President-elect Trump announced on Wednesday that billionaire Republican donor Betsy DeVos, a school choice activist, was his pick to head the Department of Education. The left immediately commenced a collective tantrum over the school choice issue—the New York Times shrieking in a headline that she has “steered money from public schools”—and promptly declared DeVos unfit for the position based on that single issue.
Alana Horowitz Satlin, the assignment editor at Huffington Post, is also concerned about that issue, but in a breathless essay on Thursday, she also informed readers of an even more egregious sin in DeVos’s past—something so fearful that it would irrevocably endanger the children of America. Betsy DeVos, you see, supports child labor. That’s right. It says so right there at the Huffington Post under the headline “Group Funded By Trump’s Education Secretary Pick: ‘Bring Back Child Labor'”:
A think tank funded by Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education pick recently advocated for putting kids back in the workforce.
The Acton Institute, a conservative nonprofit that is said to have received thousands of dollars in donations from Betsy DeVos and her family, posted an essay to its blog this month that called child labor “a gift our kids can handle.”
“Let us not just teach our children to play hard and study well, shuffling them through a long line of hobbies and electives and educational activities,” said the post’s author, Joseph Sunde. “A long day’s work and a load of sweat have plenty to teach as well.”
Setting aside the fact that DeVos wasn’t the one who made the comment about child labor (she was an Acton Institute board member for ten years and her family’s foundation has donated money to the group), it’s hilarious seeing the left get the vapors anytime “work” is mentioned in a sentence. God forbid that children should have to add a little sweat equity to their families and learn the rewards of a healthy work ethic.
The essay by Acton’s Joseph Sunde was originally called “Bring back child labor. Work is a gift our kids can handle.” In it he wrote:
What if we were to be more intentional about creating opportunities for work for our kids, or simply to more closely disciple our children toward a full understanding of the role of their work in honoring God and serving neighbor? In our schools and educational systems, what if we stopped prioritizing “intellectual” work to the detriment of practical knowledge and physical labor, paving new paths to a more holistic approach to character formation? In our policy and governing institutions, what if we put power back in the hands of parents and kids, dismantling the range of excessive legal restrictions, minimum wage fixings, and regulations that lead our children to work less and work later? (This could be something as simple as letting a 14-year-old work a few hours a week at a fast-food restaurant or grocery store.)
The man is clearly a monster.
After a backlash that likely involved much pearl-clutching and some fainting couches, Sunde changed the headline to a less-threatening “Work is a gift our kids can handle” and added a disclaimer that he does not “endorse replacing education with paid labor,” nor does he “support sending our children back into the coal mines or other high-risk jobs.”
(He also said essentially the same thing in the original essay, but if you were only scanning the article for trigger words you might have missed it.)
But can we talk about this issue of “child labor” for a minute? One needs only take a look at the coddled college students who are clinging to their Play-Doh and blankies post-election to see what happens when a generation is raised without learning the value and dignity of hard work—when they are given everything they want or desire without having to lift a finger. They deserve (in their minds at least) to get the election result they want. Who cares if, like Kanye, they couldn’t muster the energy to get off their parents’ couches to go and vote.
My kids both learned how to work from a young age. They started with small chores around the house to which were added more challenging responsibilities as they grew older. My husband and I tried to model a good work ethic to them as they were growing up (my husband was much better at it), and we took them on yearly mission trips for some focused work time and to teach them to be grateful for what they had. They cooked, built things, served the homeless, scrubbed floors, painted, and held unloved children.
By the time they got to junior high they were both putting in time volunteering at camps and with their own youth groups. For our eldest son, that eventually turned into a paid gig as a camp counselor, a job that he held in the summers through his college years along with his paid computer jobs. Our younger son worked on a farm picking produce when he was 13 and 14 (he earned 75 cents a quart as I recall) and then moved on to other jobs when he got older. (They’re 25 and 22 now, so it’s too late for you to call children’s services on us.) I’m proud to say that both are hardworking adult men, neither of whom regrets being made to work (by “made to work” I mean they knew that if they wanted stuff and privileges at our house, they were going to work.)
I can think of countless examples of kids who worked harder than mine, not a single one of them any the worse for it. (The kids from farming families are particular standouts.) And kids from the generations prior to mine put all of us to shame with their resourcefulness and work ethics.
I’m not even going to offer a “coal mine” disclaimer when I say this because everyone knows what we’re talking about here: Labor is good for kids. Teaching them the value of a dollar—whether it’s earned by the sweat one’s brow or the exertion of the mind—will only help them to succeed in life. Allowing kids to be lazy slackers who expect others to subsidize their lifestyles, on the other hand, is a recipe for a clingy, unemployed millennial living in the safe space of your basement for the foreseeable future.