Child labor was once a significant contributor to the American economy. (FlickrCC/Children’s Bureau Centennial)

Wyoming is in trouble. Even after the governor’s $500 million budget cut, the state will still have a shortfall of almost a third of a billion dollars. Raising taxes is apparently not an option, so something else must be done. 

Education represents about 34% of the state budget. As one of our leaders pointed out, we don’t need to provide a K-12 education that prepares kids for college, they just need to be prepared to enter the workforce — which makes a Swiftian solution to Wyoming’s fiscal crisis clear. Call it a modest proposal: 

Eliminate public education in the state of Wyoming. 

Now, I know we have this document called the Constitution, which requires that Wyoming children get an “adequate and equitable” education, but these are manipulatable words that our leaders on the “recalibration” committee are already finding ways to get around. 

The end of public education would provide numerous benefits to Wyoming. First of all, we would eliminate the most egregiously socialistic program our state has ever known. For decades, our state has been rounding up children, packing them into brick buildings and forcing them to learn how to read, write and do ‘rithmatic. Some schools have even had the temerity to teach music and art. Of all our socialist programs — the police department, the fire department, the sanitation department, the highway department, the health department — education is by far the most offensive to Wyoming values.

A hundred years ago, children were not forced to go to school. Rather, they were allowed the opportunity to work in any industry of their choosing. Seven year olds could work 12-hour shifts in a cotton mill. Eight year olds could log 60-hour workweeks in the coal mines. Nine year olds could work in factories for 16 hours a day for less than a dollar a week. Those were the good old days — the days of true capitalism when government didn’t stand in the way of a child making a decent living and a rich man getting richer.

Communists in the federal government passed child labor laws in 1906, 1916, 1918 and 1933, but luckily they were all struck down by the Supreme Court. It wasn’t until President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938 that these proud, hard-working children were pushed out of their careers in sweatshops and tobacco fields. After the abolition of slavery, this was the greatest blow to free market capitalism in the history of America. 

Having been to Burma, Pakistan, Afghanistan and a dozen other countries where children still have the liberty to work, I can tell you they do an incredible job. On assignment for National Geographic in Cambodia, I met Aki Ra, a sapper. Aki Ra got the extraordinary opportunity to become a sapper at the age of 5. After the Khmer Rouge murdered his parents, he was put to work dismantling landmines and using the TNT to build IEDs. His tiny fingers could defuse landmines better than any fat-handed adult ever could. 

I’ve seen children in India under the age of 5 working for the highway department, sitting beside the road with tiny hammers, breaking rocks into smaller rocks to use as roadbed. I’ve seen grade-school-age girls working in garment factories in Bangladesh — sewing all day, every day, no weekends, no holidays. Now that’s a work ethic we in Wyoming would be proud of.

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Eliminating K-12 education would also have the salubrious effect of making the University of Wyoming and our community colleges unnecessary — which again, would save our great state hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Another societal advantage of eliminating education would be to use the few children not working in mines or on farms as soldiers. Reporting for the International Committee of the Red Cross in the Congo, I had the  opportunity to interview child soldiers and I can tell you they get the job done. Well-trained child soldiers are known for their courage, ruthlessness and equanimous violence. They know how to control a civilian population, especially an educated population that naively believes in rational discussion. The children of eastern Congo call an AK-47 “The Answer.” As one 11-year-old soldier in Goma told me, “with this,” he swung the barrel of his machine gun at my chest, “I can get anything I want — food, weed, girls, cigarettes.” 

Of course we would need a few people who were educated to run the state, but these could be drawn exclusively from the wealthy class. This is the way it used to be — wealthy kids went to private schools and poor kids went to work. That workforce provided the labor for the companies and factories owned by the wealthy.

In short, the sooner we recognize that education is a waste of time for Wyoming children and a waste of money for the good taxpayers of this state, the sooner we can make Wyoming great again.

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  1. As an ex-Prof at UDUB paid to handle kids who came out of the WY school system and get them safe through “College” (many of whom were sub-literate) I can add that you could abolish a lot of the formal education in the Cowboy State without anyone noticing much.

  2. Witty, insightful and frightening because of the kernels of truth in the. Peice, thanks for posting this clever letter.

  3. Must we go all through the Industrial Revolution again? Kinda boring when you already know how it ends.

    Minnesota passed its first Income Tax by dedicating 100 % of the funds to Education. That worked out really well.

  4. Good ‘un, Mark.

    Satire, on the lines of Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.”

    I’d gladly pay income tax if we could clean up the corrupt state government, which now is a service bureau for out-of-state corporations.

    1. Not to mention in-state con artists…particularly if they are in any business related to hydrocarbon plunder.

  5. Mark’s column is entertaining, but I’m not sure it does much to advance greater understanding of one of the biggest problems the state faces, which is the disconnect between spending and the responsibility to raise the money to pay for the spending.
    There are many examples, but I’ll give just a couple to dem0nstrate what I’m talking about. As far as education spending is concerned, local school boards don’t have to take any responsibility for raising the money they spend. I know there is the court decision, but I don’t believe that covers the cost of transportation. Back when the state was flush, the state decided to take over 100% of the cost of transportation. According to a 2017 article in the Gillette News Record, in the decade and a half after that decision, K-12 transportation costs increased from $28m to $78m. There are some real potential savings there that shouldn’t affect the quality of education one iota.
    A second example is the $100m+ the state sends back to cities and counties. Instead of giving the cities and counties this money, give them the ability to raise taxes locally to cover the services that are really needed.

  6. Brilliant Mark Jenkins! My worry is that because of a lack of education there are those in our legislature who won’t see the irony.

  7. This is brilliant – thank you Mr. Jenkins and WyoFile.
    Not sure what we would do about health care: perhaps John Barrasso could retire from his second, self-serving career (which has proven that more education does not create talented, compassionate, or useful citizens?) and go back to doctoring.
    (during debates on arming teachers, I’ve always thought of another (more modest) modest proposal: Wyoming should REQUIRE every Wyoming student to carry a firearm into school – clearly a win-win-win situation).

  8. Education, early intervention, strong work ethic, good moral and responsible values are the keys to success. You take away education you take away freedom of thought, speech and individual participation as a free thinker. Our country is a Democrat institution not a communistic socialist regime and should not be emulated as such ever and at all costs! It is my opinion that a greater insite of appropriate reins on infrastructure on building projects (University of Wyoming construction projects) and Wyoming Capitol referbishes, Wyoming road and bridge beautification projects often unnecessary, and eliminate unnecessary government and education staff positions this would tend to save money vs dumbing down our children. We must teach our younger generations our CONSTITUTION and American patriotism regardless and at all costs. Cathaline’ Cass retired teacher.

    1. This is what is wrong with the world today. Parents want teachers to raise their children and society feels education is worthless. People need to wake up and get into reality and handle the issues at hand and realize that education is what helps us grow as a society. It’s not getting rid of education that would be the solution, it’s educating parents to educate their children. Free education is a privelage that every American has at their disposal. If we used it correctly we wouldn’t be writing these type of articles!

  9. WyoFile is the only publication in Wyoming to publish Swift-style political satire. Thank you. And kudos to Mark Jenkins, a writer whose work has only grown sharper with age. About time someone exposed the socialist agenda to build roads, plow them free of snow, rescue accident victims, put out fires, arrest bad guys, empty our garbage and inoculate a population before it dies of Covid-19 after exposure to non-maskers. But, as Mark points out, “education is the most offensive to Wyoming values.” Down with public education — let’s Make Wyoming Great Again (MWGA!).

  10. Mr Jenkin’s article reminds me of the sausage making scene in Pink Floyd’s The Wall. His spot -on sarcasm holds absolute truth. Unfortunately, most of his target audience lack the requisite cognitive skills to understand abstract language such as humor, sarcasm, metaphor, allegory, or inference. Why do I fear one of them will read this and think, “Great idea!”

  11. Unfortunately, I think some in WY will agree with this satire. Everyone is a little crazy these days.

  12. Thanks to Mark Jenkins for bringing his extensive experience in more enlightened countries to bear on this problem. And let’s not forget Mr.. Swift’s idea. In a pinch, we can always eat the young..

  13. “Irony is just honesty with the volume cranked up.” — George Saunders

    Maybe Mark’s approach will reach some ears who are deaf to other arguments. We can only hope.

    If our legislators actually read it.
    They might be too busy attending rallies…

  14. I knowMark is being sardonic and facetious but hey,why not make people pay a fee — instead of an income tax– to send the kids to school?. According to their ability to pay. of course. This plan
    would get a lot of residents who don’t have children of school age off the hook, but maybe y’all could find a way around that. Like retired people could teach in the schools for free.. Some of the worst and dumbest people on the planet–like Ted Cruz and that Hawley guy went to Ivy League schools so maybe college isn’t necessary unless you want to major in Coal Transformation. Seriously though, does Wyoming really need so many community colleges? If people don’t want to pay a state income tax then they have to make somple sacrifices. Child labor won’t do any kid in Wyoming much harm as there are so few factories etc for them to work in. Or busses for them to drive.

  15. Hear hear! Having lived in far away lands where the people are free to defecate openly, I would add removing property tax from the burdens imposed on our freedom-loving Wyoming citizens.