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Urban Life, 1860-1900 • Shame of the Cities
Classroom Activities

Objective: Form a position on child labor that uses reasoning.

Key Questions:

  • Evaluate urban life during this time. How did cities present both challenges and opportunities to those living there?

Notes on Implementation:

  • Students can respond to the prompt in writing, via video recording, or through small group discussions.
  • To provide additional support, give students a chart with the prompts filled in and space for them to record their opinion and their reasoning.

Student Activity: Students can access the below activity in the Urban Life Topic Center within the American History database.

Student Activity:

The practice of child labor was pervasive in the late 1800s. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, boys worked alongside their parents in agriculture, and girls worked mostly in the home. By the 1800s, child labor moved into the mills and factories that characterized the Industrial Revolution. Many children worked year round and were paid considerably less than their adult peers. By the turn of the 20th century, one out of six workers in the factories was a child. Child labor was viewed by many reformers and politicians as a social issue that deprived children of their childhood.

In this activity, you will take a position on child labor through reviewing the images in the Resources section and responding to the statements in the Apply section.

Resources:

Apply:

  • Review the images in the Resources section
  • Record each of the following statements:
    • Any able bodied person should be allowed to contribute to their family's household income.
    • It is important that everyone receive some form of education.
    • Working builds character and responsibility.
    • Employers should be able to take advantage of paying children less than adults.
    • It is up to parents to decide what is best for their children.
    • Some working conditions are too dangerous for children.
  • Identify whether or not you agree or disagree with the statement and provide your reasoning.
  • Respond to this prompt: To what extent do you support the use of children as labor today? Provide two to three reasons for your position.

ANSWER KEY:

Key Understandings:

  • Social and economic changes due to technological advancement can have positive and negative effects.
  • Organizations and people can advocate for and obtain social change.

Possible Answers for Activity:

  1. Any able bodied person should be allowed to contribute to their family's household income.
    • Agree - Everyone can help support their family.
    • Disagree - Children should focus on learning so they can become productive successful adults.
  2. It is important that everyone receive some form of education.
    • Agree - Education provides opportunities for greater success.
    • Disagree - You can learn more on a job than in a classroom; experience is the best teacher.
  3. Working builds character and responsibility.
    • Agree - When you work for your money you are more likely to be accountable to the job you do.
    • Disagree - Family and school can build character just as much as a job.
  4. Employers should be able to take advantage of paying children less than adults.
    • Agree - Employers are the ones providing opportunities they should be able to pay their employees according to what they feel they deserve.
    • Disagree - Employers only care about how much money they make and will take advantage of children by keeping wages low.
  5. It is up to parents to decide what is best for their children.
    • Agree - If parents feel their children should work or go to school it is their right to make that decision.
    • Disagree - Not all parents know what is best; they can make mistakes, too.
  6. Some working conditions are too dangerous for children.
    • Agree - Children can get hurt due to their size and developing bodies, and some of these jobs cause further health problems when they become adults.
    • Disagree - Children can handle dangerous working conditions just like adults.
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MLA Citation

"Shame of the Cities." History Hub, ABC-CLIO, 2019, historyhub.abc-clio.com/Support/Content/2042975?cid=257. Accessed 15 Oct. 2019.

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