press, had rendered great manufacturing industries possible, the system of apprenticeship, which has been handed down to us from our forefathers, is so strangely at variance with the most obvious principles of sound educational science, to say nothing of sound economic theory, that there is little wonder that it has fallen into discredit, and that the legal provisions under which it grew and flourished have been suffered to lapse into a dead letter. Time was when, for the most part, the skilled artisan, who was master of his trade, worked at home in his own house, assisted, it might be, by a few younger workmen or journeymen. Into his house and family he would receive one or two young lads to learn, during a seven years' engagement, the art and mystery of his craft; the master himself working and teaching them his work, feeding and clothing them, and receiving from them in return the value of the services which, as they became more apt in their work, they were able to render. The advantages of thorough training by the continuous care of the master were unquestionably proved by the universal adoption of the system. The ancient trade guilds grew and acquired their legal status upon this usage as their very foundation, and a seven years' apprenticeship formed the one necessary qualification for the possession of the right to exercise the following of any occupation or employment, art or craft, recognized among the handicrafts of the time. With the extension of trade and the wider use of machinery the number and power of the adult employed workmen increased, and with their increase of power came a jealousy, on the one hand, toward the masters; on the other, toward the apprentices, who were regarded as cheapening labor when employed in too great numbers. The conflict which arose between employer and employed gradually merged into one between capital and labor. By dint of strikes the workmen at last prevailed, and, in attempting to bring about a limitation in the amount of apprenticeship labor, brought about a result of quite another kind, and one far more disastrous than the evil sought to be remedied—the destruction of all the best and most important features of apprenticeship. Other issues aided in the accomplishment of the course thus entered on. Mr. George Howell has so well delineated the outlines of the change, that the transcription of a few of his words will sufiice to complete the tale. "But a change was coming o'er the spirit of the dream: another day was dawning fraught with still greater issues to the journeymen, for, instead of the old system of master and craftsmen, there grew up quite another kind of mastership and of hiring. The master had already begun to be less the craftsman and more of the employer. Capital was fast becoming the great motive power. Streams were first utilized, then steam; complicated machinery was being substituted for hand-labor in many of the growing industries of the time; the master no longer worked at the trade himself, he directed and found the capital. The number of persons employed was also greatly augmented; instead of the old fealty be-
Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/37
EDUCATION AS A HINDRANCE.