Social Question

Ela's avatar

Do you think a 12 year old should detassel corn?

Asked by Ela (6494points) May 10th, 2012

Sure the money and work ethic are both good to have and learn, but what about the health aspects?
Should a 12 year old be exposed to the direct sunlight/heat or rain and be expected to do physical labor in it for 8+ hours a day?

Info Link:
Team Corn Detasseling
A Day in the Life of a Detasseler

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31 Answers

SpatzieLover's avatar

In my family, detassling started earlier than 12 and all of the boys enjoyed the cash they received. We no longer have a family farm.

I know other families that allowed sons to start at age ten. Most farmers have a nice lunch planned, breaks and snacks. They want the kids to come back and work for them again & again.

In my area I don’t know of any detassling groups like the link you posted. Farmers go around asking at church or at community functions if any boys will be willing/able to do the work.

My Opinion: We’ve never had a news story about a boy that’s collapsed or died due to detassling. We have had those stories regarding PeeWeeFootball.

WestRiverrat's avatar

It is healthier than sitting in front of the xbox all day.

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t think they should be forced (at least not in most circumstances) but if the 12 year old wants to do it, I think it is ok. If I were a parent I might not be in favor of 8 hours a day 40 hours a week. It would depend on my child and how he is handeling it, and enjoying it. I loved working when I was young, I think it gave me self confidence, new friendships, and a strong work ethic.

I thought children can’t work legally below the age of 14? Or, is that just during the school year?

Trillian's avatar

Well, I guess if he has the option to stop if he feels tired. I think it might be beneficial to building character, work ethic, and self esteem.

wundayatta's avatar

Looks like hard, hot, physical work. If you could get your son to do it (or daughter), you could be very proud of them. Of course, it doesn’t look like the pay is very high. If they have an opportunity to do more lucrative summer work, it seems to me that would be worth it.

In my area, the main summer work was cucumber picking. But I didn’t do that. I worked on a dairy farm and burned down a field. Not on purpose. But it was exciting. I think it was just minimum wage, though. But I think I got more money from my workers comp settlement than I ever made through actual work. I still got the scar to prove it.

jca's avatar

It would be good to research what the child labor laws are. If there’s no violation of the laws, then it’s between the children and the parents. I think 40 hours is a lot for a 12 year old, though. I hope that would not happen during the school year.

Ela's avatar

I’m not really comfortable with sending a 12 year old out to work in the heat all day. Even with breaks and precautions taken, how much physical labor should a 12 year old be expected to do? Sure we did it when we were kids but we did a lot of unsafe things.
I’m not sure what the child labor laws are. I read that “The U.S. Department of Labor is trying to upgrade regulations at a time when the National Safety Council is identifying agriculture as the most dangerous industry in the nation.’ I realize they are including all areas of agricultural but detasseling takes place in July and August, the dog days of summer.

john65pennington's avatar

Most 12 year olds are intelligent. Are we talking about “shucking corn”? This is the term used in the south.

Sure, a 12 year old should be able to shuck corn, if he/she wears the proper clothing to shield the rays of the sun.

This is actually an excellent learning lesson for them.

jca's avatar

I didn’t hold a job until I was 16, and then it was in the local five and dime (equivalent to Walmart). I had a best friend, however, who came from a family of 7 kids, and she used to clean houses and babysit. She did serious labor, scrubbing bathrooms and kitchens with chemicals for fussy moms, taking the bus and walking around the urban area she lived in. That, in my opinion, is no better or worse than detasseling corn. Detasseling corn has its downside, scrubbing bathrooms and kitchens has its downside.

Coloma's avatar

I think it’s fine as long as he has plenty of water to drink and some breaks in the shade. It wasn’t that long ago that kids were doing this sort of work all the time back in the era of the family farm.
A little hard work never killed a kid.

Ela's avatar

To me it’s not the fact of working or not working at 12 years old, it’s a matter of the type of work, the elements and the duration.

@SpatzieLover You were raised on a farm where the boys had some experience and previous exposure to the type of work? What if you took a boy from the city with no farm/labor experience? Should they be expected to do the same as the boy with background experience?
I think it’s great for kids to work and as @Coloma said, a little hard work never killed a kid. I’m concerned with the elements and duration, plus having no experience with this kind of manual labor. Chores and jobs are great for kids, but this type of work at 12?

JLeslie's avatar

@Ela I can’t speak for @SpatzieLover but my personal opinionis it makes no difference if it is a city boy or not.

Ela's avatar

@JLeslie I think I’m tainted on this by the fact that last year when my three sons were at their Grandparents over the 4th of July, they went out with their father and Grandfather to chop down a tree. They were out there for around 8 hours, got sunburned (my oldest got blisters on the back of his neck) and were heckled at for being “city boys”. by there Grandparents because the work was hard for them. They had no experience with manual labor like that.

I just don’t think kids should work out in the heat and sun all day. I’ll have to think a little deeper on this…

jca's avatar

With the detasseling corn, is it just a few days, or is it weeks on end?

SpatzieLover's avatar

It makes no difference to me whether the child is from the city or from a rural area.

I’d like to clarify: I did not live on our family farm. I grew up in a bar, with lots of smoke, and alcoholics. I cleaned the bar with my mom & sis from a very young age. I have found through much life experience, that most kids that grew up into a family business worked as soon as they could hold a rag and wipe things down.

Our family dairy farm (about a mile from our bar) always had at least 40 acres of corn. The kids that helped had smiles on their faces. At the end of a row, they’d douse themselves with a hose of cold water and go back for more.

As for the corn or any farm work: IMO, kids should know how food grows. They should see, touch, and taste real food. Detassling corn only lasts for a couple of weeks in summer. Depending on the size of the farm it could be 4–5 days in a row or upwards of 2–3 weeks (usually with LARGE farms, teens are called in, as are any adults that can use the funds). Lunch usually occurs at noontime. On farms, there are barns to cool off in. Also, if you sit under the corn, you’ll cool off. Unless you’re on a hill directly facing the sun, there are cool spots. Most kids throw a wet t-shirt over their head or wet their hat to keep cool.

I didn’t find a video of 12yr olds talking about detassling, but these teens sure look & sound happy

@Ela In your situation it sounds like dad/grandpa didn’t teach them to watch over their heads/necks. That has little to do with the work and more to do with the guidance.

I’ve always worked in our family yard, on the farm (when we had one) or in my own garden for more than 8 hrs per day. Early on, I learned that sitting under a tree on the lawn will cool you off a good 10 degrees. But, I had great role models that took breaks for cold water and a bite to eat.

JLeslie's avatar

@Ela Well, sounds like they should have had on better sun protection. I blame the adults for not teaching and ensuring they use sun protection. I am all for reducing the work hours if the child can not handle it well. That could be true for city children or kids who grow up in rural areas. It’s not like kids in the country automatically are physically stronger or tougher. I think it is a great idea for city kids to spend time in the country, and for young people to do physical work. When I was 12 most children were running outside during the summers, playing basketball, swimming, taking dance classes, playing football with friends. When I am in NYC those kids walk more blocks in a day than most kids in the burbs.

WestRiverrat's avatar

@jca It can take a few days or a couple months depending on the varieties of corn you are working with and the size of the fields.

When I was roguing sunflowers, which is pretty much the same thing, we worked from 6 to about 11 am then took 4 hours off in the heat and finished up between 3 and sundown.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

There’s nothing wrong with kids working long days. I put in 12 or 14 hour days working with my father and grandfather and doing a lot harder work than detasselling corn. I would agree someone needs to watch the sun exposure. I was never smart enough to know when to take a break as a kid. I don’t know how many times they stopped me on a piece of equipment and told me to get in the shade.

6rant6's avatar

@john65pennington You kill me. “Most 12 year olds are intelligent.”

LuckyGuy's avatar

Absolutely! It will make memories that will last forever.

It will also teach about work ethics, hybrid corn, male and female plants.

wilma's avatar

All of my son’s have detasseled corn in the summer. It is usually their first regular job. You know the kind where you have to fill out a job application, get taxes taken out of your check etc. Here they have to be 14 to do that work. (Unless it is a family farm and they are part of the family.)
Many the kids from the surrounding area work for the seed company in the summer. A lot of them live in town, but it is a small town in a rural area.
It is not particularly difficult or strenuous work, but can be hot and if you aren’t in good shape, you probably will be in a lot better shape when you are finished for the summer. The detasseling only lasts a few weeks. Some kids who have been there for a few years get in more time with the prep work.
They learn a lot about plant sex and hybridization. Detasseling is only part of the job, they might also have to put small paper bags over the wee ears so that the silks are not pollinated with the wrong pollen, like this Or they might have to actually do the pollinating by removing a tassel and shaking the pollen onto the silk.
The people who hire the kids know what they are doing. They often have kids of their own that work there. They provide lots of water, shade, sunscreen, rest time and fun.
My boys look forward to it every year. It can be hard work, but it’s good work and they are not afraid of it. They also like to be on a crew with the friends they may not have seen since school got out in June and meet knew kids from other nearby towns. They have also met some very nice girls and they like that part. wink

wilma's avatar

To answer about whether or not it is OK for a twelve year old to do the work, I would say usually yes. It would depend on the kid. I think two of mine would have done fine, one might have struggled a bit.
It would also depend on the adults in the situation. With proper adult supervision, and a child with enough maturity, it should be OK.
A great way to spend a couple of weeks and to learn responsibility and think about what to do with that paycheck!

wundayatta's avatar

You should read the material on this company. They do not provide sunscreen or food and they expect you to bring your own water and food. They do provide additional water. It’s up to you to protect yourself from the sun, which means the parents have to make sure the kids do the right thing.

This company puts a lot of pressure on kids to work faster and better. They provide incentives in terms of pay to workers and to the teams. You get paid extra for being a good team person. This is all well and good, but it does mean there is a lot of pressure to conform to certain work behaviors.

It is a big detasseling company, and they serve many farms. They provide transportation to and from the farms, but they don’t pay you for the first trip in the morning or the last trip home. They want kids to have a really strong work ethic, and they are trying to create a culture that pressures kids to behave.

I don’t know about a city kid doing country work. The first few days are going to be really hard. The physical activity will probably be a lot more than the kid is used to. They might be really tired and sore, and if they complain a lot, they won’t make it. The sun will also be tough and they’ll be hot, and won’t have any time to cool off.

I mentioned that I burned down a field in my summer job. One of the reasons that happened was because I wanted to find shade before I stopped my tractor. My tractor smelled like it was burning, but I it was really hot that day and I didn’t want to stop it in the sun. Maybe if I had stopped it, the field of hay wouldn’t have burned, but that is something we will never know.

Being in the middle of a corn field all day will be very different for a city kid. It depends on their character. If they like challenges, it should be fine. But if they are doing this under duress, they’ll complain and want to quit, and maybe they’ll just get fired.

tacres's avatar

A child is never too young to learn about good honest hard work. Fresh air, exercise, work ethics build a greater character than being planted on the couch playing potato!!! If nothing else it will give great incentive to study hard & stay in school so they’ll never have to do field work again!

WestRiverrat's avatar

Honestly, rouging sunflowers was less strenuous than most of the things I did for play. It was probably less dangerous too. We used to leave the house at sunup, show up for lunch when the sun was as high in the sky as it would get, leave the house until the fire whistle blew in town at 6. Go eat supper then leave the house again until the street lights came on or it was too dark to see the baseball.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Sure. It’s an experience they may like or choose not to repeat. How difficult can it be to imagine a 21st century kid packing a lunch, a tube of sunscreen and bottles of water? For sure they’ll learn stuff about foods and also physical labor and physical health.

Coloma's avatar

At 12 I was not only babysitting I was also a major horse nut and spent hours and hours cleaning stalls, feeding at a local ranch, riding, grooming horses. Jeez, I think shucking corn would be a breeze over mucking out stalls and shoveling tons of wet bedding and manure on 100 degree afternoons.Sheesh…built my breast muscles it did. lol ;-)

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@Coloma- same here, we’d spend at least 3hrs working HARD in order to enjoy riding just a little bit. Hay bales are heavy, sacks of grains are heavy, tack that must be maintained is heavy, mountains of wet poop are heavy, especially mucking in the rain.

Coloma's avatar

@Neizvestnaya Whew…yep, there is no harder work than managing barn duties.

Nullo's avatar

Sure. Builds a good work ethic. What kind of person even worries about this?

As for the elements, keep in mind that many a 12-year-old gets more than 8 hours’ worth at a proper summer camp.

wilma's avatar

@Coloma and @john65pennington it isn’t shucking corn, it’s pulling the flowering part of the stalk off the plant. The ears are not fully formed yet. It’s part of the work that needs to be done in seed production.

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