Popular Science Monthly/Volume 33/July 1888/Manual or Industrial Training
|MANUAL OR INDUSTRIAL TRAINING.|
CIVILIZATION means economical foresight and the gradual subserviency of present selfish interests to the good of others in the future. True civilization begins only, then, when a new potential factor is recognized as worth striving for, to wit, the coming race and its future welfare. Emotionally we revive in our children; economically we sacrifice many of our present gratifications to the development of the race. True educational striving aims beyond the narrow view of the future career of a few beloved ones; it recognizes in the school-bench an economical measure of social security more powerful and efficient than drilled regiments, squads of policemen—yea, than well-organized dispensations of charity. True educational measures, therefore, grow with, us in their every-day importance; and their power of molding social conditions once recognized, the very important query may be considered if they could not be possibly so improved as to secure to the average individual means of subsistence outside of his general culture and the acknowledged moral improvement resulting from it.
Adaptation of general training to the presumable needs and wants of the individual, rather than to his social requirements, is the programme of the new education that has already modified the old-school routine through the introduction of the psychological basis, and which now proposes manual training as one more step forward. Tried on purely empirical bases, many inductions have been arrived at; still, a general deduction is yet wanted, before the measure proposed would be worthy of a true pedagogical interest.
The pleas for manual training as an educational measure are many, and as the methods employed in instruction must necessarily depend upon the end expected, it may not be amiss to examine at least the leading theories.
Such a critique, nevertheless, based upon the campaign words, if we may so call them, of the different advocates, in the absence of a full exposition of their views, must be made rather in the form of suggestion than otherwise. Thus, the first purpose encountered is that of the development of perceptions. One would assume a psychological basis, if the age of the pupil corresponded with the programme in view; but in the present application perceptions mean sharpness of the sensorium, the first stage of mental growth in the child, generally expected to have been accomplished in the Kindergarten; afterward objective teaching in the elements of natural sciences, aided by collections, etc., would do just as well, and, moreover, would produce as a beneficial result certain general knowledge not obtainable from the simple manipulation of tools.
2. "The use of the hand and brain" is a general figure that is certain to be found on every page treating of industrial training. It would do very well indeed if the brains were necessarily taken into co-operation; but such a general programme depends too much upon the system employed. It will be found entirely unsatisfactory if the means applied be confined to a so-called series of graded exercises in wood or metal work—say crosscut, rip-saw, nailing, gauging, squaring, etc.—followed, as they generally are, by the x y number of joints about the practical use of which the pupil generally remains in the dark. Brains, if considered independently from their owner, are too apt to be subject to the general law of inertia, and the whole occupation may simply be reduced to an automatic mechanism, especially if it is connected with the good old style of disciplinary measures: "No, 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, etc., stand back! No, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, etc., step forward! Hands folded! Hands up! Hands down, down! March!!!" etc. A workshop of children silently and mechanically performing certain motions with their hands, produces too much the impression of one of the state institutions for the correction of the young, not exactly credited with having produced such geniuses of thought and action as the Nasmyths, the Whitworths, the Goodyears, the Edisons, and others.
3. Manual training continues the work of the Kindergarten, which, of course, presupposes the full knowledge and solution of that problem. The pupil, nevertheless, has by that time outgrown childhood, and unless one imagines a uniformity in the mentality of mankind from seven to seventy years of age, some different stage of intellectual development is reached, and though continuing the Kindergarten, another work, psychologically speaking, is expected, the explanation of which is still to come. Then follows a whole series of claims set forth under the large and benevolent mantle of Industry. We begin with the sewing class and the agricultural Kindergarten, with the fields in a box four feet by five feet, minute plows, harrows, spades, etc. Scroll-work, taken from Krüsi's series of drawing-lessons, something like three hundred sketches of pitchers, vases, chairs, brooms, crescents, etc, all cut out to impress the idea of form upon the patient mechanic. Then innumerable pieces of wood, worked with the jackknife only. Plaster relief-maps, giving half an inch height to the poor Cordilleras, the whole of South America represented in six by nine inches, etc. Things valuable indeed in their way, but not warranting, as general educational measures, any outlay of state money.
Further, again comes the instruction in the use of the seven tools—adze, plane, hammer, drill, chisel, saw, gauge, etc. This at last sounds more serious and comprehensive, but still remains unpromising, if it stops there, and, unluckily, one does not have a chance to hear what is to follow. Such exercises may be carried out very successfully, experimental as they are in colleges, alongside of a full allowance of theoretical mechanics; but they are by no means the Alpha and Omega of manual training in a common school. Finally, we have a series of trades with their gamuts of so-called elements, wood-work, modeling in clay, metal, and stone work, etc., representing a dozen or so of trades, the elements of which are expected to be mastered. No one can deny a practical side to this programme, only it is apt to embrace either too little or too much.
The enthusiastic statement of the advocates of this system, that the ground principles of any trade are practically learned in any particular number of lessons, appears too sanguine altogether if compared with actual reality. It is true that a given number of lessons of practical instruction in the tool-house may give quite a broad understanding of the elements of the trade to students conversant with its theoretical knowledge; but such is not granted, and hardly possible, in the case spoken of. Theoretical mechanics calls for its quota of higher mathematics, which is here outside of the question. Practically, then, we run the risk of turning out Jacks of all trades and masters of none. The pupil graduating from any of these departments will in the best of cases be an indifferent artisan. He will certainly have acquired an acquaintance with tools, and will possess considerable insight into the special arts, but empirical, detached, and uncorrelated as his knowledge would be about the processes, the habitual routine, a good portion of life's experience, will be still wanted to make him a desirable article in the industrial market. Besides, although it unmistakably would increase the efficiency of our workingmen, public schools can not be converted into special trade schools. Thus it is clear that the field is open as yet for a theory and practice in industrial training, which, taking hold of the necessities felt, and basing a system of instruction upon a rational method of analysis of the age of the pupil and his other educational requirements, would suggest a method that would finally bring the discipline within the ranks of serious educational measures.
The understanding of the cause of a given movement is almost equivalent to the mastery of the movement. Considering the increased interest in industrial training, one can perceive in it the reaction of two great demands for change and relief—to wit, the economical industrial, and the educational proper. In industry, the world, propelled by the advance in knowledge of natural sciences, has outgrown the old apprentice system. Sciences applied have made the old trade secrets a tradition of the past. The multiplicity of machinery has made the special skill of handwork, previously so important, only a secondary consideration; it has also occasioned a subdivision of labor so definite and minute, as apparently to make even the special knowledge of a whole trade not indispensable, so long as a workingman may simply be continually employed to attend to some special machine. The result of such industrial development, considered from that point of view, has only diminished the need of personal initiative, and gradually changed the "previous master of tools into the tool of a machine." New patents, improvements in process or machinery, introduction of new devices, so frequent in industry to-day, have diminished also the permanency of employment. A special worker or feeder on. x y patent machine becomes obsolete as soon as x' y' replace the previously used x y; and, one-sidedly trained, as lie generally is, hardly capable of immediate satisfactory work on the improved plan, our poor fellow is thrown out of employment; he generally undergoes untold misery and suffering before being employed at something else. Of course, strikes and other labor combinations may, to a certain extent, extort from capital some extra allowances. Organized labor may command a higher price, may even go so far as to form an insurance fund for the unemployed; but neither legislation nor organization will ever root out the evil, because they do not destroy its cause. After all, out of the total capital employed in the industry of a given country, there is only a certain percentage to be spent in wages. As soon as capital can not obtain its economical due, it flows into other channels, often outside of the country itself; and as there is no friction possible without material wasted, it is for a short time only, economically speaking, that there can be found an apparent redress for labor through the terrorism of labor. Ultimately it will turn out against it, as the stoppage in the industrial wheel occasions a loss to capital and labor that both are sure to feel, and which generally is felt more harshly by labor.
Co-operation is a magnificent theory; indeed, it reminds one of the golden age; but, practically speaking, it will, like any other scheme, be subject to considerations of profit and of remuneration, pro rata of the intellect, work, and capital (money) employed; and no ism, notwithstanding its popularity, or even its majorities, will destroy this horrible pro rata distribution. Besides, any co-operative scheme needs genuine abilities, not found in a fossilized mentality of a one-sided training and more than one-sided occupation. The change demanded, therefore, has to be of another nature than can be brought about by organization, legislation, isms, etc., which by their very presence eventually demonstrate the necessity of a change. It has to go deeper; its workings will be a matter of the future rather, and the result of a systematic and well-calculated movement in the right direction. It simply aims at a regeneration of our workingmen of the future.
An educational regeneration, an increase of their capacities, their initiative, their artistic taste, and their power of invention—such elements, once present, would augment the value of our industrial products. They would allow us successfully to compete in the foreign markets, not by lowering prices, but by the superiority of our articles in quality, durability, finish, and elegance of design, and would thus increase and not diminish the share of wages. France, England, Germany, even Russia, have actually accomplished this by introducing schools of design, modeling, etc., alongside of their various special industrial centers; but France and England had their traditional specialties centuries old. In this country, with so many more industrial facilities, with so many more possibilities for diversified specialties, we want more than schools of ornament, good as such may be. Unable to compete with the low prices of European or Indian manual labor, we leave it to our machinery, and expect our workingman to enable us to enhance the value of our articles by the helping presence of industrial brains and knowledge, so important and generally better paid than manual labor alone, and for that result we look to industrial training as a means.
So much for the economical consideration, now as to pedagogics proper:
Education, the fitting for life. Life, unless your father is a millionaire, and does not spend or lose his millions before he dies, sums up practically in an activity in some profession, an activity aiming at a decent self-sustenance; professions outside of poetry and art, the inspirations and special proclivities of which we will not discuss. Professions may be summed up as clerical, legal, and literary or scientific. We have unmistakably succeeded in perfecting the training preparatory for some of them, and, as it stands to-day, defy any European institution to supply accomplished clergymen or lawyers in a shorter time and at less expense. Literary men escape our arguments for the same reason as artists and poets.
Clergymen we want, in order to maintain the phase of culture and the methods of thought which it is their function to care for. Lawyers can do no harm, even if there should be too many of them, as law well understood by the greatest number in the community is a safeguard against the thrilling and dramatic in public life, an element not exactly in demand; besides that, a lawyer can always do good service in legislation; but how is it about our mainspring as a nation, our technical and scientific men? Gain, pleasure, or respectability, directly connected with a special branch or pursuit, makes one or another profession more or less desirable. Inductive knowledge has recently made gigantic strides. Scientific knowledge has acted as the great lever of respectabilities. The traditional liberal education is but a phantom of the past, and the parlor accomplishments of the old, refined type, lightly glancing over the poetical, the artistic, the ideal of human nature, etc., is slowly but surely making way for the less voluble but more serious and practical gifts of the thinking individual of modern times. Scientific culture is already recognized as an equivalent of the literary, if not its superior. Slowly but surely, the sciences have gained their due places, and an ignoramus alone would refuse to credit them with the motive power of our advance in civilization. Scientific professions, therefore, would be found desirable and respectable to-day as a specialty in the liberal arts so called. This granted, let us approach the subject more nearly. Based on actual experience, the methods now prevalent in sciences are inductive, and call for experimental work as indispensable. Scientific knowledge of to-day may be said to begin its inquiries with an experiment, and to prove the correctness of its conclusions by another. A facility of manipulation, therefore, the aptitude for laboratory work is all-important, and this may be found by analysis not to be the result, as it is often popularly accepted, of natural or inborn talent, etc., but to represent a special training, a special knowledge, thus:
1. We expect a well-developed perceptive power in the senses, delicacy of touch, a minutely trained eye, ear—yes, even nose.
2. A steadiness of purpose, and a patience understood only by those who have worked on the same problem repeatedly and unsuccessfully, often for weeks, before they could obtain the desired results.
3. A synthetic initiative in putting things together, a laboratory intuition, so to speak, which, like any other intuition, merely represents an unconscious storage of the data of numerous antecedent trials and attempts.
4. A knowledge of the nature of materials employed, say those that we may justly call materials of construction.
5. Knowledge of the elementary laws in sciences, some mechanics, some chemistry, to be afterward supplemented by the adequate systematic study of mathematics and the philosophical analysis of theories.
Such, in short, are the prerequisites for a modern scientific apprenticeship, and such a preparatory training, both in knowledge and manipulation or practical work, is expected to result from the innovation recommended—the industrial training or the experimental laboratory connected with every technical fitting-school.
Within the writer's memory, instruction in sciences has been entirely revolutionized in its methods. It was suffering from the traditional scholasticism and its influence, modernized into that terrible bugbear the classical languages. Definitions learned by rote used to mark the first hard steps of the embryo engineer, geologist, or chemist, etc. Definitions numbered by the hundred then, of which very few have withstood the test of time, most of them having vanished with Torricelli's vacuum theory, etc.
A boy might then have had all the qualifications that we would look for to-day for a future scientist. He might have had a deep interest in any mechanical contrivance—for instance, taken watches apart and put them together, picked out all the needles out of his mother's drawer with a magnet, have been enthusiastic about a horse-power, say a thrashing-machine, or have successfully, although with some slight mishap, tried the properties of gunpowder, of sulphur, of phosphorus. The little fellow may have been seen standing for hours before that mysterious automaton, a steam-engine, his little body unconsciously following the motion of the fly-wheel, his eyes fixed intensely upon the valves or gears. On inquiry he may have given you satisfactory explanations about the working of the engine, describing minutely its parts and the way they are put together, information that he had acquired incidentally and all by himself; and yet the same boy, after a year or so in the school, would have often been pronounced a dunce by his learned teacher, and specially without any love for natural sciences. Why? Simply on account of his inability to recite correctly the generally incorrect definitions. Many a bright school companion of the writer, having in him all the material wanted to make a splendid technical student or scientist, became a classical literary nobody on account of the definitions. Then, again, what a horrible crime, was it not, to have dirty and lacerated fingers, resulting from some little galvanoplastics or the like! "So ungentlemanly" was another time-honored intellectual obstruction. It may have saved a few dollars' worth of clothes, and even taught some so-called respectability to the boy, but it killed many a good brain.
Gradually, nevertheless, things began to change; actual experiments began to accompany the horrid book of definitions. It is true the teacher, himself generally a very inefficient practical worker, kept all the apparatus locked up, and only on extra occasions was the glass closet opened; but then, what a joy! what an interest! what a number of never-ending questions! When of a sudden down came the marks for noise, disrespect toward the teacher, speaking without permission, and so on. The presence, however, of the apparatus, even behind the glass doors of the closet, strongly contributed to the general interest in the matter. How eagerly did we not study our abhorred definitions and work for good marks, so as to have the privilege of taking out the apparatus from the closet!
In college the collection was more complete, and you had even the right to touch the apparatus, although the teacher alone performed the experiments. Soon, however, came the greatest and the most charming of innovations, laboratory experimental work, and finally regular laboratory instruction, when of a sudden—eyes did not see, nose refused to smell, in chemistry; fingers were found clumsy and the dimensions badly guessed at in physics. Broken glass without end, cut fingers innumerable, miserable experience with the apparatus, that generally refused to work, discouraged many a scholar, especially if the not always good humored professor or his assistant repeatedly pronounced the melancholy decree: "You will never accomplish anything, Mr. So-and-so. You can not see, you do not smell, you do not recognize the difference between this precipitate and that other. Do you think that you ever will be a chemist, sir? An illusion, sir, an illusion, a sad one; waste of time and your father's money; better take a course in theology or judicial jurisprudence." Well, many such an illustration may be real to-day also. It is true we have gone a step further since; we have now in most of the colleges that respect themselves physical laboratories, generally well mounted; here instruction is received and practice is obtained in scales, dimensions, standard units, etc. But what would have been a heaven for the twelve or thirteen years old boy becomes only too often the place of torture for the nineteen, twenty, or twenty-one years old young man; unsuccessful in his attempts, clumsy because not trained beforehand, he often wishes the whole recitation to forgetfulness; and a large number of students remain afterward mere designers in technical offices or poor lecturers on the so-called popular sciences, instead of following a successful scientific career, doing original work, and possibly realizing discoveries, improvements, wealth, and honor. The many failures here ought to serve as an emphatically practical lesson on the necessity of adapting work to age.
When the young man enters the laboratory at college, he ought not to encounter any mechanical difficulties. His attention ought to be chiefly directed to more abstract thoughts, to his theories, his laws, etc. Expert with his fingers, his senses trained, he ought to be able to note differences and similarities in the experimental phenomena, formulate his hypotheses about them, and verify them. Very recently the writer had a good chance of seeing the above practically illustrated. The son of one of our leading citizens, entering his second year in Princeton, who had just the training (tool-house work) recommended, was present at the recitation in physics; a fine apparatus was brought in and the professor had some trouble in explaining to the class the working of the micrometer-screws in the apparatus—in other words, the way the principle of the micrometer-screws is practically applied. The writer's acquaintance, handling the screw in his turn, suggested to the professor the possibility of doubling the delicacy of the scale by letting in another screw within the first, a suggestion that was willingly accepted, and as far as he knows executed. The older young man wants as the basis of enthusiastic exertion, a higher generally practical purpose than merely the routine of manipulation, or the preceding wood and metal work found in some colleges; besides, he hardly has any time for it; of course, he submits, but generally, in direct ratio to his intellectual development, he gets disgusted with the practical drudgery. At that age there is a restlessness of mind, a flight of imagination, an elasticity of thought, that can and ought to be utilized more advantageously than the training of the hand and eye principle. This, as we saw, belongs duly to the fitting-school and not the college.
Thus sciences are found to-day to call for an adequate elementary preparation, and this one requires, as we have seen, an adequate training of the senses to be begun at the natural age alongside of certain elements of knowledge. It is ridiculous to expect that such a minutely specialized field as that covered by the sciences to-day should suddenly be successfully approached by some mysterious roundabout way, and through the study, say, of Roman antiquities and the like, which have no bearing whatsoever either on the theory or practice of sciences or on the inductive reasoning found so important in these branches. Detached facts, with which you have to begin, may be easily seized and remembered by a boy of twelve, but they escape the mnemonic power of a young man from college; and if collegiate higher instruction is to bring fruits and actual results, its higher working must be free from elementary difficulties. We do not expect a young man who had not mastered arithmetic to begin calculus; and there is just as much discrepancy between atomic theory, specific heats, etc., and the experiments of the burning of a candle, hydrogen and oxygen generation, the piece of chalk and vinegar, etc.
So far, then, the future of industrial interests at large demands a general practical preparation replacing the old apprentice system. It is claimed for such a system that it would enable the workingman, through the command of adequate knowledge, to become free from his present bondage, and make him again the master, instead of the tool—not of capital, as some socialist friends would declare, but of his true superior and master, the powerful automaton, the machine. On the other hand, we find also a similar necessity claimed by the scientific professions. Equally with other concerns, one can but recognize that agricultural interests could be fully benefited only by the measure recommended, and that the business part of the population would hardly lose their time spent in training, as specialization in industry calls for an adequate specialization in business. Some general kind of technical or industrial knowledge would be easily appreciated by any business man, either behind his desk, in selling and buying, or in his leisure hours at home, where it would be found a valuable source of healthy exercise and recreation. The omnivalence, therefore, of manual or industrial training once granted, its methods may be now approached.
From the start it is evident that, instead of forming the additional fifth wheel of our pedagogical vehicle, the measure spoken of is entitled probably to a good half of the total traction. Equally self-evident it will appear that, instead of representing only an additional exercise, separated from the rest of the instruction, perfect correlation with the same has to be established, if anything like serious results or benefits are to be expected. In other words, manual or industrial training can be summed up as the experimental adjunct of the abstract studies, verifying the correctness of the conclusions arrived at, in the shape of laws, theories, or principles, and demonstrating their practical adaptability. A pupil having some idea about the actual use of the things he learns is, without comparison, the superior of one who only hopes to find it out some time at college—if ever. As, nevertheless, the curriculum of a general popular, say, public-school or artisan education, varies to some extent, at least, from a preparation for a future profession, the special course in the experimental departments of the two will have to differ respectively.
Objective teaching, or the practical acquaintance with one's surroundings and Nature's chief subdivisions, will remain common to both—the value of such instruction being enhanced through the so called Socratic method of cross-questioning, but at a point of abstract concentration certain parts of the said objective instruction, say, in form and number, may in their further development form a line of demarkation. Form might lead to practical working draughts in the manual training of the first case, and number, entering here as the necessary accessory, would serve only for short immediate calculations. A more mathematical handling of the subject, subjecting facts to more minute calculations, and early introduction of the mechanical equations of cause and effect, will form the central pivot in the second higher grade of schools. Certain generally lightly treated truisms may be added in shape of suggestions to enable any worthy pedagogue to start logically in the progressive line of our educational innovation.
1. Mathematics has its origin in the concrete and not in the abstract, and therefore is more easily approached and more successfully taught on this basis. One has to start with actual things—dimensions, forms—especially when dealing with pupils of the elementary grades.
2. Space, notwithstanding Hamilton's arguments, viz., Stewart's, is conceivable to us only conjointly with the actual experience of muscular exertion; its notion originates with the turning of the eye of the new-born child and our pedimetric or other dynamic measurements.
3. Language is by no means our only agency for making ourselves understood; a few lines, if properly drawn, will tell a better story about many things in technics than a long-worded lawyer's version. The short-hand expression, sketching, is therefore an indispensable grammar of its kind, found easier, more attractive, and especially more practical, than the beautiful series of definitions in honored Brown's or other memories.
4. In handling objective grades in elementary lessons on Nature, the teacher can with the same facility and with probably more profit select his illustrations in plants, stones, metals, from popular and locally well-known kinds than by rambling over the tropics, etc., for the ideal botanical or other type.
He thus introduces the essential materials of construction, and early establishes in the mind of his pupil standards of comparison, so much the more important as, taking the ease of their minute study into consideration, they can really be well and correctly understood. In physics or elementary mechanics an actual simple screw, a wheel, an axle, a real wedge, balance, etc., may be employed at that age with more benefit than the expensive micrometer apparatus. In this way a public-school pupil would finally be found in possession of considerable practical information and available knowledge. He would recognize the trees in the forest, the stones in the fields, and feel an interest in our every-day appliances, that would otherwise leave him entirely unaffected. In this way also, and connected with his arithmetic, elementary mechanics under their popular names may be successfully introduced, the pupil as well as the teacher being able to use immediately a stick for a lever, any plank for an inclined plane, any rubber or leaden pipe for a siphon, instead, as used to be the common practice in our various seats of learning, public and other, starting with the definitions of the undefinable force and matter, puzzling over Newton's laws, and finally trying, generally in vain to remember the formulas of the p, the w, the f, etc., generally not mentally present, on account of the slight acquaintance with them. Add to this the letters, syllables, words, and sentences of our cosmopolitan short-hand, drawing, taught simultaneously with the correctly spelled vernacular, and we are ready for the exercises with tools, as every one of them is but an illustration of the principles of the now known lever, inclined plane, wedge, etc. The seven types then can be appreciated; they cease to represent simply pieces of steel. The pupil recognizes in them the material for many interesting problems requiring solution. He alternatively combines them or tries their identification in their various combinations, as presented to him by manifold machinery. He repeats the previously mentioned automatic movements; it is true, he passes through the graded series of exercises we have enumerated, but with what a difference in spirit and results! His mind, inert previously, is now full of activity, and the new kind of inertia, to which it is subject, that of motion, carries him steadily onward to future improvements and discoveries.
Passing through, the systematic routine of instruction in woodworking tools, then the metal-working tools, the instruction in the materials of construction and recording his work systematically in his short-hand the drawing, the boy thus correlates things apparently detached; trains his judgment, and is fully able to supplement through self-study whatsoever special knowledge he would find desirable in a given time. Such a boy is sure not to depend for his living upon a special kind of machine. Why? Because he has learned how to understand and read machinery. The next point sure to come up, whatsoever we treat in our modern times, would be that of cost. Considering the return of very desirable and highly probable results, the outlay will be very small indeed. Some system, some logical analysis of purpose, some honesty of purpose especially, and we have it. Time and money being the chief considerations in the matter of public schools, a few suggestions may be allowable.
We are far from condemning the instruction, and far from making a crusade against the selection of branches even. Having visited educational institutions in many countries, the writer considers the American system superior to the others, and as most assuredly answering well the purpose intended. The only question is, whether that purpose is desirable. If collegiate education of a non-scientific professional character be the golden door of life's success, then the public-school system is the one wanted; but if, on the contrary, industry and commerce be accepted as the more important fields, then the system is a failure, not on account of its practice or standard, but simply as not supplying the demand. One of the most enigmatic objections against the innovation intended (emphatically), "The state has no right to prescribe the future occupation of the growing generation," sounds very decisive indeed, but has but little, if any, real bearing on the question. To answer one generalization by another, the writer may with the same weight put the following query: "Has the state the right to educate for no special occupation, although such is unavoidable in actual life? Or otherwise, has the state the right to teach the boy first that he is created with equal rights to enjoy life, to teach him what to desire, how to enjoy it, but not how to get it; and then legally crush him for having got, or at least attempted to get, the thing accepted as desirable, the best way he could? Many an educational veteran may puzzle over it.
Then, again, the argument that the instruction received has helped rather than obstructed many a case of the desired success in technical or commercial career, it may be answered that the proposed change will by no means prevent any individual from becoming a minister, a poet, a teacher, a politician, etc. On the contrary, it appears very plausible to admit that a manually trained pupil would be more helped toward that end by bis schooling than a scientist has been helped hitherto by the old routine. But if this be admitted, a considerable change of the present curriculum must follow. Thus, foreign languages in our public schools are, in the best of cases, a mythical adornment, nothing else. In exchange for the money spent for it, the amount of actual philological information is very small. The only available part of such instruction would be conversational ability, which of course can not be wisely expected as the result of the few half-hours in the week, because the detached grammatical particles of a lacerated foreign idiom most assuredly can not produce the least earthly good, and do often interfere as a bad mixture with the purity of our English. Equally so with geography and history. Taught as they are, they could with equal benefit be left out of the curriculum.
Geography is either the most valuable branch to the teacher or the most valueless for teacher and pupil both. If used as the great co-ordination means for a thorough instruction in elements of natural history, botany, geology, etc; if taken conjointly with the instruction in elementary knowledge about terrestrial atmospheric forces and their activities; if united to general information on the elements of history, beginning with some conception about man, his occupations, nature, etc.—then geography in the hands of a skillful teacher is the branch, is, so to say, the mnemonic key of general information, as without localization any information is of questionable value. But if representing simply detached memory exercises of so and so many hundreds of foreign names, etc., sure to be forgotten before the pupil is through with the book, then, of course, it is waste of time.
History also falls within the same criticism. "We are a lawmaking people here in America," says one of our educational lecturers; "we have to learn how to make laws"! Very poor article indeed. Fewer laws, so much the better, as every law exemplifies a shortcoming; but would it not be preferable, if one wants absolutely to make laws, to begin to study, not how to make them, but what a law is? Thus with history. If once the pupil could command something like a fair, honest information and understanding of what society is, of what his own circle is, his borough, his county, his State, their institutions, etc., with some elements of civil government, then of course he could trace the various historical reasons for the present institutions, have a rational idea of his own country as a standard, and compare it with others, but then only would he be ready for history; otherwise the couple of dates and stereotyped versions about the courage of the good Putnam and the cowardice of the English, the ideality of the North and the blackness of the South, etc., will be only an evil, and unnecessarily feed the youngster, and that at a very impressionable age, with unjust prejudices. The writer had some curious experiences in that direction, especially when, for the fun of the thing, he wanted to have Republicanism and Democracy defined and limited by Republican and Democratic voters, graduates from public schools, and, he is sorry to say, graduates from apparently known colleges also.
To sum up, more grammar and less grammatical instruction would also be desirable. Mathematics more practically taught, problems of actual use from elementary mechanics, would, for instance, be found more useful than the traditional apple cut up into 999 parts, and would equally well illustrate the principles intended in arithmetic.
Then, with a few dollars spent for plant and materials in industrial education with drawing, we should have our public schools doing really a great work, because actually preparing men for real life.
Following the woman emancipation question we shall probably see a number of clerks gallantly leaving their places to so many lady candidates, book-keepers, etc., and possibly shall we chauvinize ourselves sufficiently to recognize and socially respect (not politically) our new gentleman in overalls, but at large society will have gained only by that; and probably our hot question now, that of labor and capital, will have lost considerably of its disagreeable aspect. General smartness, and what we call general literary information, have had their day; they do not protect us now from a very unhygienic and unsavory fare. Now, as to the special course of manual training in higher preparatory schools. A chemical laboratory, a physical laboratory, scales, standards of measure, specific gravities, thermal, barometrical, electrical units, more minute calculations, would represent the variety necessary, covering the scientific parts more minutely, but by no means dispensing with actual shop practice and thorough work in it. Such training will be found very useful in a professional career; it will enable also the future leader of work and labor to estimate it thoroughly, to understand its difficulties and its actual value, and therefore its needs and rights. It may do away with some of our typical social dilettanti, but most assuredly it will create the true social type of man, struggling for his existence, and surviving because the fittest, but expecting more profit from, and directing, therefore, more energy toward, the struggle with Nature and her forces than toward a battle with his fellow-men.