Children and their labor are minimized and often ignored

Looking at a past example from feminism, I think we could consider trying to emphasize that children’s work is a contribution to society.

I started thinking about this as a reaction to seeing someone comment that she’s annoyed when there are children at restaurants and why should she have to be around them when it’s the parents’ fault for having kids. I’ve seen many comments like this that talk about children as an incidental flight of fancy and not as the completely necessary members of society that they are.

Both feminists and socialists have pointed out groups whose work has been ignored, undervalued, or seems invisible. Even though those groups’ work was necessary for, or used in, economic production.

When more women were stay-at-home-wives and mothers, feminists pointed out how much labor in the home was used to facilitate and support the husband’s job (cooking, cleaning his clothes, other necessities).

Children’s work is being overlooked in a similar way.

Employees with various skills are needed and used by society. Whose labor input is used to produce workers/employees? A significant portion of the work done to gain those skills (to create a worker who has various skills) was done by a child (studying, doing school work etc).

A simple example: if a person is a gold medal gymnast at 18, a significant portion of the training that built that skill was done by a child.

But not everyone and everything that goes into producing workers is minimized to the extent that children are. Schooling itself (and teachers) are often presented as vital and necessary for society and for creating an educated workforce.

“There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own … you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for, you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate, you were safe because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for …” — Elizabeth Warren.

Schooling is often portrayed as a contribution to society, given BY tax payers, teachers, and (sometimes to a lesser extent) parents. It’s also often portrayed as given TO children. But the corresponding giving BY children and their labor (that goes towards creating the same educated workforce that makes schools a contribution to society in the first place) is ignored.

And the use of their school labor isn’t limited to developing an educated workforce, society also uses it to sort and select its future white collar professionals. Similar to the environmentalist point that 4 gallons of water are wasted to produce 1 bottled water, it takes multiple children spending their childhoods on exam prep for 1 child to get the top scores and get into a professional program.

The amount of childhood labor and wasted childhood labor that goes into society’s production of workers and professionals is mostly brushed aside. Children are portrayed as living frivolously and leisurely.

I have seen some articles that do talk about children having too much school work, but not in the context of it being a labor contribution that is made by children to society.

There are many other aspects of this I want to comment on that I will leave for another time.

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