Dear St. Kern: A Modest Proposal

Found this blog post about the child labor bill being passed in May of 1918. My grandfather would have been 15. minor between 14 and 16 years shall be permitted to work more than 51 hours a week or more than nine hours a day. Such children shall also be compelled to go to a vocational school at least eight hours each week, the time they spend in such school to be counted in the 51 hours.

The local newspaper at the time explained why everyone hated the new law and how it was just bad, because the poor widows were going to starve since their little boys could not go off to work now as breaker boys now that the mine had eaten their husbands/daddies. And besides that work is not really that hard, and they want to do it, and all the smart kids these days want to be breaker boys!

The occupations are usually not too laborious and are not harmful as is attested by the fact that many of the richest, brainiest and most able men of the coal region today are men who worked in the breakers and mines when they were boys under the age of that provided by the new child labor law.

You might say they had a passion for picking slate, and that it made men out of them, and slate picking doesn't stop at 5 on Fridays.

St. Kern, you don't have the balls to follow your vision where it is truly leading you. If we are going to exploit workers around the clock, let's do it right.

Let us return to the days before May of 1918. Young children can be trained to run gels and staff the centrifuges of our nation's cancer research centers. Piecework and child labor made this nation strong once before. Let them be wielded once more as mighty weapons in the War on Cancer. A beneficial side effect is that many children, like the slate pickers, will likely be exposed to carcinogenic and mutagenic substances, since the little dickens just aren't always so careful and clever as they think they are. So they can work for us while simultaneously serving as de facto research subjects, and think of the cost savings with that kind of vertical integration! The child-worker experiments can replace some of those costly animal research protocols, and we won't need to spend so much on feeding and housing critters that can't load and unload a centrifuge or wash up some glassware for us.

If we build little cancer company towns, employ grad students/postdocs and their children, and pay them all in cancer scrip that can only be spent at the St. Kern Cancer Company Trading Post, which is located right next to the Cancer Research Factory, they really never need leave the worksite nor want for anything that the Cancer Factory cannot provide.

12 responses so far

  • tideliar says:

    Zuska for President of NAS! And NCI! And everywhere else!

    Testify Sister, this is the way! Does St. Kern of the Holy Mutagen read your blog? Let's find out... >:)

  • Ya load 16 gels, what do you get?
    another long week with lab work to fret.
    St. Kern-y don't you call me, cause what do you know?
    I owe my passion to the cancer cures!

  • Marcus says:

    I think he's missing the point with this 'science doesn't end at 5' thing. The real question is, why aren't non-scientist working on curing cancer too? Whatever your profession or training, you could be curing cancer, or at least thinking about curing it. We'll never know if photography could cure cancer unless world's photographers quit wasting their time time taking pictures and start thinking about curing cancer. You know, with their cameras. There could be a camera cure, but we'll never know because photographers are a bunch of lazy non-cancer-curing bums.

  • MissPrism says:

    Southern Fried Scientist, what an excellent idea! Hope you don't mind me writing the next verse...

    I was born one mornin', it was cloudy and drab
    I picked up my scalpel and I went to the lab
    I loaded sixteen gels with a 40 well comb
    And then Scott Kern said that I shouldn't go home

    You load sixteen gels, what do you get?
    Another day older and a broken pipette
    Oh, baby don't you call me 'cause I can't go
    I owe my soul to the passion and cure

    (Doo doo doo doo doodle-doop doo!)

  • jc says:


  • becca says:

    Are you kidding me???? It's not like we need any labor laws anymore! They are completely obsolete. Why, there has never been a more luxuriant time to be a miner! Aren't you following the story about the ones in Chile? Some of them have wives AND mistresses waiting for them! Just think, if they weren't out engaging in all those shenanigans, all the precious gold and copper would already be out, and we could be using it in nanotech to treat cancer.
    And those miners are getting OUT, after ONLY 69 days!! And what are they coming out to?? Loving families, BOOK DEALS, inflatable tunnels (seriously? we're giving them carnival type rides now?) . Those miners are going to be set for life, too. Lucky bastards.

  • Daniel J. Andrews says:

    Southern Fried Scientist and MissPrism---now that is funny.

  • Anon says:

    Eventually people will spend so much time curing cancer, they're going to wish they got the disease just so they can get some sick leave and start crossing stuff off their bucket list...

  • skeptifem says:

    I skipped ahead to the great depression in my People's History of The United States book and it said that child labor was only outlawed because adults were short on work.

    I think that book can be summed up as "good things only happen for awful reasons, and only when it was totally neccesary". Sooo depressing. Makes me think climate change is going to kill off a lot of people before anything happens.

  • FrauTech says:

    Skeptifem- if I remember correctly that's why we have a 40 hour week too instead of whatever the heck it used to be (whatever employers felt like?) because unemployment was high.

    Zuska- That's perfect, their little child-sized hands which are making our clothes all over the globe are clearly MADE for lab work. In fact, we should import child labor. H1B visas for children capable of slaving away in our labs. Why are we bringing in software engineers when we could be bringing in cancer curers? Not to mention if we all started working on curing cancer, unemployment would go to 0%! See, he fixed TWO problems!

  • D. C. Sessions says:

    if I remember correctly that’s why we have a 40 hour week

    I've heard of that. I've also heard of the Tooth Fairy.