Putting Kids to Work: Thoughts on Making Schooldays Productive

About a hundred years ago, various regions of the United States began banning or limiting child labor.  It was a hard-fought battle.

Now, I’m not suggesting that we turn back the clock to those horrible times.  Before child labor laws, kids would operate dangerous, dirty equipment for 12 hours at a time for the inflation-adjusted equivalent of twelve cents a day and an inflation-adjusted three kicks in the ass.  But hear me out, and I’m not saying this in a satirical Modest Proposal kind of way:  I think children would benefit by performing simple, real-world computer-related tasks during school time and that they should be paid for their efforts.

Apparently the business world needs a lot of menial tasks to be performed, and a lot of it can be done via the Internet.   Amazon’s “Mechanical Turk” is an example of a service that will pay you to do stuff that’s really dull but wouldn’t be cost-efficient to make a computer do it.  I say we should have kids, from say 4th grade on up, get paid to get this work done.  We could give them an allowance for personal expenses, but the majority of the profit would be stashed away in the child’s college fund.

A small percentage of the profits could go to the school.  You talk of “No Child Left Behind” –  how about “No Child Gets A Free Ride”?  But all kidding aside, think about it for a minute:  what better way to make schools more self-sufficient than to have the kids earn as they learn?  You can tell the plan is brilliant because it rhymes.

As a child gains more experience and knowledge, they could perform more complicated – and thus higher-paying – tasks.  Not only would they earn money, but also valuable real-world experience as well as mental exercise.  Imagine if you’d been given the chance to actually apply learned knowledge for a couple of hours per day while you were in school?

In addition to the money and experience, kids would gain perspective, motivation and self-discipline.  “Man, if I nail that algebra test I can step up to Level 6 math tasks…which means more money and experience points.”  Yes, experience points!  Achievements!  Tangible, braggable, look-what-I-did measurements of a child’s progress that would mean a lot more to them than a report card that comes out of nowhere every six weeks.

As the kids enter high school, they could choose from a more varied set of vocational interests.  Imagine trying out a few different jobs before you even get to college?  It might give you more perspective when it comes time to choose a major.

Of course, there would have to be protections put in place to ensure that kids don’t end up working overtime, or letting work get in the way of learning.

You could argue that rich kids wouldn’t have any motivation to participate, or that schools would just become sweatshops, or that any kind of child labor is just exploitation.  I disagree with that last point, naturally, and the other two points are issues that would need to be addressed.  And since there are no other conceivable arguments against my proposal idea, I urge that it be implemented with all speed!  Good day.

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