06/15/04 — Child labor: Flip side of the issue

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Child labor: Flip side of the issue

Thanks to Human Rights Watch, the world now knows that some kids “under the age of 18” are working in El Salvador’s sugar cane fields.

The New York-based group has called for a boycott of Salvadoran sugar.

Boycott has become the favorite weapon of bleeding hearts.

But perhaps that approach needs some reflection. A successful boycott would put the young people under 18 out of work. Conceivably, this could translate into many Salvadoran families having to compromise on their purchases of food and raiment. It is, after all, a very poor country.

If banished from the sugarcane fields, where might the Salvadoran youngsters go and what might they do during the months when school is not in session? While El Salvador probably has few organized programs for teenagers, there surely must be opportunities for mischief — perhaps potentially profitable mischief. Like raising a bit of marijuana or breaking into homes or businesses, or extorting money from the few teenagers who might be from wealthier families.

And upon reflection: There are people still living in North Carolina today who probably can remember cropping tobacco or digging potatoes even before they became teenagers.

That was hard, hot, dirty work. It also was welcome work — a chance for youngsters to earn a little money or for some poor families to supplement their income.

For many, it was a valuable introduction into the work ethic. They were blessed with a life-long appreciation of hard work and the value of money.

Let’s don’t be too quick to deny such opportunities, within the confines of humane treatment, to the young people of El Salvador.

Published in Editorials on June 15, 2004 10:46 AM