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Newt Gingrich Criticized For Stance On Child Labor Laws

BOSTON (CBS) - He has promised to offer up some "extraordinarily radical proposals" in his campaign for president, perhaps none more radical than the one announced last month at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge.

Former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich suggested inner-city schoolchildren can best learn the value of a paycheck by maintaining their own buildings.

"Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors, have one master janitor, and pay local students to take care of the school," Gingrich explained to a group of Harvard students and staff on November 18.

WBZ-TV's Jim Armstrong reports

Over the past few days, with his lead in some polls growing, Gingrich has softened some of his language when talking about the proposal, but the core of his message has remained the same. He is trying to make the case that his plan teaches kids work habits they need to survive.

"We're looking for methods to help the poorest children in America," Gingrich said late last week. "We really want to create a pathway to work for people...When you have 43% black teenage unemployment, there's a very, very severe challenge in making sure people get the work habit and learn the skills and the requirements of being successful."

Gingrich has gotten some flak for these ideas. The Associated Press reports that today he clarified an earlier remark about nine-year-olds doing the dirty work. "I do not suggest children until about 14 or 15 years of age do heavy, dangerous janitorial work," the presidential candidate told reporters. "On the other hand, there are a number of things done to clean buildings that are not heavy or dangerous."

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