But then, some probably used the same kind of rationale to justify child labour during the industrial revolution. In any case, Billy Stark is about to find out whether that old adage currently holds true at under-21 level in international football. While the inclusion and promotion of a handful of key members of younger age groups has always been part of this manager's successful modus operandi, a recent rethink at the Scottish Football Association towers has led to a whole new generation game.
Of the 21-man group Stark has at his disposal for the "critical" home and away European Championship qualification double header against Slovakia and Georgia, he could feasibly select an XI who will still be around to battle it out for a place at the next continental finals in 2017. That does not mean the manager is defeatist about the abilities of this squad, but the benefits of playing a long game in player development must be weighed up against those potentially damaging 6-0 and 4-0 reverses against England and the Netherlands in their last two games.
The brutality of those defeats can be misleading: three points from their opening two matches in qualification Group 3 for the 2015 finals in the Czech Republic was probably par for the course and that defeat in Nijmegen might have looked a lot different had the Scots taken some of the chances they created. There has been a renewed focus on training and preparation since the humbling at Bramall Lane, though, and Stark appreciates that a minimum of six points from this double header, then the home meeting with Georgia in November, would leave Scotland competitive for a play-off place at least. Slovakia sit joint top with the Netherlands and reached the play-offs last time.
"We have taken every campaign right to the last minute of the last game," said Stark. "So I think that is a pretty good feat for this group of players to try to better. For this squad it has been a bit different because of that bad night we had against England. First of all they were too good for us but, second, we didn't get the chance to prepare properly [because of players being involved in SPFL matches on the Sunday] so we have stepped up the training sessions a bit as well. We always have recognised that preparations are a big part, but sometimes a wee reminder isn't a bad thing.
"Nobody likes to lose games," Stark added. "We have made a few personnel changes and have a young group, which is a conscious decision as we feel they are the best on offer. They are being tested at a young age and I'm confident they will handle it okay. We will get the benefit further down the line with them gaining that experience . . . but they need to be good enough."
Only three outfield players have 1992 birthdays: mainstays Stuart Armstrong and Ryan Jack, and Stevie May, upon whom much hopes will be pinned up front after the omission of Tony Watt because of fitness concerns. "Armstrong and Jack played the full campaign the last time so it is no surprise that they were probably our best players in Holland," said Stark. "That stature, confidence and belief I can see it in those two. A lot of that comes from nailing down a first team start but it also comes from being here before . . . and, okay, maybe suffering a wee bit along the way."
No-one exemplifies this vogue for fast tracking young players than the baby of the squad, Jordan McGhee of Hearts. In the month of August, the teenage defender celebrated both his 17th birthday and his first senior start, and by last month he had his first senior goal - a late header which defeated Aberdeen at Tynecastle - and became the fourth youngest player to represent Scotland's Under-21 side when he faced the Netherlands.
"I suppose you could say it was quite daunting but I was told just to go out there and express myself, the way I would do with any team," said McGhee. "In terms of my development it is great to be in with more experienced players. At Hearts there are even boys younger than me who are coming in and learning from that."
* Tickets are available for £5/£2 when purchased in advance from St Mirren. A youth group offer is also available with five adult and 20 kids tickets costing £30. Details at www.scottishfa.co.uk