Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 33.djvu/244

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

certain standard of scholarship be required in each, grade as a condition of entering the next higher, and let all who do not come up to this standard pass out to the factory, the workshop, the plow, the wheel, the lathe—to whatever, in fact, is to be their life's work. The requirements in the lower grades should not be too high, and every one should have an opportunity of learning to spell, read, and write, with something of the four cardinal rules of arithmetic; but after that the standard should be rapidly raised, so as to weed out all but the best material before reaching the high-school, and thus avoid the great economic mistake of turning into poor scholars material that might have made good artisans and mechanics.

Under such a system, the weary mass of juvenile mediocrity that cumbers our high-schools and keeps down their standard of scholarship would be switched off early on the right track; for, since the vast majority of the human race must live by the work of their hands, it is quite as important that the hands should be educated as the head. Schools of technology are needed for such of this class as may be destined to callings requiring special skill, such as architecture, joinery, engraving, and the like; but, for the rank and file of hand-workers, I question whether the mill and the workshop are not the best schools. To many they are the only available ones, for the families of the very poor can ill afford to sustain non-producers, and to them it is essential that the labor of every member should be directly remunerative.

If we take this broader view of education, there is no reason why its claims should conflict with the humane employment of children in work suited to their strength, at a comparatively early age, and there are cases where the enactment of laws against it would be a positive cruelty to the children themselves. Especially is this true where keeping them at home would necessitate the mother's going out to labor. Unmarried females can work as bread-winners without detriment to themselves or to society; and the ever-increasing band of "superfluous" women, which is so significant a feature of our advancing civilization, is quite sufficient to supply all demands for female labor without calling mothers away from their natural post of duty.

It is not a matter of mere sentiment to reserve the mother's time and labor for her children, but of sound political economy. There is no question of greater importance to the state than the training of its future citizens; and a home where thrift, cleanliness, and good government prevail, with that moderate amount of domestic comfort which the hand of a tidy woman can impart to even the most meager surroundings, is a more powerful factor in the production of a good education than all the schools in Christendom. I have often been struck, in the school-room, with