CHILD LABOUR ON THE LAND
This matter was discussed at length at the meeting of the Worcestershire County Council on Monday, and eventually a resolution was passed reaffirming the policy already decided upon by the County Education Committee. This policy is to release children from school, under certain conditions, for work on the land. The Board of Education and some teachers in the schools, are strongly opposed to the position taken up by the County Education Committee, on the ground that the education of children will suffer. Possibly – we might even say probably – it will; but we are afraid that the exigencies of the situation demand that there should be some sacrifice. The main object of the country at the present time is the winning of the war, and all its energies ought to be devoted to that end. The chief requirements are men, munitions, and food, and all businesses and industries and interests which do not directly or indirectly promote the object; we have in view should be prepared to take second place for the time being. Naturally, perhaps, everybody thinks that his particular business or interest has claims for special consideration, because there is “nothing like leather.”
But in these exceptional times even farming and market gardening, important as such industries are, have to put up with many inconvieniences, and the standard of cultivation will have to fall to some extent. So too, we are afraid, will the standard of education in the case of boys who go to work upon the land, but the sense of loss in this respect is to some degree tempered by a knowledge of the “education” which some of the boys are receiving at school, and it may be that the practical education which they will get on the farm or in the market garden will be almost as valuable as the book learning which is crammed into them in the classroom. At any rate we think that in present juncture it is quite justifiable to let the boys assist on the land. As for the fear expressed by the Board of Education that the local authorities will not satisfy themselves before excusing children, that no other labour is available or that reasonable efforts had been made to secure adult labour, everybody – exceot the Board of Education – knows that no such labour is available. It is this lack of common-sense on the part of the Board of Education and similar authorities which makes ordinary people lose patience with such bodies.