Page images

Probably you are quite thoroly aware that officers who are charged with the enforcement of child-labor laws often complain of the lack of cooperation on the part of the school authorities. They contend that school principals are sometimes willing to violate the law by issuing certificates which they know should not be issued because they find that the children are not making progress in the schools, or because they think that their earnings are needed at home and they want to do what they can to help out the child. There has, of course, been in the past all too little appreciation on the part of teachers of the problems of industry. In the absence of vocational schools they have sometimes felt that industrial education could be acquired thru a job. They have not appreciated the fact that the mill or factory is organized, not for training, but for profit, and that the child who is allowed to enter because he did not make his grade in arithmetic or grammar does so at great physical and educational sacrifices. Some teachers have been too ready to accept child labor as a cure for dependency, and yet it is generally agreed that child labor merely perpetuates poverty and must go if the father is going to be able to get wages which will enable him to support his family. We all know that the community cannot afford to rely upon children to support the widows or the injured or unemployed fathers. On the other hand, school officers frequently complain of the cooperation they receive from factory inspectors. They say that the respect for the certificating depends upon a check-up by someone who inspects the factory or manufacturing establishment, and that too often the inspector is altogether indifferent as to whether a manufacturer has on file certificates issued for him or for some other concern, and refuses to prosecute for failure on the part of the employer to live up strictly to the requirements of the certifi. cating law.

It seems necessary at this time to say something as to the vigilance which is necessary in the enforcement of child-labor and compulsory-education laws in view of the demands which the prosecution of the war is making upon our resources. When the declaration of war was made by the United States some Americans tried to urge as a new war measure their old demand that all limitations of the hours of work for men and women must be abolisht and that the minimum age at which children can be employed must be lowered. These were the same people who had opposed the enactment of this legislation in peace times. In the confusion which came during the first months of the war the source of this demand was, however, not generally understood, and some superintendents and boards of education lent their support to it on patriotic grounds. The statements made by the President of the United States, the Secretary of War, and the Secretary of the Navy, as well as the Secretary of Labor, have since made it very clear to the public that there is no demand on the part of the government for a relaxation of child-labor standards, that on the contrary in the interest of efficiency in the emergency expansion of production which is now necessary, as well of as the future welfare of the nation, it is necessary to maintain child-labor laws and prevent the employment of women for an excessive number of hours.

In both England and France during the first demoralized and terrible year of the war enormous expansion of certain lines of production followed the very serious unemployment which came with the beginning of the war. Administrative officers who were charged with the power to grant exemptions under the factory acts of those countries granted certain exemptions in the belief that they were aiding production. This was largely because in both of these countries the careful, scientific study of the organization of the labor element in production which the situation demanded was not made at the outset, and in consequence these countries drifted into excessive and unprofitable overtime work and increast employment of young children and of the mothers of young children. Official reports now testify to the error of this policy. The Minister of Labor of France in the Bulletin for July and August, 1916, quotes from an address of the Undersecretary of State the statement: “The experience of war time has only demonstrated the necessity-technical, economic, and even physiological of the labor laws enacted before the war. It is in our legislation in the time of peace that we shall find the conditions for a better and more intense production during the war."

The report of the British Health of the Munitions Workers Committee, an investigating committee appointed by the British Ministry of Munitions, shows that, considered from the standpoint of efficiency in production, the breakdown of labor standards has been a great mistake. In this connection it should be remembered that prior to 1914, American standards of compulsory education and child protection were in general higher than English and French standards. The United States, like Canada and New . Zealand, can report some slight raising of standards since our entry into the war. States as widely separated as Arkansas, Kansas, Illinois, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Wisconsin strengthened their compulsory-education or child-labor laws during the legislative session of 1917.

But the advances which have been made in recent years are going to be found altogether inadequate in the future. It is expected that in every European country, and in the United States as well, great social and industrial changes are sure to follow the war. Programs which European educators offered before the war are now found to be timid and lacking in vision. Plans are being projected in both England and France for an extension of the compulsory school-attendance laws and the expenditure of greatly increast amounts on elementary education.

Mr. Fisher's Education bill for England raises the leaving age to fourteen and provides for compulsory continuation-school attendance up to eighteen years. It is receiving wide support in England from conservative

Page 123. Quoted in Children in Warring Countries, Children's Bureau Publication No. 27, p. 34

sections and is being criticized as not asking enough by the labor groups. Commenting on the bill the London Times says: “If educational reform was clearly a necessity in 1914, the necessity will come to our very doors when demobilization takes place on a great scale. .

.... The inexorable pressure

of economic forces have come to the aid of those who demanded the bill as the Children's Charter."

Proposals similar to those made by Mr. Fisher have been discust in the French Chamber of Deputies, where M. Viviani has sponsored the most important measure. The Minister of Public Instruction in France has said that "as compulsory primary instruction was born of the war of 1870, there must come from the present conflict obligatory continuation-school instruction."I

The United States has the same kind of economic problems to face in the demobilization of its army as that which England and France are now planning to meet. We too have overwhelming evidence that our past and present educational and school-attendance provisions have been sending to the "economic scrap heap of unskilled labor” hundreds of thousands of children each year. We have known for years that much more far-reaching reforms were needed than those we have formulated in legislative programs. Now, when we can see that the withdrawal of children from industry will become an important factor in stabilizing economic conditions when the demobilization of the army takes place, is the time to secure the enactment of an after-the-war program. Whatever the program is to be, the new national consciousness which has come with war will demand the establishment of a national minimum below which we shall not allow the provision for education and child welfare in general to sink in any state. The United States Child Labor law constitutes a precedent which should not be neglected.

This is no time for modest or timid demands. There never was a time in the history of the world when the training and protection of children was as important as it is today. We are leaving them to bear a burden of national indebtedness of an amount which we have not yet dared even to estimate; we are leaving them to solve those social and economic problems whose solutions we have postponed with increasing difficulty each year; we are expecting them to live down a new set of national hatreds and reorganize our international relationships on the basis of our common interests. Whether or not the children of the world are prepared for this task depends on whether the leaders in education are going to be able to put forward and secure public support for the educational program which the times demand.

Revue philonthropique (June, 1916), p. 320. Quoted in Child Labor in Warring Countries, Children's Bureau Publication No. 37.



SCHOOLS, ST. PAUL, MINN. Prior to 1917. Minnesota had a loose, disjointed, incoordinate medley of laws relating to children. These had been past at various sessions of the legislature without any serious bearing upon the whole problem of child welfare, and were largely the result of efforts to overcome some particular evils which happened to be strikingly apparent at the time the laws were past. In this respect, however, they were not much unlike the laws of most of the other states of the Union, and, in reality, prior to the time when the Minnesota laws were revised and systematized Massachusetts and Ohio were the only states that had succeeded in securing a body of laws which were at all comprehensive in scope and uniform in purpose.

In 1916 the governor appointed a commission of sixteen members to consider the whole question of adequate legislation bearing upon this subject. The commission, under the able leadership of Judge Edward F. Waite, of the juvenile court of Minneapolis, made an exhaustive study of the laws upon the statute books. Before revising any part of the law or drafting new laws Judge Waite outlined carefully the objects to be met by any further legislation upon this subject. He laid down as fundamental propositions upon which adequate legislation must be based these four requirements:

1. Every child should have a fair chance to be born sound in brain and body.

2. Every child should have a fair chance for normal development in body, mind, and morals.

3. Every child should be given the greatest practical relief from permanent consequences of his own inexperience and wrongdoing, and reformative restraint from antisocial conduct.

4. Every child should be accorded adequate protection against the wrongdoing of others.

With this program before them the commission set about its task of eliminating unessential and incongruous provisions, reorganizing essential parts of existing laws, and framing new measures by means of which this body of laws might become harmonious and effective. The result of the work was forty-one bills which were presented to the legislature of 1917, out of which number thirty-five were enacted into laws. The far-reaching effect of these laws can to some extent be measured by the fact that one hundred and fourteen sections of the old statutes were repealed, sixty sections were amended, and a well-defined and superior administrative method of procedure was secured.

Under the provisions of these laws the state board of control is given legal guardianship over all children committed to it by courts of competent jurisdiction. It is also made the duty of this board to promote the enforcement of all laws for the protection of defective, illegitimate, dependent, neglected, and delinquent children, and to take the initiative in all matters involving the interests of such children when adequate provision therefor has not already been made. The means for carrying out these powers and duties are also provided by granting the board the right to appoint and fix salaries of such agents as it deems necessary to employ. Maternity hospitals and infants' homes are placed under supervision, and licenses for their operation must now be secured from the state board of control. Careful records must be kept, but these are open to inspection only by authorized persons or by proper legal tribunals. The placing of children in homes and private institutions is safe-guarded, and such homes and institutions are subject to inspection at any time by the board of control or its authorized agents. The right to determine the character of the home is vested in the board, and whenever it is satisfied that a child has been placed in an unsuitable home it may order its transfer and compel obedience to such order.

By virtue of these laws the state school for the deaf, the state school for the blind, the state public school for dependent children, the state hospital for indigent, crippled, and deformed children, and the home school for girls are placed under the exclusive control of the board. The state training school for boys and other correctional and charitable institutions had previously been placed under the management of this board. Complete control of the various institutions affecting the welfare of children has consequently been placed in one board, which is certainly an achievement of no small moment.

The safeguarding of health is naturally placed in the hands of the state board of health, and the revision of the laws extends the powers of this board to control by appropriate means the treatment of all manner of venereal diseases and infection, the prevention of infant blindness and infection of the eyes of the newly born, by the designation of a prophylactic to be used in such cases and in such manner as the board may direct, unless specifically objected to by the parents or a parent of such infant.

The chapter of the old laws relating to illegitimate children has been entirely rewritten. This chapter in the Minnesota laws was devoid of any sympathy or pity for the unwelcome little babe who was designated in the statutes by the cruel name of “bastard.” Judge Waite aptly characterized this chapter as "a disgrace to an enlightened and Christian state." It may happen that this same chapter may still be on the statutes of more than one state in the Union. As for Minnesota, the curse upon the unoffending little life brought into being is removed, and the facts with regard to its birth, while made a matter of record, may not be disclosed except upon an order by a court of competent jurisdiction.

Another chapter safeguards in a comprehensive manner the adoption of a child into a home, simplifies the methods of procedure for securing such

« PreviousContinue »