My 2 cents in USA Today

The edit page at USA Today asked me to send over a couple sentences of comments on a column by Al Neuharth on whether students should play or work during the summer.

My two bits: “Real jobs can be an excellent antidote to some of the tripe students hear in classrooms. Doing onerous work or dealing with a dictatorial boss can do wonders to inspire young people to get more skills and schooling.”

USA Today may have contacted me because of a zippety piece I did for them on the same topic back in July 2002.  I checked and did not find a link to this piece so here is one  more time ’round the track for it.

USA Today   July 12 2002

Teens don’t need sheltering
By James Bovard

Protecting teenagers from work is one of the worst things you can do to kids. While some prohibitionists may have good intentions, pervasive restrictions on youth labor would be a menace both to kids and society.

The Associated Press reports that 73 teens were killed on the job in 2000. This is far fewer than were killed and wounded in the narcotics business. Most drug dealers do not abide by the federal regulations for youth labor. Insofar as the government drives kids out of legitimate jobs, they could end up in tasks that are far more dangerous.

The government fails to keep statistics on the number of teens whose work ethics are fatally damaged in federal summer-job programs. The General Accounting Office noted as early as 1969 that some kids hired in the government summer programs “regressed in their conception of what should reasonably be required in return for wages paid.”

When I was 16, I spent the summer toiling for the Virginia State Highway Department. My favorite task was working with a chainsaw — an experience that proved invaluable for my future work as a journalist. It was much more inspirational than bailing hay or fighting snakes in trees while picking peaches, as I did the prior two summers largely because federal restrictions banned me from getting other work.

The following summer, when I was 17 and working in construction, I learned an important lesson when the foreman announced: “Red, you aren’t walking fast enough for $4 an hour.”

Many of the advocates of new restrictions on teen work are labor unions, which profit either from having kids confined to classrooms or blocked from competing with their members. The National Child Labor Committee, a high-profile advocate of restrictions on teen labor, includes the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, Teamsters Union, Service Employees International Union, and United Food and Commercial Workers.

The fact that some teens have job accidents should not be invoked to lock all teens into a pseudo-risk-free cocoon. Teens have more accidents in almost everything they do, from auto wrecks to broken condoms. Teenage years are a time of trial and error, and the government cannot protect kids from all danger without also “protecting” them from personal growth.
James Bovard is the author of Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty.


POSTSCRIPT (added after initial posting): OK, so much for my web research skills.  I did come across the 2002 piece online here.



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4 Responses to My 2 cents in USA Today

  1. e.g. winfrey May 29, 2006 at 10:49 am #

    I wonder how the number of teen deaths ‘on the job’ compares to the number of teen deaths among teens ‘not at work?’ I’m betting that a heck of a lot more teens died ‘off the job’ during the same period. Therefore, all teens should work—just for the safety factor if nothing else!

  2. Jim May 29, 2006 at 10:26 pm #

    That’s an excellent point.

    By the same measure, the number of teenagers who get knocked out is probably much lower during working hours (except in New Orleans and Las Vegas).

    Thus, putting all the kids to work would also solve the teen pregnancy problem.

  3. Sandy March 29, 2007 at 11:26 pm #

    We should provide every teenager with FREE fun things to do instead of expect them to work all the time just to “keep them busy.” All work is slavery, & adults are brainwashed to think “life is work, then die” instead of thinking of ways to have fun for every adult. People don’t even know how to have fun, just work, cuz we’re brainwashed to work only & never have fun. And few people can afford to do things that are fun. Fun things should be free worldwide. All people should work 10 hrs a week, so all parents can raise their own children. Ever see a newborn baby? Or a 1,2,3,4,5 year old? They need both parents continuously. When work is more important than fun, that’s slavery. But when fun is more important than work, then we’ll be free. When all people can have more fun than work, then we’ll be free.


  1. Occupational Diseases - September 20, 2006

    Teen Workers Often Injured on the Job… reports that a Wisconsin Study published in the American Journal of Health Behavior reports that one out of six working teens has been injured on the job. Many of these teenagers should not legally have been working the jobs……