ANY candid observer of the phenomena of modern society will readily admit that bores must be classed among the enemies of the human race; and a little consideration will probably lead him to the further admission that no species of that extensive genus of noxious creatures is more objectionable than the educational bore. Convinced, as I am, of the truth of this great social generalization, it is not without a certain trepidation that I venture to address you on an educational topic. For, in the course of the last ten years, to go back no further, I am afraid to say how often I have ventured to speak of education, from that given in the primary schools to that which is to be had in the universities and medical colleges; indeed, the only part of this wide region into which as yet I have not adventured is that into which I propose to intrude to-day.
Thus I cannot but be aware that I am dangerously near becoming the thing which all men fear and fly. But I have deliberately elected to run the risk. For, when you did me the honor to ask me to address you, an unexpected circumstance had led me to occupy myself seriously with the question of technical education; and I had acquired the conviction that there are few subjects respecting which it is more important for all classes of the community to have clear and just ideas than this, while certainly there is none which is more deserving of attention by the Working-Men's Club and Institute Union.
It is not for me to express an opinion whether the considerations which I am about to submit to you will be proved by experience to be just or not; but I will do my best to make them clear. Among the many good things to be found in Lord Bacon's works, none is more full of wisdom than the saying that "truth more easily comes out of error than out of confusion." Clear and consecutive wrong-thinking is the next best thing to right-thinking; so that, if I succeed in clearing your ideas on this topic, I shall have wasted neither your time nor my own.
"Technical education," in the sense in which the term is ordinarily used, and in which I am now employing it, means that sort of education which is specially adapted to the needs of men whose business in life it is to pursue some kind of handicraft; it is, in fact, a fine Greco-Latin equivalent for what in good vernacular English would be called "the teaching of handicrafts." And probably, at this stage of our progress, it may occur to many of you to think of the story of the cobbler and his last, and to say to yourselves, though you will be too
- An address delivered to the Working-Men's Club and Institute Union, December, 1, 1877.