Saturday, May 9, 2015

A Timeline of Female Labor and Education in the US

Reading Boot Camp 2.0 Paired Mentor Texts Grade 4-8
CCSSR ELA Reading Writing: Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
Story Source: Sean Taylor, Maria-Hélèna Pacelli and

Few people understand the connection between labor laws and education. This is because
contemporary society precludes children from working a full day's labor in 1st world nations, today we have compulsory public education system covered by tax dollars, which keep children and youth on the school benches until they graduate high school. Unless they drop out in high school, it is also illegal to hire youth for regular employment under the age of 16.
However, there was a time when many U.S. children toiled in factories for 70-80 hours a week, keeping the most disadvantaged families from educating their children. Indeed, poor families and farmers often relied on their children for extra work and income as part of the family unit, until child labor laws went into effect in the 1900s.

The first school founded on Indigenous lands colonized as New England (and later the United States), was the Boston Latin School as early as 1635. New England colonies were required to create schools as part of the colonization process, to transmit the values and mores of the British Empire throughout this newly occupied land.
Between 1620 and 1645, parents were also required to teach their children basic skills such as reading and writing, which was a measure to ensure that children were able to read the Bible independently and adhere to Christian values.

The first compulsory education law in the United States, however was only passed in 1852 as it relates to free elementary school education administrated by the government. These laws continued to be passed state by state until the 1852 when all states had passed compulsory education laws requiring children to attend elementary school.
While this wasn’t the case at the time, high school is also compulsory in the United States, but is the result of a movement that took place between 1910 and 1940 in various states, known as the ‘high school movement’ which sought to expand availability of high schools and compulsory free education to ensure that youth would be able to access general skills and prepare for jobs, apprenticeships or higher level education and training. High school became more common around the 1950’s and is now completed by over 80% of the US population.

During the 1900s labor reformers and organizers also advocated for the implementation of labour laws that would protect children, and during the 1930’s after the 1929 stock market crash followed by what is commonly referred to in white American society as The Great Depression, there was a strong movement demanding that jobs be made available to adults who were providing for their families. While this ignores the crucial role that child labor provided to low-income families, this did mean that children were no longer forced into paid labor at the expense of their education.
There is also an insidiously gendered component to these laws, as the gap left by child labor on the job market was often filled by immigrants and women, whose labor was less valued on the market and considered secondary income. Because they could be paid less, women and immigrants were considered valuable because hiring them was more economical. However, they were also more vulnerable to sexual harassment, violence, injury and exploitation in the workplace.

The high school movement also had an impact on women’s involvement in the labour force between 1930 and 1950 as they were able to attain similar levels of education as men and obtain employment outside the home, replacing younger children and youth in factories and other jobs.

While expectations of educational attainment has been gender-segregated throughout history and also includes single-sex education schools and the impacts of patriarchy and sexism on how education is delivered, it would be a stretch to say that child labor is a thing of the past. In marginalized communities, including immigrants, migrants, people of color and indigenous peoples, education is not always as accessible, and in this sense remains a privilege. However, these laws have provided the backbone for an education system that gives most children a chance to be educated instead of spending their childhood in a factory.

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