Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/646

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
630
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

it; if it is managed with a view to an income (and the school will be counted a failure if its income is wanting), the boys will be kept at what they can do best, and new lessons will be few and far between. In such a shop the pupils will suffer too much the evils of a modern apprenticeship.

"The common apprentice is a drudge set to execute all kinds of miscellaneous jobs. There is no systematic gradation in the difficulty of the exercises given him; more than half his hours are purely wasted, and the other half are spent on work unsuited to his capacity. What wonder that four, five, or six years make of him a bad, unintelligent, unskillful machine!" (Professor Silvanus Thompson).

A very bright boy of seventeen years had expected last fall to enter a pattern-shop in St. Louis as an apprentice, but was disappointed, there being no vacancy in the number of apprentices allowed. He therefore came to the Manual Training-School, and during the year made excellent progress, not only in carpentry and wood-turning, but in drawing, mathematics, and physics. When he showed me some of his handiwork at the end of the year, I asked him if he would have made equal progress as an apprentice. "No," said he, "I should have spent most of the first year sweeping out offices and running errands."

(Since the above was written, a gentleman told me of his father's experience when learning the trade of a tanner in Philadelphia, many years ago. He lived in the family of his employer, and during the first six months he tended the baby.)

Self-supporting Schools.—I fancy there is no more pernicious fallacy than this of making a school self-supporting by manufacturing for the market. Suppose you attempt to maintain one of these popular humbugs, a commercial college, on that theory, or to run a full medical school without endowment on the self-supporting plan (the students would probably write prescriptions cheap, and cut off legs for half price); or to manage a public school of oratory and English composition on the strength of an income derived from contributions to newspapers and magazines, and from orations made and delivered to order. Nothing could be more absurd, and yet the cases are closely parallel. No; do not be beguiled by the seductive promise of an income from the shop. Admit from the first the well-established fact that a good school for thorough education on whatever subject costs money, both for its foundation and its support.

Closely connected is the matter of teaching particular trades, to which the lads shall be strictly confined. Such a course may work well in monarchies, where the groove in which one is to run is cut out for him before he is born; but it is unsuited to the soil and atmosphere of America. A single trade is educationally very narrow, while their number is legion. "The arts are few, the trades are many," says Mr. Runkle. The arts underlie all trades; therefore let us teach them as