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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 83.djvu/77

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NOT so very long ago the merchant, the manufacturer, the teacher, the young man, and the public in general were under the spell of the boys' magazine, wherein the first prize—the prize of partnership in the business and marriage with the "old man's" daughter—is awarded to the boy who keeps his hands clean, brushes his shoes, picks up stray pins on the office floor and carefully saves the twine from his employer's parcels. To do these things is indispensable; but besides this, the aspirant for partnership (and the daughter) must also—according to the story-books—write a perfect hand, never make a mistake in addition, never forget a message, never have a deceased grandmother on the afternoon of the ball-game, never think of aught except mastering every detail of the business, never be any thing, in short, but the kind of prig that real, red-blooded boys are not.

The so-called Manchester school of political economy was built around a supposed economic man wholly unlike any human being ever born. Consequently there were promulgated for nearly a century a host of solemn fallacies which have given, and are still giving, endless trouble to civilized society. In much the same way the supposed demands of business upon boys have crystallized around these storybook heroes and have led the business man, the boy and the boy's teacher into all sorts of difficulties, misunderstandings and wild-goose-chases after educational impossibilities.

It may be that the story-book boy and the story-book employer—and even the daughter—did exist at some period anterior to the middle of the nineteenth century; but since that time all three have been as extinct as the dodo. Yet much of the thinking and much of the talk about the demands of business are based, even now, upon these ancient and mendacious yarns.

To reach any sound conclusions, to-day, however, one must rid himself of the obsession of these romantic fallacies and must face the actual facts. The clean-hands, blacked-shoes fallacy has ruined thousands of boys who, if they had pitched in and got their hands dirty, would have turned out first-rate mechanics and mill-men, instead of sixth-rate clerks. The pin-picking and twine-saving fairy-tales have started many a boy on the downward path of petty, two-cent economies instead of on the upward way of large-minded, far-seeing business policies. While as for the other things demanded by the story-books—they are about as obsolete as sand boxes and quill pens.

Who seriously cares about long-hand writing, when actual busi-