Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/40

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30
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

outlaws from real labor by no fault of their own, come naturally to the end of their school course with one fear before them—that of being forced to become workmen and workwomen; but Avith one wish also, the boys to become clerks, the girls shopwomen. And hence this undefined, uncertain, overstocked class of book-keepers, cashiers, salesmen, clerks, agents with a thousalid qualifications, scorning the cap and blouse for the sake of broadcloth and silk hat; and the corresponding class, still more to be pitied, of young ladies, of no shop, perhaps, and some with the coveted bonnet, but, alas! how procured?"

Obviously, with such facts as these staring us in the face, we must admit a flaw in the training given in our primary schools if its result is in so large a number of cases to destroy the natural capacity for manual labor. The fault is not so much in the amount of education as in the nature of the studies. For many trades the training of the hand to work may, and in some must, begin at an earlier age than that at which many children leave the elementary school. In some trades, indeed, the masters definitely refuse to take apprentices above a certain age; if they did take them the union would interfere. The taste for manual work is imbibed at a very early age, and there is not wanting evidence to prove most distinctly that even a very small amount of manual labor introduced into the elementary school serves to keep alive the capacity for active employment, and the manipulative skill of the fingers.

The first and most obvious step to be taken to bring about the urgently needed remedy is to render at least permissive, if not authoritative, a reform more or less sweeping in character in the instruction given in our elementary schools to boys and girls between the ages of ten and fourteen. For this class of children the provisions of our existing educational code could not possibly be more imsatisfactory than they are, when regarded from the point of view that these children will in a few months have to work for a part at least of their own living. The crumbling edifice of apprenticeship is made to repose upon a basis of literary studies which positively unfit the young apprentice to enjoy the few benefits which that obsolete institution can still offer.

The case is beset, then, with a double difficulty: that while the old system of apprenticeship is less and less able to afford a training worthy the name to the child of the artisan, the character of the education given him not only does not make up for that which apprenticeship can not now give him, but even predisposes him against the career of manual toil to which apprenticeship is the necessary and only adequate introduction. The reform needed, then, as a first step, is the substitution of certain technical and scientific studies for some of the literary studies at present prescribed. Not that these literary studies are not in themselves good—quite the reverse; only, they must be deferred till a little later in the educational course. Among the subjects