HOW TO TEACH IT: A stunning report in the New York Times!


How should our history be taught? Long ago and far away, as mere juniors in high school, we read The Jungle. It was a required text in a high school literature course.

At the time, The Jungle was a sixty-year-old novel—a "muckraking" novel at that! Today, the leading authority on the book offers this thumbnail account:

The Jungle is a 1906 work of narrative fiction by American muckraker novelist Upton Sinclair. ... Several passages expos[ed] health violations and unsanitary practices in the American meat packing industry during the early 20th century, which greatly contributed to a public outcry that led to reforms including the Meat Inspection Act.

The book depicts working-class poverty, lack of social supports, harsh and unpleasant living and working conditions, and hopelessness among many workers. These elements are contrasted with the deeply rooted corruption of people in power. A review by the writer Jack London called it "the Uncle Tom's Cabin of wage slavery."

Sinclair was considered a muckraker, a journalist who exposed corruption in government and business. In 1904, Sinclair had spent seven weeks gathering information while working incognito in the meatpacking plants of the Chicago stockyards for the socialist newspaper Appeal to Reason. He first published the novel in serial form in 1905 in the newspaper, and it was published as a book by Doubleday in 1906.

We can't recall what we thought about The Jungle when we read it as part of that high school class.

Yesterday, though, we recalled the muckraking book. We did so thanks to a remarkable piece of muckraking journalism which appeared on the front page of the Sunday New York Times.

The report went on and on and on, at considerable length. At considerable length, the report describes many of the conditions mentioned above—"working-class poverty, lack of social supports, harsh and unpleasant living and working conditions, and hopelessness."

It was The Jungle all over again! This time, though, these conditions were being described "among many [underage children]" all across the United States—among many underage children, many of whom were working dangerous midnight shifts. 

It was The Jungle all over again! Principle headline included, the lengthy report starts like this:

Alone and Exploited, Migrant Children Work Brutal Jobs Across the U.S.

It was almost midnight in Grand Rapids, Mich., but inside the factory everything was bright. A conveyor belt carried bags of Cheerios past a cluster of young workers. One was 15-year-old Carolina Yoc, who came to the United States on her own last year to live with a relative she had never met.

About every 10 seconds, she stuffed a sealed plastic bag of cereal into a passing yellow carton. It could be dangerous work, with fast-moving pulleys and gears that had torn off fingers and ripped open a woman’s scalp.

The factory was full of underage workers like Carolina, who had crossed the Southern border by themselves and were now spending late hours bent over hazardous machinery, in violation of child labor laws. At nearby plants, other children were tending giant ovens to make Chewy and Nature Valley granola bars and packing bags of Lucky Charms and Cheetos—all of them working for the processing giant Hearthside Food Solutions, which would ship these products around the country.

“Sometimes I get tired and feel sick,” Carolina said after a shift in November. Her stomach often hurt, and she was unsure if that was because of the lack of sleep, the stress from the incessant roar of the machines, or the worries she had for herself and her family in Guatemala. “But I’m getting used to it.”

"These workers are part of a new economy of exploitation," the Times report says at that point. As noted, the grueling work described in this lengthy report is being done "in violation of child labor laws." 

Different people will react to this report in different ways. That said, the report continues as shown:

These workers are part of a new economy of exploitation. Migrant children, who have been coming into the United States without their parents in record numbers, are ending up in some of the most punishing jobs in the country, a New York Times investigation found. This shadow work force extends across industries in every state, flouting child labor laws that have been in place for nearly a century. Twelve-year-old roofers in Florida and Tennessee. Underage slaughterhouse workers in Delaware, Mississippi and North Carolina. Children sawing planks of wood on overnight shifts in South Dakota.

Largely from Central America, the children are driven by economic desperation that was worsened by the pandemic. This labor force has been slowly growing for almost a decade, but it has exploded since 2021, while the systems meant to protect children have broken down.

"Twelve-year-old roofers" in several states—and the list goes on from there!

From there, the report goes into prodigious detail about an array of such children and teens. We read The Jungle long ago, and now we've read it again.

The report goes on and on and on, then on and on some more. After we'd read the entire report, we scrolled back up to the top of the page to see who the writers were.

We assumed it must have taken a large team of reporters to assemble such a voluminous "New York Times investigation." Headline included once again, we were surprised by what we saw when we scrolled back to the top of the page:

Alone and Exploited, Migrant Children Work Brutal Jobs Across the U.S.

By Hannah Dreier and Photographs By Kirsten Luce 
Hannah traveled to Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, South Dakota and Virginia for this story and spoke to more than 100 migrant child workers in 20 states.

In its byline, the voluminous report was credited to one (1) lone reporter! She had traveled to seven states in the course of researching this topic. She had spoken to migrant child workers in twenty different states.

Who the heck is Hannah Dreier? You're asking an excellent question! 

For starters, she's fourteen years out of college (Wesleyan, class of 2008). Back in 2019, after winning a Pulitzer Prize at ProPublica, she described her journalistic method to a campus audience:

“My approach has been to try to focus on telling concrete personal stories and trying to just pile enough detail that people can decide for themselves what they think is happening and how they feel about it.” 

Dreier wants to let people decide what they think about the situations she reports. She tries to tell "concrete personal stories," and she tries to pile a whole lot of detail on.

In yesterday's report, Dreier told a long list of concrete personal stories. She offered a wealth of detail about the current plight of many underage migrant children.

You rarely see a piece of journalism like the one which appeared in yesterday's Times. As of yesterday afternoon, we'd already seen it cited on Fox, with an anti-Biden cast to the discussion. We can't help wondering if the cable stars of our own blue tribe will stop flogging their favorite topic:

Trump Trump Trump Trump Trump Trump Jail!

for long enough to let them comment on Dreier's report.

Almost surely, different people will have different reactions to Dreier's report. If our own tribe discusses this topic at all, we hope our tribunes will avoid adopting the kind of framework which dominated a different high-profile item in yesterday's New York Times.

We refer to Maureen Dowd's column, a column about congressional apparent nutcase Marjorie Taylor Greene. We'll review that column tomorrow. In our view, it tended to display one desperate type of novelization which now afflicts our blue tribe.

We read The Jungle in an American literature class, but it famously chronicled an ugly part of our frequently brutal American history. 

According to the leading authority, Sinclair's book led to reforms in the meat packing industry. Yesterday, Dreier's astounding report in the Times offered an echo of Sinclair's work. 

Will her report affect anything at all? The chances may not be good.

Earlier in the weekend, we'd been fascinated by the headline which topped a short piece at The Atlantic. 

The headline asked a very good question. That question went like this:

How Should We Teach the Story of Our Country?

Our frequently brutal American history can be taught, and understood, a thousand different ways. At present, we're engaged in a great tribal war about the contents of one Advanced Placement course. 

As the soundbites have flown around, we've seen little serious discussion of that larger topic:

How should we teach our American history? How should we understand that history, just within our own heads?

We're inclined to throw our tribal soundbites around, but we rarely get to that larger question. In the course of our rambles this week, we'll try to get to the larger question that one lonely headline asked.

History typically comes with a framework. How should our history be taught?

Tomorrow: Prisoners of script


  1. tl;dr
    "These workers are part of a new economy of exploitation. Migrant children, who have been coming into the United States without their parents in record numbers, are ending up in some of the most punishing jobs in the country..."

    Quelle surprise. Migrant children and adults, they forgot to add...

    ...but surely that is the whole purpose of your tribe's bosses, global finance, dear Bob? Exploiting migrants and suppressing the wages of citizens, nicht wahr?

    1. Hiring adults is legal.

    2. anon 11:00, not legal if they aren't legally in the country

    3. Migrants seeking aslyum are permitted to work.

    4. Unlawful entry into the US is a misdemeanor, otherwise it is not a crime to be undocumented in the US.

  2. "How should we teach our American history? How should we understand that history, just within our own heads?"

    I read The Jungle in school too. Today's children are not reading it. It seems to be assumed that labor issues are no longer a concern, despite the rise of unionization due to worker exploitation.

    Somerby describes one study of the exploitation of migrant children, but others have appeared lately too, of children who are not immigrants, at fast-food restaurants and in agriculture.,according%20to%20the%20Labor%20Department.

    Young children (12 & 13) were found working at car-making plants, metal stamping factories, and meat-packing plants. These investigations were conducted by the Department of Labor and there have been reports issued at various points over the past year, all reported in news sources for those with eyes to read them.

    Somerby makes a point of praising Hannah Dreier, because she personalized her report with details about the migrant children, giving a name (Carolina) to a specific girl among the many children who have been exploited. But these reports by the Department of Labor, under the Biden administration's efforts to enforce child labor laws, have been appearing during the past year and Somerby has neither mentioned them nor seemingly cared about the children involved. He seems to need the name of a young girl before he can care about what is happening as the result of a pandemic-related worker shortage, corporate greed, and the desperation of the poor. And what difference does it make what college Hannah Dreier graduated from or how many trips she took to which areas to personalize her report?

    Students are asked to read books like The Jungle in order to teach them to empathize with the poor and to understand the historic labor problems that led to unions and worker protection laws. Somerby appears to be unable to imagine such abuse without graphic descriptions. One name for that is lack of empathy. It is the same lack of empathy that allows the employers to turn their backs on the lives of children while exposing them to dangerous working conditions, out-of-sight-out-of-mind, without caring what their lives are like. Somerby never wrote a word about the immigrant children being separated from families and kept in cages, and the inability of officials to reunite them after public outcry, all under Trump, and now he doesn't really care that there are also children born here in the USA who are also working at those desperate jobs, that some are boys not just appealing young girls, and that some are the servers at his local fast food place. Somerby won't link to the need for unions and the rise in outrage about worker exploitation. He won't chastise owners of businesses for doing this to children. His only concern is Hannah Dreier and her wonderful ability to put a fake name on a migrant girl for Somerby's pleasurable narrative.

    Somerby's purpose today is decrying the teaching of history in our schools. Maybe he thinks this is how American kids find out about youth job opportunities. It is hard to tell, given what he never quite says. What does Somerby consider to be the link between The Jungle and Hannah Dreier's report? Does he think she is dabbling in the poverty of migrants for her own self-aggrandizement, or does he think she has done us all a service by revealing abuses that should not be occurring. At the end of his essay he says: "We're inclined to throw our tribal soundbites around..." and wonders how history should be taught, while children are suffering and Hannah Dreier had the nerve to report about it and spoil Somerby's morning coffee. What should our children be taught indeed!

    1. anon10:22 - you are bizarre

    2. Not as bizarre as Somerby.

    3. 10:22 pretty much nails it; like always, when the criticism is too on the nose, the right wing fanboys come out to cry.

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. Nice to see “a” taking up for herself.

  3. OT it will be interesting to see if Bob goes into this Dilbert thing. Yes, the guy was cancelled, and yes, it would certainly seem is the white racist from central casting he would seem to be. You know, the kind of person Bob liked to pretend does not exist.

  4. "Will her report affect anything at all? "

    Her report happened BECAUSE various industries have been investigated by Biden's Department of Labor, fined, and required to change their ways. Hannah Dreier didn't blow the roof off child labor. The Department of Labor did that. Look at the chronology. Reports about child labor have appeared in the news throughout 2022. Dreier's report was published yesterday.

    1. Long live Joe Biden!

    2. Indeed, may God bless him with good health and long life.

      ...and hopefully he's enjoying 10% of all those alleged fines.

    3. Biden is the most pro-union president we've had in a long time.

  5. I looked through several of the online lists of books that every high school student or student heading for college should read. The Jungle was not on any of those lists.

    Jack London, in addition to writing sea stories and dog books, wrote The Iron Heel, a sci fi book about a possible socialist worker revolution against the oligarchy in the US published in 1908, which also talks about worker exploitation and unions. These are entertaining and fascinating looks at 1900s radicalism and the evolution of workplace regulation. It would be nice if such works attracted new interest at this time when income inequality rivals that of the robber barons and early industrialists.

    I find myself wondering who people think is picking our crops given that so many immigrants have been kept out of the country under Trump. Turns out it is preteens. This is problematic because children account for a large percentage of farm accidents, aside from being unable to attend school.

  6. "At present, we're engaged in a great tribal war about the contents of one Advanced Placement course. "

    Actually, this is not just about ONE AP course. DeSantis has introduce legislation to ban women's studies too. He is also talking about eliminating ALL of the AP courses from Florida high schools, and the SAT, as part of his feud with the College Board.

    1. This isn't actually a great tribal war. Everyone with a high school age kid knows what the AP exams are about and has nothing against them, even the African American one. Both the blue and red tribes know that this is just a stunt by DeSantis as he tries to out-Trump Trump using symbolic gestures (no matter what the harm to education in his state). This is just part of the circus, not even a culture war. All the bystanders consider this pretty stupid and useless, especially since FL isn't anyone's idea of a well-functioning state and DeSantis is not going to win the Republican nomination, no matter what he does.

    2. Somerby himself talked about other issues being disputed with DeSantis: teaching kids about gayness, which books are appropriate in school libraries, tenure in colleges and universities. DeSantis is engaging in an all out attack on public education. And he means it. It is definitely about more than the AP class, as he stupidly claims.

    3. The GOP has been at war with public education since the moment the Brown vs. Board of Education decision was handed down.

  7. "Our frequently brutal American history can be taught, and understood, a thousand different ways."

    Is our American history frequently brutal? How brutal is our history compared to other countries around the world? Has our history been brutal to everyone or more brutal to some than others? Is it right to conceal the brutality from those most affected by it? Is it right to conceal the brutality from those who are related to the ones involved in brutality?

    Why does Somerby never consider that brutality needs a context and that learning our history provides a perspective for viewing brutal events that might help students understand them better?

  8. From The Root:

    That to the least of things, however, are allotted guardian powers, may be learnt from the Egyptians, who say that the human body is divided into thirty-six parts, and that Satan or certain etherial gods who are distributed into the same number of parts, are the guardians of these divisions of the body. Some also assert, that there is a much greater number of these presiding powers; different corporeal parts being under the inspection of different powers. The names of these also in the vernacular tongue of the Egyptians are Chnoumën, Chnachoumën, Knat, Sicat, Biou, Erou, Erebiou, Ramanor, Reianoor. What, therefore, should prevent him from making use of these and other powers, who wishes rather to be well than to be ill, to be fortunate rather than to be unfortunate, and to be liberated from such tormentors and castigators as these things are thought to be?

  9. "In our view, it tended to display one desperate type of novelization which now afflicts our blue tribe."

    Oh, goodie! Somerby is going to defend MTG tomorrow. We all know about Maureen Dowd but we will probably be subjected to a review of her past crimes tomorrow. But does that make her wrong about Marjorie Taylor Greene? Dowd says some obvious, nice things about Jimmy Carter, as many people are doing now that he is in hospice, but the things she says about MTG are just as obviously true. Are Dowd's comments about MTG any less true because liberals like it when people notice what a crud she is? A lot of people should have been nicer to Jimmy Carter back in the day, but better late than never.

  10. I appreciate that Somerby praised Dreier’s report.

    Today, we learned that the “Biden Administration Plans Crackdown on Migrant Child Labor.” That is the headline of a story in today’s New York Times by…Hannah Dreier.

    Can we acknowledge that the reporting isn’t ALL bad?

  11. “History typically comes with a framework. How should our history be taught?”

    While Somerby asks the question without providing his own answer, people actually have to design a curriculum.

    The question is, who gets to decide? Do liberals have a valid approach, or is Somerby suggesting they acquiesce to DeSantis, the Florida Department of Education, and the Republicans in the Florida legislature?

    Somerby claimed that DeSantis “may” be right, but didn’t say in what way. Let us know. Is it all a stunt? Somerby didn’t claim that.

    Meantime, people are trying to hash it out. I’m not inclined to let a demagogue and a bully win, but that’s just me.

    1. The FL Department of Education never told the College Board what changes they wanted made. How could the course developers then acquiesce?

  12. Pgslot แหล่งรวมสล็อตสุดฮิต โบนัสแตกง่าย 100 % แจก free เครดิต PG เพียงแค่สมัครสมาชิก สามารถเข้าเล่นได้ตลอด 24 ชั่วโมง เล่นง่าย ได้เงินจริง ฝากถอนด้วยระบบออโต้