der-instruction is a bad thing, over-instruction may possibly be a worse.
Success in any kind of practical life is not dependent solely, or indeed chiefly, upon knowledge. Even in the learned professions knowledge, alone, is of less consequence than people are apt to suppose. And, if much expenditure of bodily energy is involved in the day's work, mere knowledge is of still less importance when weighed against the probable cost of its acquirement. To do a fair day's work with his hands, a man needs, above all things, health, strength, and the patience and cheerfulness which, if they do not always accompany these blessings, can hardly in the nature of things exist without them; to which we must add honesty of purpose and a pride in doing what is done well.
A good handicraftsman can get on very well without genius, but he will fare badly without a reasonable share of what is a more useful possession for work-a-day life, namely, mother-wit; and he will be all the better for a real knowledge, however limited, of the ordinary laws of Nature, and especially of those which apply to his own business.
Instruction carried so far as to help the scholar to turn his store of mother-wit to account, to acquire a fair amount of sound elementary knowledge, and to use his hands and eyes, while leaving him fresh, vigorous, and with a sense of the dignity of his own calling, whatever it may be, if fairly and honestly pursued, cannot fail to be of invaluable service to all those who come under its influence.
But, on the other hand, if school instruction is carried so far as to encourage bookishness; if the ambition of the scholar is directed, not to the gaining of knowledge, but to the being able to pass examinations successfully; especially if encouragement is given to the mischievous delusion that brain-work is, in itself, and apart from its quality, a nobler or more respectable thing than handiwork—such education may be a deadly mischief to the workman, and lead to the rapid ruin of the industries it is intended to serve.
I know that I am expressing the opinion of some of the largest as well as the most enlightened employers of labor, when I say that there is a real danger that, from the extreme of no education, we may run to the other extreme of over-education of handicraftsmen. And I apprehend that what is true for the ordinary hand-worker is true for the foreman. Activity, probity, knowledge of men, ready mother-wit, supplemented by a good knowledge of the general principles involved in his business, are the making of a good foreman. If he possess these qualities, no amount of learning will fit him better for his position; while the course of life and the habit of mind required for the attainment of such learning may, in various direct and indirect ways, act as direct disqualifications for it.
Keeping in mind, then, that the two things to be avoided are, the delay of the entrance of boys into practical life, and the substitution