7048 - The History of Child Labor, Education and the State in Brazil, Mexico and Argentina (1870-1950)

The “save the child” movement in many Latin American countries in the late nineteenth century was partly motivated by the fear of the immense increase in unruly youths in newly urbanized areas. Poor children were often seen as “dangerous” and in need of work and social control, even as they were also called the “key to the future.” Response to this problem took various forms: laws were passed; institutions for abandoned children were established; efforts to put the children to work; and the expansion of primary education. While Child Labor and Education are usually seen as opposite in terms of their consequences for children, elites in this period commonly saw these two possibilities as complementary in the sense of providing social control and a benefit to society. Both efforts represented means to control and discipline orphaned, illegitimate and vagrant children. This paper will look at the relationship between legislation related to the criminality of children, child labor, and education in Brazil, Argentina and Mexico in the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries. Both the rhetoric used with respect to these measures and quantitative evidence demonstrating actual investment in education and other institutions will be examined. The development of education in these countries was very much framed as a progressive and modernizing effort which expanded citizenship rights in these countries. Nevertheless, it seems likely that the systems of education created were not really intended as vehicles of social mobility for the marginalized poor. Instead, these new systems of “education” continued to be intended to retain poor children in the working class.

Keywords: Childhood, Education, Child Labor, Latin America

Author: Kuznesof, Elizabeth (University of Kansas, Ud States of Am / USA)


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