Child labor and public schooling

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knotwho
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Oct 18 2012 22:26
Child labor and public schooling

I'm taking a Foundations of Education course (Theory and History of ed) in a teacher training program, and one of the texts is this whirlwind history of American public education. It kind of portrays the abolition of child labor, and also compulsory public schooling, as the work of kind-hearted reformers.

I'm sure the story is much more complicated. Does anyone know of any better texts about the relation between outlawing child labor, and compulsory public schooling (and the relation between labor and education, generally)? Was this something that labor unions fought for? Were capitalists in favor of compulsory schooling, as it would create a 'more qualified' labor pool (that's kind of the rhetoric now behind the push toward privatization)?

arf
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Oct 26 2012 14:12

Try comparing times of high unemployment over last few hundred years to the beginning of compulsory schooling and subsequent rises in compulsory leaving ages (and lowering at bottom end). Population booms and longer lifespans as well. Kids are competition for work, esp as they can be paid far less.

It seems to be generally thought that removal of kids from the workplace deprived capitalists of cheap labour. But at the same time, childhood being extended creates its own markets, esp in educational toys and books at the beginning, more in entertainment as time passed - think abt the origins of the teenager and that market, then the tween market as well, etc.

Compare maybe to how women took men's jobs during wwii, but earned less than men. Not long after men came back and needed the work, capitalists lose the cheaper labour but gain a huge amount from emerging market in must have stuff for housewives, gadgets and etc.

Also social revolutions threaten traditional authorities (such as church), so things like comp schooling offer them a way to maintain influence, that makes them seem benevolent rather than oppressive. But there is a lot of power in controlling the curriculum, and also in teaching kids correct behaviours for their later social positions, using punishments generally supported by adult population to control dissent.

So there are some reasons for both authorities and adults in general to support comp. schooling. Liberated kids from work, but removes independent wage and therefore their ability to have a say in their own lives. Ups and downs. I read somewhere that in the few years after comp leaving age went up to 16, vandalism in schools increased massively. Truancy and vandalism or violence in schools might be a sign that not all kids feel liberated by compulsory schooling.

arf
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Oct 26 2012 14:15

that's re UK btw, but I assume some similarities in US history.

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knotwho
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Oct 30 2012 20:48

Thanks a lot arf. That's a huge help. Seems like someone could write a big book about this topic.

arf
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Nov 2 2012 11:42

There was a book published this year, Children's Literature and Capitalism: Fictions of Social Mobility in Britain, 1850-1914, by Christopher Parkes, might be helpful if you can borrow a copy? I can't find one in any library I have access to and I can't afford to buy one (its on my christmas list.. I feel like maybe I should be ashamed of how boring I am).

I'd love to spend the next several years studying around children's position in culture and society. Not just as a personal interest I mean, but full time.

If you come up with anything you find particularly interesting on the topic, it would be good of you to share, if you have the time. Best of luck with your studies smile

arf
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Nov 2 2012 12:02

have a look at the list of articles here:

http://libcom.org/tags/school-students

A piece on children's strikes in 1911 was just added yesterday.

arf
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Nov 3 2012 21:34

its not what you asked for, but these blogposts have some old photos (and links to more) of children at work in the early 1900s, might interest you:

http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2012/09/04/child-labor-and-the-soci...

http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2009/12/03/child-labor-in-america-1...

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Nov 7 2012 18:03

The book on children's literature and capitalism looks great. The local library has it on order.

From the links you posted I found this book: Huck's Raft: A History of American Childhood.

http://books.google.com/books?id=vgPB_qDnV_UC&printsec=frontcover#v=onep...

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Nov 11 2012 23:21

Another relevant book on this - http://www.amazon.com/Industrial-Violence-Cambridge-Historical-American/...

Stan Milgram
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Nov 19 2012 00:19

I remember reading Wealth Of Nations by Adam Smith and he talked about the need for education not for the benefit of the child/worker but to make the world more profitable and safer for the 'enlightened' wealthy class. He thought/knew the division of labor would create a large population of drooling zombies who do the same mindless task over and over each day, day in day out. Take a child from the age of 12, put him/her in a factory and have them pull a leaver for 30 years - what will happen? What would society look like? Would that society of mindless zombie slaves be safe for the ruling class?

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Nov 19 2012 01:01
knotwho wrote:
Does anyone know of any better texts about the relation between outlawing child labor, and compulsory public schooling (and the relation between labor and education, generally)? . . . Were capitalists in favor of compulsory schooling, as it would create a 'more qualified' labor pool (that's kind of the rhetoric now behind the push toward privatization)?

The best account of the process of forcing public schooling on the working class against their wishes is Samuel Bowles "Unequal Education and the Reproduction of the Social Division of Labor" in the anthology Schooling in a Corporate Society: The Political Economy of Education in America, edited by Martin Carnoy (1972) [a book-length treatment of this topic is Schooling in Capitalist America by Bowles and Herbert Gintis (1976)].

Here are some quotes from my notes on "Unequal Education and the Reproduction of the Social Division of Labor":

    p. 38 "The factory system undermined family and church, which up to then [mid 19th century] had been the 'major socializing institution'"
    p. 41 "In 1846 the annual report for Lowell, Mass., School Committee concluded that universal education was the 'surest safety against internal commotions' . . . It seems more than coincidental that, in England, public support for elementary education -- a concept which has been widely discussed and urged for at least half a century -- was legislated almost immediately after the enfranchisement of the working class by the electoral reform of 1867 . . . Mass public education in Rhode Island came quickly on the heels of an armed insurrection . . . "
    p. 40 (footnote #9) " . . . a manufacturer from Lowell, Mass. [said] 'In times of agitation, on account of some change in regulation or wages, I have always looked to the most intelligent, best educated and the most moral for support. The ignorant and uneducated I have generally found to be most turbulent and troublesome, acting under the impulse of excited passion . . .'"
    p. 41 (footnote #11) " . . . a middle class attempt to secure advantage for their children as technological change heightened the importance of formal education assure the success and acceptance of universal graded school systems. The same result emerged from the fear of a growing, unschooled proletariat. Education substituted for deference as a source of social cement and social order in a society stratified by class rather than rank."
    p. 42 "In many parts of the county [U.S.], schools were literally imposed on the workers."
    p. 43-44 "As a system of class stratification developed within a rapidly expanding educational system. Children of the social elite normally attended private schools. Because working class children tended to leave school early, the class composition of the public high schools was distinctly more elite than the public primary schools. And as university education ceased to be merely training for teachers or the divinity and became important in gaining access to the pinnacles of the business world, upper-class families used their money and influence to get their children into the best universities, often at the expense of the children of less elite families.

    Around the turn of the present [20th] century, large numbers of working class and particularly immigrant children began attending high schools. At the same time, a system of class stratification developed within secondary education. The older democratic ideology of the common school -- that the same curriculum should be offered to all children -- gave way to the 'progressive' insistence that education should be tailored to the 'needs of the child.' In the interests of providing an education relevant to the later life of the students, vocational schools and tracks were developed for the children of working class families. The academic curriculum was preserved for those who would later have the opportunities to make use of book learning, either in college or in white collar employment. This and other educational reforms of the progressive education movement reflected an implicit assumption of the immutability of the class structure."

    p. 44 "The relation between social class and a child's chance of promotion or tracking assignments was disguised -- though not mitigated much -- by another 'progressive' reform: 'objective' educational testing. Particularly after World War I, the capitulation of the schools to business values and concepts of efficiency led to increased use of intelligence and scholastic achievement testing as an ostensibly unbiased means of measuring the product of schooling and classifying students."
    p. 46-47 "The crucial complication arises because education and skills are embedded in human beings; unlike physical capital, these assets cannot be passed on to one's children at death. In an advanced capitalist society in which education and skills play an important role in the hierarchy of production, then, the absence of confiscatory inheritance laws is not enough to reproduce then social division of labor from generation to generation. Skills and educational credentials must somehow be passed on within the family. It is a fundamental theme of this essay that schools play an important part in reproducing and legitimizing this modern form of class structure."

Hope this helps.

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Nov 19 2012 18:04

Thanks again, everyone.

Hieronymous wrote:
The best account of the process of forcing public schooling on the working class against their wishes is Samuel Bowles "Unequal Education and the Reproduction of the Social Division of Labor" in the anthology Schooling in a Corporate Society: The Political Economy of Education in America, edited by Martin Carnoy (1972) [a book-length treatment of this topic is Schooling in Capitalist America by Bowles and Herbert Gintis (1976)].

I found the article here: http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/~rgibson/BowlesEducation.htm