March 9, 2011

Education, Short-Sightedness, and Child Labor

It's hard to imagine, but less than a year ago I posted A Rant of Major Proportions, in which I theorized just how far back the lunatic right-wing fringe would like us to move. Thanks to a Facebook friend, it's as I suspected: FDR's New Deal and the umbrella of laws and regulations it encompassed.

My friend linked to an article today from her Facebook feed that required further investigation. The explosive headline of the linked article reads: Missouri GOP Wants to Repeal Child Labor Laws. Because the article is posted on a non-neutral website, I decided to look into it further, and went back to the beginning to remind myself that laws put into place at a federal level which govern the minimum age of employment date back to the 1930s. Does anyone outside of the lunatic right-wing fringe think the supposed "nanny state" began in the 1930s...really? I won't even go into the fact that this same group of patriots believe woman are too imbecilic to be responsible for our own health decisions and that the government must step in to "help" us.

Okay, back to child labor laws. A Republican state senator from Missouri wants to amend the state's child labor laws...effective at the start of the next school that children under fourteen can work more than three hours a day during the school week and more than eight hours a day on non-school days. Further, if this bill passes, inspectors could not monitor workplace compliance over remaining child labor laws.

Child labor laws weren't enacted by an out-of-control government under the "liberal" administrations of the last twenty years. Hell, they weren't enacted by an out-of-control government under the "liberal" administrations of the last forty years. Laws governing minimum ages were enacted more than seventy years ago.

Given the existing drop-out rates and how badly Americans compare to other developed nations in terms of education, do we really want middle-school students working more than three hours a day during the school week? Do we want them working before seven in the morning or nine at night?

My husband and I recently talked about Governor Rick Perry's odd views on public education. Given that Texas currently ranks 47th in education, that Perry took federal money earmarked for education but then cut state education funds in the same amount to effectively pocket the money, and that he plans to cut even more money from education (and libraries), I've concluded that Perry's braggadocio about not raising taxes and how terrific that is in luring businesses to come to Texas is a big load of smelly horse shit. Do companies want to relocate in order to create high-paying jobs that require educated people to fill them in a state that doesn't produce educated people? The logic doesn't track. On the other hand, if Texas is spitting out people fit only for low-wage jobs that don't require much learnin', we are in great shape.

Last year, the Houston Chronicle reported that "Texas' unhappy mix of dismal eduation achievement and high poverty" may have disastrous results, such as almost a third of the work force not having high school diplomas by 2040. This downward trend in education...and the poverty that goes along with not only of concern to statisticians; Texas business executives also worry about their future work force. And for those who question the bias of that statistician, he worked in the Bush administration as head of the Census Bureau.

Among those quoted in the article is the CEO of the Texas Association of Business, who warns about the long-term results of short-sighted policies like those currently in vogue in Texas. According to Bill Hammond, "The only way we will turn around public education in Texas is for the business community to realize that their future is at stake." He fears for the future of Texas in terms of economic competitiveness, and adds, "Much of the state's leadership looks like me [Anglo] and do not understand that in 20 years time, their children are going to face a bleak future in spite of the fact that they have a college education because there are not going to be enough educated workers to move the economy ahead."

By all means, let's ensure a strong work ethic in our young by allowing middle-schoolers to spend their free time working rather than learning. It'll be like the good old days.


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