Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 31.djvu/509

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493
MANUAL TRAINING IN SCHOOL EDUCATION.

MANUAL TRAINING IN SCHOOL EDUCATION.
By Sir PHILIP MAGNUS.

"Manual labor is the study of the external world."—Emerson.

THE first object of education being to bring the mind of man into direct relation with its surroundings, and as this communion is only possible through the senses, the importance of the cultivation of the senses is duly insisted upon by all educational authorities. Now, of the several organs through which we obtain a knowledge of the external world, the sense of touch and the muscular sense have a certain prominence as giving us perceptions which are mainly intellectual. For this reason we should expect that the training of the muscular and tactile sensibility of the hand, and the training of the muscular sense generally, as exercised in the determination of size, shape, and resistance, would form an essential factor of education. But so little has this been the case that, until comparatively recent times, the training of the faculties by which we obtain, at first hand, our knowledge of the things about us has been sadly neglected, and education has consisted mainly in storing the memory with words, with the statements and opinions of others, and with inferences therefrom. Apart altogether from the value of the constructive power which manual skill affords, the knowledge of the properties of matter which is obtained in the acquisition of that skill is considerable, and can not be equally well acquired in any other way. It is this which gives to manual training its value as an educational discipline, and it is mainly for this reason that it is coming to be regarded as an important part of the educational system of nearly every country. "The introduction of manual work into our schools is important," says Sir John Lubbock, "not merely from the advantage which would result to health, not merely from the training of the hand as an instrument, but also from its effect on the mind itself."[1] And it is to this effect on the mind that I desire to call especial attention in this article.

By manual training one commonly means exercises in the use of the tools employed in working wood and iron.

It can not be too often repeated that the object of workshop practice, as a part of general education, is not to teach a boy a trade, but to develop his faculties and to give him manual skill; that, although the carpenter's bench and the turner's lathe are employed as instruments of such training, the object of the instruction is not to create carpenters or joiners, but to familiarize the pupil with the properties of such common substances as wood and iron, to teach the hand and eye to work in unison, to accustom the pupil to exact measurements,

  1. "Fortnightly review," October, p. 467.