Real progress isn’t just kid stuff

Library of CongressRosie, a 7-year-old, shucks oysters at a seafood plant in Bluffton in 1913.

It’s all about the children.

Because the children are our future.

And politicians are all about repeatedly telling us that in so many — and often too many — words.

For instance:

“Let me tell you, if we don’t get this election right, there may be no turning back for America. We’re on the verge of being the first generation of Americans that leave our children worse off than ourselves.”

— Marco Rubio, Republican presidential debate, Jan. 14, North Charleston Coliseum

“We must, for the sake of our kids and grandchildren, transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy.”

— Bernie Sanders, Democratic debate, Jan. 17, the Gaillard Center

OK, so it’s also all about the grandchildren.

And lots of American adults are on guilt trips over the numerous ways we have failed our children by dumping on them:

the proliferating perils of our record $19 trillion (and climbing) national debt.

rising dread over rising sea levels.

the growing menace from radical Muslim fanatics.

the chilling likelihood — and the votes cast on this Super Tuesday probably will make it more likely — that this year’s major-party presidential nominees will be Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Sure, the residue of our irresponsibility to our kids is leaving a shameful stain on us.

Then again, grown-ups were letting kids down before any of my generation grew up traumatized in the shadow of “The Bomb.”

But at times adults have made children’s futures — and even their presents — better.

For instance:

Monday was the 100th anniversary of South Carolina Gov. Richard Manning (a progressive Democrat — seriously) signing (on Feb. 29, 1916 for you non-math majors) child-labor legislation from the General Assembly to boost the legal working age in our state from 12 to 14.

That increase followed previous S.C. laws banning anyone under the age of 10 from working in a factory, mine or mill (though they could still do farming toil) in 1903, then 11 in 1904, then 12 in 1905.

See, government regulation isn’t always all bad.

Too little regulation and little boys and girls work in factories (check out the picture of 7-year-old worker Rosie shucking an oyster at a Bluffton canning plant in 1913) — and the water and air get really dirty.

Too much regulation and you can’t make anything — or hire anybody.

However, if you’re worried about where kids will work once they’re not kids anymore, review this history lesson:

Socialism, despite its seemingly sweet deals and ideals, demotivates people who grew up to become too dependent on unsustainable Nanny State largesse.

Capitalism, when fairly but not overly regulated, provides indispensable incentive as mankind’s most powerful engine of prosperity, progress — and ultimately human liberty.

That’s why we call it free enterprise.

(answers at column’s end)

1) Name who said over the weekend: “Pope Francis, it’s time to protect the children and restore the faith.”

2) Name who over the weekend cited “man’s relationship to the natural world” and pointed out that 2015 was “the hottest year in recorded history” as a prelude to this appeal: “Climate change is real. It is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating.”

Among those for whom this person said we must do this — “our children’s children.”

Helping children on the losing end of the “achievement gap” demands educational innovations.

And Charleston County School District Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait wants to do just that by extending the reach of Meeting Street Schools, a private endeavor with a proven record of accomplishing that vital mission, to more students at Burns Elementary in North Charleston. The school board tentatively approved that plan last week.

Some Burns teachers and board member Michael Miller are wary of that change.

Yet when the status quo isn’t working, it’s time for a change.

Hey, it’s all about the children.

1) Michael Sugar, producer of “Spotlight,” said that Sunday night while accepting the Oscar for best movie.

2) Leonardo DiCaprio sounded that alarm Sunday night while accepting his best actor Oscar for “The Revenant,” which demonstrates the benefits of bear-carcass warming.

DiCaprio also offered this evidence of global warming: “Our production needed to move to the southern tip of this planet to be able to find snow.”

DiCaprio was a child laborer, too, breaking into show biz at age 2½ on TV’s “Romper Room and Friends.”

At 3, though, he was fired from that program for “uncontrollable behavior.”

Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is wooten@postandcourier.com.