View original document

The full text on this page is automatically extracted from the file linked above and may contain errors and inconsistencies.

in S C H O O L
A S A F E G U A R D against
Child Labor and Illiteracy

Children’s Year Follow-up Series No. 3

Bureau Publication No. 64

U. S. Departm ent,of Labor
Children’ s Bureau
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Back-to-school---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Cooperation-------------------------- ------------- T---------------------- ?-------------------------------


M ethods________________________ __________ 4'i— •— ---------------------------------Results________ .______________ r ------------------------------------------------------------------Work still to be done-------------------------------------------------------------------------------Minimum standards for children entering employment--------------------------------


Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

( 2)

Last year in the campaign against child labor 44 States, the Dis­
trict o f Columbia, and the city of New York made every effort to
awaken communities and individual parents' to the child’s need for
education and to see that he has thq opportunity for it through the
enactment and enforcement o f adequate school attendance and childlabor laws.
“ Every Child in School ” was the aim of the Back-to-School and
Stay-in-School campaign which was started during Children’s Year
by the Children’s Bureau o f the United States Department o f Labor
and the Child Conservation Section o f the Council of National De­
fense because thousands o f boys and girls had been drawn into work
by the war-time demand for labor arid the high cost of living.
“ Stay-in-School ” is still the slogan in many communities where
they are combating child labor by creating a sentiment in favor o f
school attendance.

School superintendents and teachers not only cooperated with the
child-welfare committees in this campaign, but also in some com­
munities the school authorities were asked to take charge o f the drive.
In one State the superintendent of public instruction was appointed
State chairman for the Back-to-School drive which was carried on
by the county superintendents o f schools and the teachers with great
The superintendent o f schools in one town enlisted the interest o f
150 leading citizens. A citizen was considered having gone over the
top when, because of his or her personal efforts, at least one boy or
girl who would not otherwise have done so entered and remained in
school during the remainder o f the year.
Not only did the child welfare committees cooperate with the
school authorities, but also in many instances they enlisted the in­
terest o f employers, rotary clubs, chambers o f commerce, and other
local organizations to assist in returning children to school and in
raising scholarship funds to enable boys and girls to remain in school
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



In many communities all the' children who had left school during
the few months previous were visited and an effort was made to re­
turn them to school. Children who had left school in rural districts
were followed up and urged to continue their schooling as well as
the children in the cities and towns. In a number o f rural districts
committees were appointed for each township and an effort was made
to convince the parents that farm work for children is a loss rather
than a gain if it is a substitute for schooling. It. was pointed out
to them that if the boys and girls o f to-day are going to increase
production on the farms in the future they must go through a pro­
longed period o f intelligent training.
One county observed “ rural day ” when the influential men o f the
neighborhood visited the schools and talked to the children on the
value o f education. Their visits were planned not only for the pur­
pose of inducing children to remain in school longer, but also to
show visitors the needs of the rural schools.
Some communities when first asked to take part in the campaign
saw no need for it, as there were no industries which employed
children. But in these localities it was found that many children
left school as soon as the school attendance law permitted, that few
went to high school, and that after all the drive might be beneficial
in inducing boys and girls to remain in school longer. In one State
20 of the smaller towns where there were no factories reported as not
needing a Back-to-School drive. These 20 towns were enlisted by
the superintendents of schools to put over in other localities the idea
that it pays to stay in school.
All communities did not follow the same plan for carrying on the
campaign, but each decided upon the phase of the drive which was
most needed and which should be pushed. In one large city 800
children who were employed on vacation permits during the summer
and who failed to return to school were followed up and an effort
made to return them to school. In this city “ Stay-in-School ” was
emphasized. Thousands o f dodgers were distributed, bringing home
to parents the danger o f premature work for children and the ad­
vantage not only to the child but also to the Nation of giving him
the maximum of education. Another line o f attack was addressing
meetings o f parents, teachers’ conferences, and children’s assemblies
in the schools. As a result o f the Back-to-School drive in this city
the committee recommended more scholarships for children, an in­
creased number o f visiting teachers, additional continuation schools,
more attendance officers, annual revision in the school census, and a
wider extension o f vocational guidance work.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

In one State an experienced and trained person was employed to go
through the State to assist the local committees to secure better en­
forcement o f the school-attendance laws, to make more nearly uni­
form the methods for issuing employment certificates, and to enlist
the interest o f employers and school authorities in establishing day
continuation schools for working children. An exhibit was prepared
illustrating the child-labor law-and pointing out thè need for more
vocational education and vocational guidance.
In many communities publicity was given to better enforcement o f
the child-labor laws. In one city 50,000 slips urging children to
return to school were distributed through the public libraries and
factories. A slip was inserted in each book and pay envelope. The
same inscription was put on slides and shown in 50 of the smaller
moving-picture houses for a week. The inscription read :
Send your child back to school.
The child-labor law says :
Boys must be 15 and pass the sixth grade before leaving school,
Girls must be 16 and pass the seventh grade.
Take the child from the factory,.
Give a man a job.
Be patriotic.
Obey the law.

Everywhere novel ways were introduced for reaching the parents
and impressing upon them the value of an education and the impor­
tance o f keeping children in school.
The success of the effort to return children to school and keep them
there is largely dependent upon the parents. I f they have a real
understanding o f the value o f an education and o f the training which
the schools offer to children they are more likely to insist upon their
remaining in school.
In one city a school with traveling teachers was started for parents.
The homes were visited for the purpose o f informing the parents o f
the educational opportunities open to their children in the schools in
order that they might understand o f what the boys and girls are
being deprived when they leave school early. A leaflet was prepared
giving the names o f the schools that provide vocational training
and those that have special classes for the handicapped, for the blind
and deaf, and for the retarded children and those who have speech
In anothei city a Go-to-School IVeek ” was planned when the
parents having children in school were urged to visit the schools and
learn how they are conducted. Tags were prepared bearing the in­
scription : “ My father or mother has visited school this week. Has
yours? ” These were won for the children by the parents.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

In many localities the ministers o f the churches were asked to
emphasize the need for education in connection with their sermons
in order that the message* might reach more parents.
Speakers presented the cause in the moving-picture theaters, and
slides were shown urging the parents to return their children to
school and to keep them there. In one State a slide was prepared
giving the number of illiterates in the State and the number o f
children who failed to enroll in any school the previous year. “ No
illiteracy in this State in 1920 ” is its slogan.
Wherever the drive was'undertaken special emphasis was laid on
“ Stay-in-School.” In this the teachers took an important part.
They endeavored to make every child understand why, for the sake
o f his future health, wealth, and happiness he should not throw
aside the opportunities which school affords for the sake of a job
that may lead nowhere.
In many localities the children were asked to write essays on the
subject, “ Education Pays.” In one State all the pupils of the sixth,
seventh, and eighth grades wrote essays entitled, “ W hy go to high
school ? ” Prizes were offered by the State committee for the best
In one town a “ Remain-in-School ” congress was held at the Cen­
tral High School for all the eighth-grade children. The object was
to make the boys and girls realize the need for a high-school educa­
tion. The senior high-school students told how high-school training
had benefited them and why boys and girls should not leave sohool
at the end of grammar school.
In one State a letter was sent to all the eighth-grade pupils urging
them to continue their schooling. In each letter was inclosed the
leaflet entitled, “ Education Pays,” furnished by the Children’s
Bureau, and which compares the earnings o f those boys and girls who
go to work with only a grammar-school education with those who
have been graduated from high school.
Librarians in several localities inclosed one of these leaflets in each
book given to a child. This leaflet was further made use o f in a
middle-western juvenile court to convince the mothers and fathers
of children summoned before the judge that they should make every
effort to keep their children in school.

As a result o f the Back-to-School and Stay-in-School campaign
the school period for many boys and girls has been prolonged. But
the real value has been even more far-reaching than keeping a few
boys and girls in school. Communities are becoming awakened to
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

the needs o f the working child. They have discovered that the
million or more children under 10, who leave school each year to go
to work are not forced into work by poverty: many o f them are
unaware o f the advantages o f an education or are moved simply by
youthful restlessness or distaste for school. They have found that
many children begin their working lives with only a scant educa­
tional equipment and before they have had a chance to develop
physically. They are more and more becoming aware o f' the waste
of early employment and are recognizing the fact that every child
who goes to work prematurely contributes to ill health, industrial
inefficiency, unemployment, low wages, poverty, and illiteracy.
They have learned that the majority of American children are
allowed to go to work without guidance or assistance in finding
suitable employment and to remain at work with no supervision or
protection save what the child labor laws provide.
Many communities, with the knowledge o f conditions which the
Back-to-School drive helped to reveal, are more convinced than ever
that every effort should be made to protect children from excessive
and premature employment and provide for the child entering in­
dustry some guidance in the choice of occupations. For this reason
many communities planned a Back-to-School drive for the autumnof 1919 to return to school boys and girls who during the vacation
period had entered employment nnd who were induced by the wages
offered to remain at work. In some localities the school-welfare
committees organized for Children’s Year have become permanent
committees cooperating with the school authorities to carry on every
year a Stay-in-School campaign. In one State a School-Welfare
circle has been appointed for each school. The following question­
naire was sent in the middle of September to each circle:
H as your school enrollment been checked with the latest school census?
H as your community looked up all the children of school age who are not
How many children are out of school?
How many children have been returned to school?
How many children are out of school to assist in the support of the fam ily?
H as provision been made for establishing a scholarship fund?

There is need for carrying on each year a Back-to-School and a
Stay-in-School campaign in order that no child in the future shall
grow up without going to school and learning all that the school
can give toward an intelligent and well equipped entrance into
working life.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

T o make a Stay-in-School campaign effective and reduce child
labor to a minimum communities should work to secure—
(1 )
(2 )
(3 )

More and better schools.
Better-trained and better-paid teachers.
Better enforcement of the school attendance laws.
Better enforcement of child-labor laws and higher standards of protec­

tion for working children. '

When the Back-to-School drive was launched in one State it
became known that in many cities and towns the schools were already
overcrowded. It was estimated that if all the children in the State
who should be in school were returned 40 per cent of them would
have to stand. “ Schools for all children and all children in school *
is the slogan o f the child-welfare committee. The chairman reports
that “ in many cities in the State additions will be made to the school
buildings during vacation time and we trust when the schools open
this fall there will be no children out o f school who should be
enrolled.” In some o f our larger cities many children are permitted
to attend school only half-day sessions because the schools are so
It is not sufficient to secure legislation compelling children to attend
school. There must be schools for them to go to and they must be
made so plainly attractive that boys and girls will want to attend.
The results o f the Back-to-School drive indicated that the majority
o f children leave school because they are not interested in school and
that the school fails to provide the training which meets their needs.
I f we are to keep children from going to work too early in life we
must provide a schooling which holds their interest, satisfies their
need, and gives them a sound foundation on which to build their
industrial life when the proper time comes for them to enter industry.
The Smith-Hughes Act which provides Federal aid for States estab­
lishing vocational training is a step in the right direction.
Inadequate training, poor equipment, unattractive school buildings
often breed discontents A discontented school child often produces
a child laborer.
The rural schools must not be overlooked, especially when we con­
sider that three-fifths o f the American children live outside urban
areas. Federal aid for the improvement o f the rural school will do
away with the cut and dried form of education that is not holding
the country children in school, that is not holding them to country
life, and that is not awakening their social interest. The day is
gone by when farming can be carried on in the hit or miss way of
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

the past. The need for technical teaching is perhaps more apparent
in the rural schools than elsewhere, for the boy or girl at work on
the farm usually performs mechanical unskilled duties and receives
little intelligent instruction save in very exceptional cases.
In England under the education act o f last year it will be possible
to build up on the elementary school course a really practical training
in the main duties o f the various branches of agriculture. It has been
proposed to send town children out to the rural continuation schools
and thus create a more fruitful movement back to the life of country
In this country it is proposed to extend the principle o f Federal
aid to the elementary schools. The Towner bill introduced in Con­
gress in May, 1919, seeks to find the alternative to child labor.
It provides for an annual Federal appropriation of $100,000,000
for educational purposes, which would be distributed among the States
according to population. This aid will not be granted the States
unless they agree to abide by certain conditions imposed by the
O f this total proposed appropriation $7,500,000 will be allotted
to the States for the instruction of illiterates 10 years o f age and
over; $7,500,000 will be used to teach immigrants 10 years of age
and over the English language; $50,000,000 will be devoted to
lengthening school terms and to improving the elementary schools,
especially in the rural districts; $20,000,000 will be used for pro­
moting recreation, physical education, medical inspection, the em­
ployment o f school nurses; and $15,000,000 will be used for training
I f Congress grants this appropriation it will mean that all the
children o f this country may in time have equal educational oppor­
This year several States have taken steps to provide more and
better training for their children. An increasing number o f States
are establishing consolidated schools in order that the rural schools
may have better equipment, better trained teachers, and a more
varied course of training.
Iowa passed a new school law this year known as the Evans-Smith
Act which provides for the standardization of rural schools. This
law carries with it an appropriation of $100,000 to be used in bring­
ing the country schools up to a recognized standard o f efficiency.
A rural school to benefit by this aid must be in good repair, with
adequate heating and ventilating systems, well equipped with the
necessary furnishings to conduct a good school. The school must
be conducted for eight months out o f each year. The teacher must
hold a first-grade uniform county certificate, a normal training cer-
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

tificate, or a State certificate. I f the school is designated by the
State superintendent as a standard school it will receive $6 per capita
for each child who has an average attendance o f six months for the
preceding school year. This is Iowa’s way o f improving the rural
schools and keeping the children in school longer.
The public schools belong to the community. They w ill be whatever the comrmmity makes them.

The Back-to-School drive could not be carried on in some com­
munities because the schools were closed for lack of teachers. A ll
over the country it is reported that teachers are leaving the schools
for better paid work elsewhere and the attendance at teachers’ train­
ing schools has decreased to an alarming extent.
The National Education Association recently published figures
showing that out .of approximately 600,000 public-school teachers in
the United States approximately—
30.000 have had no education beyond the eighth grade of the ele­
mentary school.
100.000 have had less than two years’ education beyond the eighth
200.000 have had less than four years’ education beyond the eighth
300.000 have had no more than four years’ education beyond tho
eighth grade.
300.000 have had no special professional preparation for the work
of teaching.
In many parts of the country school teachers receive no more than
$40 a month. The public is beginning to realize that no community
can afford to have its children taught by underpaid and inadequately
prepared young men and women. This last year a number o f States
because o f the shortage o f teachers secured legislation establishing a
minimum salary of not less than $1,000 for all teachers in the State.
In other States $1,200 has been fixed as the minimum salary for ele­
mentary-school teachers.
Secure in your community higher salaries fo r teachers and as
a result better trained and more competent instructors fo r your

The Back-to-School drive has shown that these laws in many
States are not adequate; they are not enforced as they should be in
many cities and towns and rarely enforced in the rural districts.
Frequently authorities fail to provide a sufficient number o f attend
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

ance officers to enforce the law. Too often these officers are poorlypaid and as a result untrained, inefficient, and often incapacitated
for work.
One county child-welfare chairman reported, “ The rural districts
do not use the truant officers they have.” The superintendent o f
public instruction at the request o f the child-welfare committee sent
a questionnaire to city and county superintendents of schools ask­
ing for the number o f truant officers in the district, their approxi­
mate ages, previous occupation, and amount o f education. With
this questionnaire was distributed “ The Truant Officers’ Oppor­
tunity,” a leaflet published by the child-welfare committee. Re­
turns indicated that the majority o f the truant officers in the State
are underpaid and past the active age o f life. I f compulsory schoolattendance laws are to be enforced, an intelligent, well-trained at­
tendance officer who is interested in the welfare o f children should
be a part o f every school organization.
Such figures as are available indicate that in our cities less than
three-fourths o f the children continue in attendance at school as
much as three-fourths o f the year. In many rural districts the chil­
dren attend school a little more than half the time the schools are
in session. The terms for rural schools are, as a rule, much shorter
than those for city schools. In 10 States the period of attendance
required by law is less than five months. It is obvious that the chil­
dren in these States do not get adequate schooling. In one State
the school officers are authorized to consider need for agricultural
labor in excusing children in rural districts.
In nearly every community there may be found not only children
who are so irregular in school attendance that they do not make their
grade, but also children who fail even to enroll in any school. In
one State last year it was found that 10,895 children failed to enroll
in school. In another State a rural school inspector interested in the
Back-to-School drive reported that 1,700 children in his district did
not attend a day o f school last year. “ So many of them ,stay out in
the fall and spring to help in beet fields,” he said.
As a result of little or no schooling:
1 out o f every 10 adults in the city can neither read nor write;
1 out o f every 5 adults in the country can neither read nor write.
At present the illiteracy rate in the United States is eighth in the
list o f civilized countries. America can head the list only by pro­
viding well-equipped schools which the children shall be required to
attend a full school term o f nine months.
Irregular attendance at school is not only a loss to the child but it
is also expensive to the State. One State found that it cost $40,000
a year to reteach children who fail in the grades because they did not
attend school regularly.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Irregular attendance leads to retardation. Retardation leads to
elimination. Elimination results in child labor.
See that the school-attendance laws are enforced!

It was found in connection with the Back-to-School drive that
children were working in violation of the laws o f their States.
Children of school age were in the factories because there were not a
sufficient number of attendance officers and factory inspectors to keep
them in school and out o f industry. No community can afford to
have its children at work when they* should be in school. Children
at work depend largely upon the States in which they live for pro­
tection. It is true that the Federal Government has stepped in and
has said that child labor must be prohibited in every State up to a
certain age. But the Federal child-labor law which provides for an
excise tax upon the profits derived from the work o f children pro­
hibits only the employment o f children under 14 in manufacturing
establishments, including canneries, and of children under 16 at any
time in mines and quarries and in factories for more than eight
hours daily or before 6 o’clock in the morning or after 7 in the
The number of children affected by the Federal law is small conir
pared with the total number of working children in the United
States. Although the exact figures relating to the employment of
children are not to be obtained, the latest, found in the census o f
1910, give the number o f working children between 10 and 16 years
of age as approximately 2,000,000. Nearly three-fourths o f these
children are employed in agriculture. Less than 300,000 children are
in occupations coming within the scope of the Federal child-labor
law. With the Federal law in force, children under 14 in nearly
every State will be able to work some time and in some occupation.
The Federal law does not set a complete standard, nor one for all
Employment in agriculture and domestic service are exempt from
the operation o f the State laws. In every State children can work
long hours at injurious tasks in homes and fields. The country child
is neglected. Not only are there no restrictions regarding his em­
ployment, but his schooling is often curtailed. Three-fourths of the
children at work—those employed on farms—-are not protected by
the child-labor laws.
England found that if illiteracy was to be destroyed the employ­
ment of children in agriculture would have to be regulated. Under
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

the Fisher Education Act, no child in all England can work at any
occupation, including agriculture, before the age of 14. Up to that
age he must attend school every year a full school term o f nine
months. A recent English periodical reported that farmers had been
fined fo r working children in violation o f this act.
Though no one can question the wholesomeness o f supervised work
on farms under proper conditions, it has been found that the States
which have a high percentage o f illiteracy also have a high per­
centage o f rural child labor.
Rural child labor and illiteracy go hand in hand.
A t the Children’s Bureau conferences held in the United States in
May and June, 1919, standards o f child welfare were proposed, dis­
cussed, and formulated. They included standards for working
children. The raising o f the age at which American children are per­
mitted to enter industry and a more stringent control o f the condi­
tions under which boys and girls may assume the burdens o f indus­
trial life were urged. The following are the standards proposed by
a committee o f persons experienced in matters pertaining to children
in industry. They are standards toward which every community
should work and which surely are none too high for the protection o f
boys and girls who must be prepared to assume the responsibilities
which the generation o f to-day will soon lay upon them. The stand­
ards are as follow s:
Age minimum— An age minimum of 16 for employment in any occupation,
except that children between 14 and 16 may be employed in agriculture and
domestic service during vacation periods until schools are continuous through­
out the year.
An age minimum of 18 for employment in and about mines and quarries.
An age minimum of 21 for girls employed as messengers for telegraph and
messenger companies.
An age minimum of 21 for employment in the special delivery service of the
United States Post Office Department.
Prohibition of the employment of minors in dangerous, unhealthy, or haz­
ardous occupations, or at any work which will retard their proper physical or
moral development.
Educational minimum.— All children between 7 and 16 years of age shall be
required to attend school for at least nine months each year.
Children between 16 and 18 years of age who have completed the eighth grade
but not the high school and are legally and regularly employed shall be re­
quired to attend day continuation schools at least eight hours a week.
Children between 16 and 18 who have not completed the eighth grade or
children who have completed the eighth grade and are not regularly employed
shall attend full-time school. Occupational training especially adapted to their
needs shall be provided for those children who are unable because o f mental
subnormality to profit by ordinary school instruction.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Vacation schools placing special emphasis on healthful play and leisure time
activities shall be provided for all children.
Physical minimum— A child shall not be allowed to go to work until he has
had a physical examination by a public-school physician or other medical officer
especially appointed for that purpose by the agency charged with the enforce­
ment of the law, and has been found to be of normal development for a child
of his age and physically fit for the work at which he is to be employed.
There shall be annual physical examination of all working children who are
under 18 years o f age.
Hours of employment.— No minor shall be employed more than 8 hours a day,
or 44 hours a week. The maximum working day for children between 16 and
18 shall be shorter than the legal working day for adults.
The hours spent at continuation schools by children under 18 years of age
shall be counted as part o f the working day.
Night work for minors shall beqirohibited between 6 p. m. and 7 a. m..
~ Minimum wage.— Minors at work shall be paid at a rate of wages which for
full-time work shall yield not less than the minimum essential for the “ neces­
sary cost of proper living,” as determined by a minimum wage commission or
other similar official board. During a period of learning they may be rated as
learners and paid accordingly. The length of the learning' period should be
fixed by such commission or other similar official board on educational princi­
ples only.
Placement and employment supervision.— There shall be a central agency
which shall deal with all juvenile employment problems. Adequate provision
shall be made for advising children when they leave school of the employment
opportunities open to them, for assisting them in finding suitable work, and
providing for them such supervision as may be needed during the first few
years ,of their employment. All agencies working toward these ends shall be
coordinated through the central agency.

Employment certificates.— Provision shall be made for issuing employment
certificates to all children entering employment who are under 18 years of age.
An employment certificate shall not be issued to the child until the issuing
officer has received, approved, and filed the following:
1. A birth certificate or, if unobtainable, other reliable documentary proof
of the child’s age.
2. Satisfactory evidence that the child has completed the eighth grade.
3. A certificate of physical fitness signed by a public-school physician or
other medical officer especially appointed for that purpose by the agency
charged with the enforcement of the law. This certificate shall state that the
minor has been thoroughly examined by the physician and that he is physically
qualified for the employment contemplated.
4. Promise of employment.
The certificate shall be issued to the employer and shall be returned by the
employer to the issuing officer when the child leaves his employment.
The school last attended, the compulsory-education department, and the con­
tinuation schools shall be kept informed by the issuing officers of certificates
issued or refused and o f unemployed children for whom certificates have been
Minors over 18 years o f age shall be required to present evidence of age
before being permitted to work in occupations in which the entrance ages or
hours are especially regulated.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Record forms shall be standardized and the issuing of employment certifi­
cates shall be under State supervision.
Reports shall be made to' the factory inspection department of all certificates
issued and refused.
Compulsory-attendance laws.— Full-time attendance officers adequately pro­
portioned to the school population shall be provided in cities, towns, and
counties to enforce the school-attendance law.
The enforcement of school-attendance laws by city, town, or county school
authorities shall be under State supervision.
Factory inspection and physical examination of employed m inors— Inspec­
tion for the enforcement of all child-labor laws, including those regulating
the employment of children in mines or quarries, shall be under one and the
same department. The number of inspectors shall be sufficient to .insure semi­
annual inspections of all establishments in which children are employed and
such special inspections and investigations as are necessary to insure the pro­
tection of the children.
Provision should be made for a staff of physicians adequate to examine
annually all employed children under 18 years of age.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis