I thought we had a real winner in Newt Gingrich, with his brave vision of replacing school custodians and their cushy union pensions with poor schoolkids, but it seems he lacks the intestinal fortitude to build a bridge all the way to the 19th century. Apparently, the nimble little fingers of children are good enough to clean bathrooms, but the mines are off limits…
Newt Gingrich does not want to send your children into the coal mines.
So he said on WNYM this morning, telling radio host Curtis Sliwa that when he suggested putting kids to work in their schools, he wasn't thinking of the Dickensian child-labor force his critics imagine.
"They could be the person who greets you when you walk in the door," Gingrich said, per POLITICO's Ginger Gibson. "They could help in the school library. They can help in the kitchen. They can help clean up after lunch."
"Kids shouldn't work in coal mines, kids shouldn't work in heavy industry," said Gingrich, who suggested that hiring eight or 10 children could eliminate the need for two janitorial jobs per school.
How are we supposed to compete with China with our nation's hands — our most agile child-sized hands! — tied to textbooks and protractors instead of coal picks by the bureaucrats at the Department of Labor? This is how we lose the future, people!
But perhaps there's a good explanation for Gingrich's seeming squeamishness about sending poor kids into the sulphur pits and uranium mines. Mining and heavy industry is dangerous but highly valorized and honorable work. Cleaning bathrooms, which was Gingrich's first suggestion for child labor, is (unfortunately) seen as demeaning. And how better to build character than to humiliate the kids a bit, until they develop "habits of working?"
That way, with any luck, those kids won't end up with the work habits of a certain former Speaker of the House, who led an insitution that regularly "works" from Tuesday to Friday morning and shuts down the government when its leader doesn't get the cushy seat on Air Force One.
Photo by Stephen Morton/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Tags: Children, Newt Gingrich, Primaries, Republicans