Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/465

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
443
THE SPIRIT OF MANUAL TRAINING.

They seem never so thoroughly happy as when they are making something. This wonderful self-activity in children was what Froebel seized upon as the basis for the Kindergarten. In boys it is made the basis for manual training. Whenever possible, the appeal is made to their own resources and faculties in preference to the external world. Here, as in the lecture and recitation room, education is made to proceed subjectively.

In judging of the success of the enterprise, due allowance must be made for the quality of the material that is to be worked up. It is to be remembered that not a few of the boys who come to a manual training school come there for the express purpose of cultivating the mechanical side to the exclusion of everything else. In many cases these lads are finally converted to the broader view of life, but, if that enlightenment does not come, they can hardly be taken to represent in fairness either the aim or the result of manual training. Comparisons are always difficult to make successfully, and here particularly so, because allowances have to be made on both sides. While many of the most clever little workmen would possibly count as dullards in a school of different character, not a few of the boys represent an intelligence above the average. For it is the more advanced people who have been the first to recognize the significance of manual training, and have shown their faith in it by selecting it for their own sons. The visitor to a manual training school, if he come to it with the shop idea in his head, expresses constant surprise at the class of boys he sees there. Sometimes he very graciously compliments the institution on its excellent English, under the apparent impression that a little noise has a tendency to make the adverb and the adjective, the past tense and the perfect participle, play at stage-coach and change places with each other. His surprise is perhaps not unnatural, for he comes expecting to find a shop, and he finds a school.

The theory upon which a manual training school is conducted may not be lightly disregarded. It has here been dwelt upon as the all-important thing about the school, for it determines the aims and methods of the institution, and the very atmosphere of its lecture-rooms and laboratories. Moreover, it determines for what class of students the school is intended. If things be regarded as the proper product, only prospective artisans should enroll themselves among its students; but if men be the product sought, then its rolls will be as catholic as human want itself. There, in jackets and knickerbockers, will be found the embryo scientist and teacher, journalist and minister, lawyer and doctor, artist and artisan, merchant and manufacturer; and these men, though they may never have occasion to directly exercise their acquired dexterity, will be brought into fuller relation with all life through