there is much difference of opinion as to the best way in which the technical instruction, so generally desired, should be given. Two courses appear to be practicable: the one is the establishment of special technical schools with a systematic and lengthened course of instruction demanding the employment of the whole time of the pupils. The other is the setting afoot of technical classes, especially evening classes, comprising a short series of lessons on some special topic, which may be attended by persons already earning wages in some branch of trade or commerce.
There is no doubt that technical schools, on the plan indicated under the first head, are extremely costly; and, so far as the teaching of artisans is concerned, it is very commonly objected to them that, as the learners do not work under trade conditions, they are apt to fall into amateurish habits, which prove of more hindrance than service in the actual business of life. When such schools are attached to factories under the direction of an employer who desires to train up a supply of intelligent workmen, of course this objection does not apply; nor can the usefulness of such schools for the training of future employers and for the higher grade of the employed be doubtful; but they are clearly out of the reach of the great mass of the people, who have to earn their bread as soon as possible. We must therefore look to the classes, and especially to the evening classes, as the great instrument for the technical education of the artisan. The utility of such classes has now been placed beyond all doubt; the only question which remains is to find the ways and means of extending them.
We are here, as in all other questions of social organization, met by two diametrically opposed views. On the one hand, the methods pursued in foreign countries are held up as our example. The state is exhorted to take the matter in hand, and establish a great system of technical education. On the other hand, many economists of the individualist school exhaust the resources of language in condemning and repudiating, not merely the interference of the general government in such matters, but the application of a farthing of the funds raised by local taxation to these purposes. I entertain a strong conviction that, in this country, at any rate, the state had much better leave purely technical and trade instruction alone. But, although my personal leanings are decidedly toward the individualists, I have arrived at that conclusion on merely practical grounds. In fact, my individualism is rather of a sentimental sort, and I sometimes think I should be stronger in the faith if it were less vehemently advocated. I am unable to see that civil society is anything but a corporation established for a moral object—namely, the good of its members—
- In what follows I am only repeating and emphasizing opinions which I expressed, seventeen years ago, in an address to the members of the Midland Institute (republished in "Critiques and Addresses" in 1873). I have seen no reason to modify them, notwithstanding high authority on the other side.