools. Yes, there are items on this list that are not appropriate for a 15 year old . There are, however, duties on this list appropriate for a 7 year old. I worked in a grocery store when I was 15 years old and was cognizant enough to mix the cleaning chemicals. There are actually systems where you fill up a container and connect it to a hose, and the cleaning chemicals are mixed automatically. I’m not saying a 7 year old can do it, but a 14 year old certainly can.

    http://www.atlanta.k12.ga.us/site/Default.aspx?PageID=1186

    “It’s not just sweeping up folks. It’s about keeping the physical plant of the buildings in working & running order at all times. That’s actually a complex daily operation often involving boilers running, A/C up to snuff, plumbing working, spills mopped up, kitchen equipment kept in safe operation, small repairs being constantly made, lunch boxes found, lockers repaired, gym and room lighting kept adequate, windows/blinds opened or closed as needed, and even lost tykes directed home.”

    WOW! All that is done by custodians??? I think your concept of labor specialization in school maintenance is based on Willie from The Simpsons.

    Here are supporting facility positions in the Atlanta Public School system. Click on the link below, then on (DSO) Facilities Trades, then you can look at the individual job duties of each position.

    http://www.atlanta.k12.ga.us/site/Default.aspx?PageID=1186 :

    CARPENTER
    CREW LEADER FURNITURE
    CREW LEADER GROUNDS
    CUSTODIAL EQUIPMENT REPAIRMAN
    ELECTRICIAN
    ENGINEER TECHNICIAN
    EQUIPMENT OPERATOR
    FIRE EXTINGUISHER TECHNICIAN
    GENERAL MAINTENANCE WORKER
    GROUNDSKEEPER
    HVAC CONTROL TECHNICIAN
    HVAC PLANNER INSPECTOR
    HVAC SERVICES MANAGER
    HVAC SPECIALIST
    HVAC TECHNICIAN
    INSTALLER
    LABORER
    LOCKSMITH
    MAINTENANCE GENERALIST
    MAINTENANCE MECHANIC II
    MAINTENANCE SUPERVISOR MANAGER (MAINTENANCE & OPERATIONS)
    MASON
    PAINTER
    PLUMBER
    RESIDENT ENGINEER INSPECTOR
    ROOFER
    SHEET METAL WORKER
    SYSTEMS PROGRAMMER I
    UPHOLSTERER
    UTILITIES MANAGER
    WELDER

    As you can see, yes, it will be ” just sweeping up folks”. You have demonstrated that you have no idea what you are talking about.

    “…and not to be primarily directed by any state enterprise. No one imaging themselves as a conservative would prefer the course Gingrich suggested except as a course of some minor class duties or sanctions for poor behavior.”

    How many kids cut grass in their neighborhoods for a little extra money? This is not in-school suspension “Cool Hand Luke” style. This is menial work that can be voluntarily taken up. Nothing will be primarily directed by the state. This are things kids would be able to do it they have some free time.

    “Still you can not, and would not be able to replace the janitors almost anywhere in this century with mere children to run complex computerized control systems for both climate controls and power distribution in any modern complex of buildings.”

    Again, I’m sure by now you’ve realized you have no idea what a janitor is responsible for.

    “We are 100 years removed from the storied times of the ‘one room school house’ on the prairie’ with its single pot bellied stove and 2 black boards.”

    I guess even a broken clock is right twice a day. Gingrich was certainly not talking about replacing all of the roles I listed above with children. Get real.

    Bottom line:

    The duties you listed are performed by an army of people. Nobody is talking about putting kids in danger.

    Let me end by re-quoting you.

    “Umm ‘TIm’, got any idea what ‘simple janitorial work entails? I imagine not.”

    Do you?

    • Steve says:

      You just completely proved our point. Even excepting the fact that what Newt said was not what you claim he said (note: if you say something is true, it doesn’t make it true), which I can address separately, let me ask you this:

      Do you want children (let’s just say anyone under the age of 18, likelier than not doing any of the following jobs)?
      CARPENTER (you know, with saws and drills and the like)
      ELECTRICIAN (you know, with live wires and electricity)
      FIRE EXTINGUISHER TECHNICIAN
      GROUNDSKEEPER (chainsaws and the like)
      HVAC CONTROL TECHNICIAN
      HVAC PLANNER INSPECTOR
      HVAC SERVICES MANAGER
      HVAC SPECIALIST
      HVAC TECHNICIAN
      LOCKSMITH
      MASON
      PAINTER
      PLUMBER
      ROOFER (heights)
      SHEET METAL WORKER (sharp edges)
      WELDER (uh..heat and fire)

      Because here’s the thing, these positions require training and specialization. I know some people in these fields, and they’ve gotten training, and some of them gotten degrees, in these fields. So please tell me how 8-year-old Billy Jones is going to take this job?

      You’re digging yourself a hole. If you want to subscribe to your interpretation of the Gingrich doctrine of labor (what with one responsible person and a bunch of tweenagers), at least have the courage to stand up to it.

      Your argument is absolutely inane, and furthermore, it’s not what Newt Gingrich said. If he wanted to say “Child labor laws are stupid because they preclude students from sweeping up at their schools,” then he could have said that, and he would have been factually incorrect. Because I know I swept the floors a few times at my school, and some kids who had detention did so, too. But that’s not what he said. He said child labor laws are “stupid” and his suggestion of what kids could be doing was even more inane. When you find me a fifteen year old that you’d allow to be an arc welder, carpenter, and HVAC technician, please let me know.

    • Steve says:

      And just to add insult to injury, I encourage you to read this Huffington Post story:

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/22/newt-gingrich-janitorial-work_n_1107833.html

  9. JMPrince says:

    Umm ‘TIm’, got any idea what ‘simple janitorial work entails? I imagine not. Harsh chemicals are regularly used, and have to be mixed carefully using mathematical formulas that are typically unfamiliar to many grade school tykes. Ditto for heavy floor buffing & waxing machines that take skill and some training to operate. Ditto for complicated schedules of which doors get locked when, and according to which after school schedule on which day. Do you know many grade school kids capable of this without careful, constant and yes expensive supervision? No, not really I’m betting.

    So we have real janitors for a reason. They do very real important jobs that are complex even if erstwhile ex-history teachers/profs love to denigrate them by imagining that ‘any kid’ might be able to ‘push a broom’. It’s not just sweeping up folks. It’s about keeping the physical plant of the buildings in working & running order at all times. That’s actually a complex daily operation often involving boilers running, A/C up to snuff, plumbing working, spills mopped up, kitchen equipment kept in safe operation, small repairs being constantly made, lunch boxes found, lockers repaired, gym and room lighting kept adequate, windows/blinds opened or closed as needed, and even lost tykes directed home.

    Instilling ‘morals’ or ‘accountability’ or a ‘work ethic’ is as every true conservative knows, the chief province, responsibility and accomplishment of the Home environment, and not to be primarily directed by any state enterprise. No one imaging themselves as a conservative would prefer the course Gingrich suggested except as a course of some minor class duties or sanctions for poor behavior. Still you can not, and would not be able to replace the janitors almost anywhere in this century with mere children to run complex computerized control systems for both climate controls and power distribution in any modern complex of buildings. We are 100 years removed from the storied times of the ‘one room school house’ on the prairie’ with its single pot bellied stove and 2 black boards.

    Understanding the child labor laws that we have and how we got them might be a good start here for most would be profs before recommending such ‘reforms’ . JMP

    • wini says:

      Well said, JM, I had wondered about that single janitor supervising all those kids cleaning up. No longer do we just push a broom across the floor. Newt must be living in the distant past, even during my school years kids could not have done the job.

  10. Tim says:

    ‎”It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in, first of all, child laws, which are truly stupid. 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. ”

    “So I invite Dr. Gingrich to regale us with some of his intellectual elitism, and tell us why these child labor laws are “truly stupid.” Why he would rather us return to a time where young people could legally be forced into near-slavery in the most deplorable of conditions.”

    Read the first quote, then the second quote, then the first quote again. Gingrich adequately explained what he meant by his statement by giving an example of the kind of work kids could be doing.

    The purpose of his proposed program is also clearly stated — not “slavery”, but ” they would have cash, they would have pride in the schools, they’d begin the process of rising”.

    Gingrich’s proposal is more dignifying to children than the current practice of coercing school children into going door-to-door selling overpriced candy bars and wrapping paper to raise money for the school. The kids do all of the work, and the school keeps the money. The children are currently being exposed to what could be considered “basic enslavement and terrible work conditions”, as the article puts it.

    It’s blindingly obvious that what Gingrich meant by “truly stupid” is that the laws that rightfully protect children from slavery and dangerous work conditions also prevent children from performing activities that would be character-building.

  11. Peaches says:

    To me, his intellectual dishonesty is staggering. He might be smarter than the average Republican candidate, but he’s as flaky as they come, not to mention greedy and unethical.

  12. JMPrince says:

    Whoops, that was supposed to be a compare & contrast illustration. Here’s the earlier ‘contrast’ version, now ‘cleaned up’ for proper propaganda purposes. http://web.archive.org/web/20101124171042/http://healthtransformation.net/cs/insure_all_americans

    JMP

  13. JMPrince says:

    Also noted, besides the fact that he is & remains a sloppy & really bad historian? Newt’s most persistent enemy, The Google. Just one example Via Angry Bear:
    http://www.angrybearblog.com/2011/11/health-and-or-rather-of-gingrich.html

    “All You Need to Know about Newt

    The Gingrich health center’s support for such a [individual] mandate was part of an “Insure All Americans” plan that appears to have disappeared from the center’s Web site Thursday.

    See that there is nothing here
    http://www.healthtransformation.net/cs/insure_all_americans” JMP