Newt Gingrich, who got some flack last month for suggesting we eliminate child labor laws and allow underpriveleged children to clean schools for pay, has sort of recanted on his position. And by recanted, we mean he acknowledged that janitorial work can be dangerous, so these children shouldn't be allowed to do much more than clean the bathrooms. "I get these letters written that say janitorial work is really hard and really dangerous and it's this and that. I say, fine. So what if they became assistant janitors and their jobs were to mop the floor and clean the bathroom?" he said today, according to Think Progress. He also suggested they could serve as greeters in the school office or as librarians. Gingrich's original suggestion related to his idea that child labor laws were limiting the earning potential of the nation's poorest children. Here's what he said this November, according to Politico:
It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in, first of all, child laws, which are truly stupid ... 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. ... 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.
Gingrich's language reminds us of Will Ferrell's character in the film Zoolander, who suggests that child labor laws are "silly and outdated. Why back in the 30s, children as young as five could work as they pleased; from textile factories to iron smelts. Yippee! Hurray!" Anyway, after people apparently wrote to him to criticize the idea, Gingrich backed off, but only because janitorial work might be too difficult for an eight-year-old, so actually he didn't back off so much as double down on his position. Watch him discussing it here:
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.