Human Rights Education: The 4th R
Educating for Economic Justice,
Vol. 9, No. 1, Spring 1998.

Review of New Child Labor Curriculum

Child Labor is NOT Cheap, a curriculum for grades 8–12 and adults. Written by Amy Sanders and edited by Meredith Sommers. Forty pages including twenty-six reproducible pages of handouts. Twenty-three-minute video available. (1997, The Resource Center of the Americas).

Child Labor is NOT Cheap contains three rich and innovative lessons that focus on the 250 million children who spend most of their day on the job.

Lesson I, “The Hard Realities,” introduces students to this issue in the context of consumer responsibility. It compares the rights of children as defined by the Convention on the Rights of the Child with the realities of poor children who must work in order to survive. Using excellent readings, global statistics, and a compelling video about conditions in free trade zones (Zoned for Slavery: The Child behind the Label), the lessons introduce basic economic principles and engage students in research, both about child labor in other countries and about the economics of their own community.

Lesson II, “A Company’s Dilemma,” is a well-developed case study that examines a company torn between following its own socially responsible guidelines against child labor and honoring the “bottom line.” The role play that follows provides relevant background information and realistic character profiles, enabling students to effectively debate and discuss the issues in the case.

In Lesson III, “Working for Solutions,” students learn about efforts, especially by youths, to change the difficult living and working conditions facing too many children around the world. Students then brainstorm how they too can bring about change: writing letters, informing the public, designing a web page, and supporting organizations working to end child labor.

This curriculum is remarkable not only for its creative teaching strategies, but also for its refusal to oversimplify this complex issue. The role play does not pit a “heartless corporation” against exploited workers but instead shows the conflicting positions and interests of people such as executives of a firm that manufactures sweatshirts in the Dominican Republic, a U.S. union organizer, a human rights advocate, and a consultant to corporations on labor issues. Likewise the action component, raising questions such as “If we end child labor, how will children earn enough money to eat?” does not suggest that solutions are easy. Child Labor is NOT Cheap does not provide answers but does help students develop tools to understand issues, identify alternatives, predict consequences, and decide how to respond and act.

Price (plus shipping): Curriculum with video: $29.95; curriculum alone: $14.95.

Orders: The Resource Center of the Americas, 317 Seventeenth Avenue SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414-2077. Information at: 612-627-9445; fax: 612-617-9450; e-mail: (or visit:

Reviewed by Nancy Flowers,
Curriculum Coordinator, AIUSA.