hammer photo

If I had a hammer...
Photo by TheFixer

Newt Gingrich has issued some crazy statements
since he first took public office in 1979. Yet his latest claim—that we shouldn’t
be “entrapping kids in…child labor laws, which are truly stupid”—isn’t one of
them. In a speech at Harvard’s Kennedy School, Gingrich suggested a “work
study” program for K-12 education: Students could provide low-cost alternatives
to unionized janitors, giving these youngsters work experience, money, and
pride in their schools. This proposal to slacken child-labor laws has drawn
plenty of headlines, and even
more scorn
. But there’s something to his logic. Nonprofits like YouthBuild and the ISUS charters in Dayton, OH, in
which students work to complete high school while learning construction skills, already
offer successful models of dual academic/job-training programs. The Cristo Rey network
of Catholic schools allows their low-income students to offset tuition
costs—and gain practical job skills—through once-a-week corporate internships. These
models provide more than a paycheck and some on-the-job carpentry or accounting
skills: They give students a better sense of the working world than any personal-finance
or economics course ever could. Gadfly isn’t advocating for eight-year-olds to
don hard hats on Alaska’s oil pipeline—and he doubts that’s what Newt had in
mind, either. But there’s value in skills training and career preparation. Be
careful not to blithely dismiss creative ideas like this.

Click to play

Click to listen to commentary on Gingrich's plan from the Education Gadfly Show podcast.


Gingrich: Child Labor Laws are ‘Stupid’
,” Huffington Post, November 21, 2011.

Changing Child Labor Laws Would Improve Schools
,” Education Week, November 22, 2011.

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