• AmericanSolutions

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has gotten a lot of flak for his proposal to put children to work cleaning their own schools, which he suggested recently as a way to both get the kids some cash and to instill in them a sense of “pride in the schools.” But it wasn’t till I read Connie Bruck’s fantastic 1995 New Yorker profile of the former House speaker that I realized that this isn’t the first time Gingrich has floated the idea of paying children for their efforts to alleviate the nation’s social woes. Gingrich has been concerned about the child-unemployment rate for years. In the early 90s he founded a nonprofit organization, Earning by Learning, that aimed to get kids to read by paying them—the going rate then was $2 per book. Gingrich explained the program thusly: “The ice cream truck comes by. The kid who’s in the program walks up and buys their own ice cream. Their friend says to them, ‘How come you have money?’ He goes, ‘Well, I read.’ So kids are showing up to the program saying, ‘I demand that you let me read!’”

Reading was not, Bruck reported, the only monetizable childhood experience: