I. Observations of a Hamburg Teacher (1888-1890)
If a healthy, strong twelve- to thirteen-year-old boy seeks to earn a few pennies on his afternoons off from school by providing messenger services for a businessman or doing other kinds of light work and in this way helps alleviate some of his parents’ worries about the family’s daily bread, then this can be endorsed without a doubt. Such activity can harm neither him nor the school, because there is enough time left over for relaxation, play, and quiet intellectual work. Indeed, it may even be beneficial to him insofar as these tasks, which entail a certain degree of responsibility, become a kind of classroom for his later life.
If, however, this employment occupies the boy before 7:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m., or even demands both the morning and the evening, so that each month he puts in over 100 – and even up to 200 – hours of work outside of school; if the nature of his work is such that it requires the full physical strength of an adult; if it not only cuts into the sleep that is so essential to the boy in this most intense phase of his development, but also deprives him of rest on Sunday – then I think we have long since passed the point at which the boys’ bodies and minds and school education can continue without being adversely affected.
I have devoted my attention to these working pupils by taking notes on their number, their age and type of employment, their daily work schedule, the additional hours of work they perform on their afternoons off from school and on Sundays, their hourly wages, and their employers. From these notes, the following items are worth mentioning:
The percentage of employed pupils who work before 7:00 a.m. and after 9:00 p.m. was as follows for the second class:
After Easter, 1888, about 12%;
After Easter, 1889, about 25%;
After Easter, 1890, about 27%.