Popular Science Monthly/Volume 35/August 1889/The Spirit of Manual Training
|THE SPIRIT OF MANUAL TRAINING.|
By C. HANFORD HENDERSON,
PROFESSOR OF PHYSICS AND CHEMISTRY IN THE PHILADELPHIA MANUAL TRAINING SCHOOL.
AN observant foreigner once said of America, "I found progress in everything except in their schools and churches." One must take with a grain of allowance the impressions of foreign tourists. They are solicited so importunately by the objects of the senses that they fail, as a class, to appreciate the real significance of American institutions. But there was, nevertheless, not a little truth in this brief criticism. The schools and the churches have not kept pace with the march of events. Perhaps one notices them straggling the more, because of all institutions they are supposed to be the most jealous guardians of the interests of humanity. Yet in hundreds of communities the land over the masses of the people are but half persuaded of the utility of the one, and treat with increasing neglect the ministrations of the other. While these protestants against our current scholasticism and ecclesiasticism were few in number, their complaint attracted little notice. Now, however, that their ranks are grown to large proportions, a deep importance attaches to the question as to whether these institutions are, or are not, properly fulfilling their functions.
The hand of Destiny never seemingly pointed with more unerring certainty to an impending change than it does to-day as it stretches out toward the school and the church. The office of the teacher and the office of the priest are passing the review of a thoughtful public sentiment. Of the failure of the Church to justify her proud title of "the institute of humanity" little need be said. But, however imperfect one may regard her present ministrations, he can scarcely withhold his affection from an institution which, has done so much to encourage the sentiment of worship. The liberal movement, the impulse toward Christian unity, the substitution of ethical for dogmatic teaching, the appeal to the soul of man rather than to his credulity, all seem to indicate that the Church, which has been so much in the past history of the race, is yet to adapt herself to the changed conditions of the times, and still be an important factor in its future.
But of even greater importance are those changes which seem imminent in the school. Its influence comes at an age when the mind is particularly plastic, and when life is new and fresh. It occupies the attention during the greater portion of at least five days in the week, and even during the remainder it is seldom absent from the thoughts for any considerable length of time. One can scarcely overestimate the importance of establishing so pervasive an institution upon the right basis.
It may seem a trite thing to particularize again the function of an old institution like the school, yet it is only by keeping this very constantly in mind that one can appreciate its present position, or pass intelligent judgment upon those innovations which have been proposed for its improvement.
The school, in the first place, then, is a means and not an end. It serves a purpose. It is not, like the state or the church, an organism and possessed of life. One can construct no pleasing ideal of what the perfect school ought to be. He can at best only specify what results it should produce. Like all other tools, its function is to form and to fashion. A machine is not valued for its proportions, its color, its material, but for its subserviency to the work required, and for the character of its products. The point demands emphasis, for educators too frequently look to the symmetry of the school itself instead of to the harmony of its results. They forget that different materials require different tools for their working.
It is a curious thing that the human mind should so delight in the idea of stability, and should attempt to attain it, when such an idea finds no place in all nature. Even the crystal, the most unchanging object of our admiration, has undergone innumerable births and deaths. All nature is in a state of solution and of flux. There is no stability, even comparative, except where there is no life. Yet we, who believe ourselves to live best when we are in the most perfect communion with that infinite intelligence whose manifestation we call Nature, are constantly denying our faith by the profane effort to give permanence to that which is essentially transitory. Our laws seem to us good. We crystallize them into a code, and so burden the generations to come with an evil mortgage upon their justice. Our faith seems to us divine. We kill it by formulating it into a creed, and so starve the souls of our children. Oppressed with weariness, we paint our heaven as a place of eternal rest. As well might we extol the lifeless moon above the sentient earth. It is no wonder that men fear death, and hear with chill delight the holy name of heaven. Through all our human institutions there runs this same unnaturalness and inconsistency acting like a constant brake upon our progress. In theory we adore this progress, but the seraphim of our secret altars are insoluble, infusible, unchangeable. In the school this inconsistency of ours has been particularly glaring and particularly disastrous. We have found our imagination of sufficient compass to span the distance between man and protoplasm, but it seems to have halted at the less difficult task of recognizing that the principle of evolution is still working, and that the educational demands of one age are not the demands of all ages.
The cause of education, however, will be but poorly served if one demolish without building up again with as much zeal as he tears down. Nor must one complain too bitterly of an institution which, in spite of its short-comings, has assisted to produce in the community a culture sufficient to recognize them. But it would be well to remember that the school can never be made to conform to any crystallographic habit, however beautiful. Let it be regarded as what it is, simply a tool and a very plastic one at that, not too sacred to be sharpened and altered, whenever by so doing it can be made to accomplish better work.
The great question, then, concerning the schools is a very simple one: What effect has the institution upon its pupils? What sort of men and women does it make out of them? It is not what studies are taught, or what accomplishments are imparted, or what extent of information is bestowed. These considerations have their proper importance, but they are secondary; the real test is deeper. The standard so far has been too material. We want now something more spiritual. It is a truism to say that the function of the school is not to instruct, but to educate; but it is a truism which has not yet been taken sufficiently to heart to be translated into a fact. Struck by the manifest inadequacy of the ordinary school in preparing boys to meet the problems of life, a somewhat vehement reformer has declared that America has succeeded, not because of her public-school system, but in spite of it. The exaggeration is evident. There are many, however, who can not help feeling that as a moral force the modern school, whether public or private, has been scarcely less than impotent. It has given itself up to the business of instruction, and has found little or no time for the infinitely more important work of development. The whole force of the school should be devoted to the one supreme issue—the boy himself. If, while you are making a man, you can also make a scholar, it will be well, but look to the man first. The majority of thoughtful people, if questioned, would, I believe, make answer that their own spiritual enlightenment had come from literature that happened to fall within their reading rather than from either pulpit or college chair. It looks very much as if we were leaving to chance—if there be such a thing—what ought to be the object of our mightiest effort.
I should deeply regret any exaggeration of the deficiencies of the school, but I think that I do not err in stating that in many of these institutions the work of true education would be better accomplished were the formal instruction now in vogue entirely abolished, and the children simply brought into daily contact with some living, spiritually-minded man or woman, and through them with the questions of life and with the rich literature of the race.
The end of education being discipline, it is manifest that the subjects chosen for study are less important than the spirit in which the study is pursued. In the atmosphere of a school where this sentiment prevails, almost any curriculum will produce living men. But there are certain branches of study which, better than any others, are calculated to provoke thought and serve the ends of education. There are certain ways of spending the time that promise the richest harvest. To select such studies and employ such modes is indisputably the function of those who attempt to guide the course of education. In this all are certainly agreed. Yet that old notion of the ideal school still hinders the search after these admittedly good things. In many schools the course pursued is much the same as if we mixed the colors on our palette with our eyes shut, and still expected to get the tint desired. The discrepancy between the end sought and the method employed would discourage any one less sophisticated than the average school-man. Hygiene, for example, is taught in rooms so ill-ventilated that the children are fairly pale. Grammar and parsing are inflicted in the blind hope that they may in some occult way influence the language of the child. They rarely do. On some unaccountable theory of culture years are devoted to languages that one will never use, and precious moments squandered on the geography of places one will never see or hear of. And so one might follow the entire list of studies undertaken in the majority of schools. They seem hopelessly inadequate.
In the face of such wide-spread failure it would appear that this search after a suitable scheme for the disposition of the time of children must be very difficult. The truth is, that it is difficult to the verge of the impossible, if one proceeds in this credulous fashion, selecting studies and occupations which bear no relation whatever to the result it is desired to produce, and then calmly trusts that by some alchemistic process these base metals will be transmuted into gold. But the task is not difficult if one goes about it in. the right way. And the right way, here as elsewhere, is the natural way. A definite result is wanted. Let definite means he taken to reach that result. If strong men are wanted, let the conditions of the school be such that strength will he a necessity. In many of them at present it is not even a possibility. If honest men are wanted, let the training of the school tend to that end, even if one's knowledge of Timbuctoo and the Karakorum Mountains is not very definite. If self-reliant men are wanted, let education take the place of instruction. If useful men are wanted, let useful things be taught. If thoughtful men are wanted, let the appeal be made to the individual reason of the boy rather than to external authority. All this is very obvious; it is merely common sense, but unfortunately it is not the method of the schools. In a word, the problem of education is to be approached from the other side. We are to work backward from results. Instead of assuming certain studies to be useful, and then working on to decidedly variable results, we are to begin with results admitted to be worthy, and then work backward to a curriculum as varied as Joseph's coat if individual cases demand it. What the true educator most wishes to influence is the conduct of life. The object he holds sacred; the methods by which he compasses it, indifferent.
This is the spirit of manual training. Where this system of education has been introduced, it gives so distinct a character to the course of study that it has loaned its name to the school as a whole. In many respects this is unfortunate, as it has caused serious misapprehension in regard to the purpose of such schools, but apparently the name is now too well rooted in educational nomenclature to be easily changed. It should be borne in mind, however, that the name stands for an object rather than a method. The manual training school has sprung into existence for a purpose much more profound than that of merely cultivating the hand. It has come in recognition of the growing demand for a complete man. Our educational methods have too long been at work turning out fractional products, men strong perhaps in this or that particular department, but sadly deficient when viewed from the standard of complete manhood. The specific purpose of such schools is to offer an education that includes as far as possible all of the faculties. Its favorite maxim is, "Put the whole boy to school." Its mode of carrying out this purpose is the very practical one of occupying the time in any way, formal or informal, that will best lead to the end proposed.
The manual training school is now in its formative period, and the time is a critical one. Two rival theories contend for the mastery of its future. The one regards manual training as an end in itself, and subordinates education to technical skill. It concerns itself more with the production of artisans than of men. This view of manual training makes the school very much akin to the trade and industrial schools, and would end by converting it into a shop. The school is heralded as the legitimate successor of the apprentice system, and as an institution whose highest end is to restore the advantages lost in the abolition of that system. According to this theory, the ability to do becomes the standard of success for the school, and the chief object of its ambition, the production of well-executed handiwork. The results of the year's work would be summed up in an exhibition of things.
The other theory also sees in the school an establishment for the fabrication of a definite product, but it is a product too subtile to find its complete expression in wood or iron or clay. It is believed that the specific purpose of education is to cultivate character, to induce sound thinking, and to make a necessity of scientific inquiry. Its highest end is ethical. Of great value, but secondary to its supreme purpose, are the skill and the information which would be the natural result of such cultivation. The aim of the school is to prepare for completeness of life. The central thought in its entire organization is always the boy himself, and everything that is done, every study that is taken up, every influence that is brought to bear, has for its sole purpose his development. In this view of its proper function, the school is a purely educational institution, and is industrial only in making use of the tools of industry to accomplish its chosen purpose. The manual work, like the work in science and literature, is simply a means of development. It bears the same relation to the process of education that a railway train does to travel. One may select slower modes of approach if he choose, but, in his delight at the rapid transit, he must not confuse the journey with the end for which the journey is made. Those who hold this view of manual training, watch with sincere regret any encroachment of that spirit which places the inanimate product, however ingenious and beautiful it may be, above the human product. The object of manual training, they believe, is the production of thoughtful, self-reliant, honest men.
It will be seen that these two theories are antagonistic. The first, in its anxiety for material results, is somewhat impatient at the slower unfolding of the spiritual handiwork. The second, while it admits all the claims of the first, objects to their limited scope—they do not go far enough. It believes thoroughly in men and women who can do something, but it believes also, and more thoroughly, in men and women who are something. Both theorists sow in all sincerity, and reap as they have sown. One harvest is gathered before the other. The seed matures early, and blossoms and bears fruit in objects of beauty and utility. There is much to exhibit on stated occasions to the public gaze and commendation. The other harvest is slow in maturing. It taxes faith and hope. It does not offer material well suited for public display. Yet this intangible result is so valued by those who labor for it, that they are content to wait, persuaded that a well spent present can afford to leave the future to divine law.
In nearly every manual training school these two elements are present. In one way this is an advantage, for they act as a check upon each other. The practical side is kept from becoming sordid; the spiritual side from becoming visionary. But the balance of power between the two is of the utmost importance, for it determines the character of the school. If it be on the one side, the tendency of manual training must be regarded as unfortunate—the educational ideal is degraded; life contracts. If it be on the other, no finer nursery can be imagined for the rearing of a race which shall be strong in its passion for goodness and for knowledge. It teaches that the worth of a man lies in what he is. The question is one of fiber, not of veneer.
It is not unnatural that an enterprise with so ambitious a purpose should constantly bring disappointment to its projectors. When one has poured out his whole soul in an effort to regenerate, even a reasonable amount of success does not satisfy him. He looks, perhaps, for too much. The currents in human affairs which do not make for righteousness are too strong to be easily stemmed. The influence of the school is working against very powerful counter-influences. Arrayed against it are the low maxims of the street and the market, the sensationalism of much of our current literature, and not infrequently the indifferent moral atmosphere of the home itself. It is not alone that these opponents have contemporary power, but they have been in office for from thirteen to fourteen years. We have to fight not only the present, but the past as well. The leaven of the new ideas goes frequently into very obdurate dough, and its working is correspondingly sluggish. We must cope with both the boy and his great-grandmother.
A difficulty keenly felt in these schools is the necessity of spending the first few months in the negative work of undoing. Children, as a rule, are very badly trained. They are taught to work under a false stimulus, and from vicious motives. Their morality is generally the morality of rewards and punishments. Were the childish heart less beautiful and less pure than it is, the injury done to it would be even more irreparable.
Nor are these the only difficulties. The spirit of manual training is ethical and evolutionary. But, unfortunately, not all of those who presume to teach in such schools have themselves caught its fine meaning. One can not communicate what he has not. Men will teach, for bread and butter just as they will preach and pray. Too many are in the school because they have nothing else to do. They have not elected teaching. Like their boys, they must undo a great deal of their past, and this in a man requires not a small degree of plasticity. Some possess it, some do not. To look within the soul and draw one's inspiration from that well of living water is not given to all men; to communicate it, in all frankness and generosity, to but few. Our education has made us all too cautious. We are too afraid of speaking out and expressing our inmost convictions. And so our goodness, if we have any, does not prove contagious. No wave of spirituality proceeds from our teaching.
In contending against these odds, the pressure from without and the insufficiency within, the teacher experiences alternations of hope and despair. The faculty of a manual training school is commonly made up of young men. The more thoughtful among them have been attached to the movement by its immense promise, but under their hopefulness there is observable a current of almost premature seriousness. It is a grave task to undertake the regeneration of humanity, even when it is in the bud.
In attempting to carry out this idea of boy development, the atmosphere of the school is an object of constant solicitude. Great care is taken that it shall not be charged with the miasma called information. It is to be kept fresh, and, above all, morally wholesome. Character is to be grown there, but one spirit must pervade the school; it is that of a divine egotism. The boy is taught that for himself the one object of supreme importance in the whole universe is himself. His gaze is directed toward the naked human soul, stripped of the false props of apparel, of family, of possessions, even of knowledge. He is led to do this and that not for the sake of the product, although this is duly valued, but for the sake of the doing, and the reaction it will have upon himself. Education is thus made intensely subjective. The worth, the dignity, the responsibility of the individual are given greater emphasis than the facts of geography, of grammar, or of history. It is in this spirit, the constant recognition of a definite end, that manual training attempts to work. It would not do, however, to talk to boys very much about the soul. It is an abstraction to them, and they would soon cease to listen. They must be made to feel it. The task is a very subtle one; its nature must never be forgotten, but seldom displayed. The kingdom of heaven can not be taken by violence. It is through gentleness and patience, through love and sympathy, that the inner recesses of boys' hearts are to be reached. They have been taught in a vague way that the body has a soul. The statement is here reversed, and they are made to feel, if possible, that the soul has a body. They come to the school deeply impressed concerning the objects of the senses, the concrete. They are here persuaded of the greater reality of the spirit; and appreciation is asked for the abstract and impersonal. So far these objects might be the objects of any school of high principle. They represent the spirit of the new education. But they belong peculiarly to manual training, since it is a system willing not only to cherish these sentiments, but also to work with complete singleness of purpose for their realization. It is a sincere and practical effort to do something better than has yet been done in the name of education.
The methods of manual training are too new to have been encumbered with any traditions; nor have they attained sufficient fixedness to threaten growth. For the most part, they are still tentative and experimental. This plasticity is very hopeful. A question left open is a constant stimulus to renewed searching after something still a little better. Each school that attempts to carry out manual training soon develops a certain individuality. Any teaching so intensively subjective as this is deeply influenced by the personality of its faculty. The character of the men who have it in charge is quick to find expression in the school. The distinctive features in the institution at Philadelphia are, perhaps, the predominance given to ethics and the unremitting effort to preserve unity throughout the many-sided development attempted. In defending our unity we are beset by difficulties. The over-enthusiasm of our friends would plunge us into many excesses. Manual training seems to them so good a thing that they can not realize the possibility of having too much of it. We who take the long view have often to counsel moderation, or the new idea would quite run away with us. In the intense delight which these good people feel in giving substance to ideas, they would discard Everything which is not capable of such expression. They apparently forget that imagination is absolutely needful for perspective, and that of all useless, pitiable creatures the unimaginative man is superlative. Yet this excessive amount of representation would quite kill imagination. In careless hands the effect of manual training would be to set bounds and limits rather than to break them down. It is not a system that can be indiscriminately recommended. Men are so prone to mistake the means for the end, that those who esteem manual training most highly are least willing to encourage its introduction, unless they know the character of the men who are to have it in charge.
In its organization the manual training school differs little from the customary high school. It is an institution of similar grade, and covers about the same period of boy life. Its students enter at from thirteen to fifteen years of age, and remain, if they complete their entire course, for three years. It is not less literary and not less scientific than the best of our high schools, but it is, we believe, far more practical in preparing boys to meet the real problems of life. The customary high-school course covers four years, but, as only a small percentage of students remain to graduate, it is thought wiser in the manual training school to limit the course to three years, and to offer a fourth year of postgraduate study in any department where a student has shown special aptitude. One third of the school day is devoted to manual work, and the rest to science and literature. It seems impossible, however, to consider such a school except as a whole. It refuses to be divided into sections. Representing, as it does, a purpose rather than a method, all departments are bound together by a common aim, and are subservient to that. They are members one of another, and the head no longer says to the hand, or, for that matter, to any other member of the anatomy, "I have no need of thee." We venture to hope that the impulse whose spirit I have been attempting to describe is only at the beginning of its work. When the new aspirations in education, which are now called manual training, come to a fuller development, they will concern themselves not with the hand only, but with the entire body and the entire being. We even hope that at some time in the future parents and teachers will feel it their duty to acquaint themselves with the condition and needs of the little bodies of which they are now the ignorant guardians, and will attempt by definite means to make them more fitting vestments for the human soul. The time has come, it seems to me, when evolution should be a conscious process, and man should work in happy sympathy with the purposes of that power which makes for righteousness.
Although the most distinctive feature in these schools is naturally the manual department, its success from the educational standpoint can only be judged by observing its effect upon the rest of the school work. It is true that the boy does not in all cases understand the full significance of his work, but he is, nevertheless, gaining unconsciously that degree of patience, of perseverance, and of judgment needed to accomplish his task. The next thing he undertakes demands these qualities in fuller measure, and so the work of character-building goes on simultaneously with the production of handiwork. The boy sees, perhaps, only these finished pieces of work as his result. We who are looking on see something vastly more important. We see the sturdier virtues—self-reliance, manliness, and helpfulness—developing to wholesome proportions. The boy takes pride in his work, and we take pride in him.
The constructive faculty in children and boys is very strong. 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 that complete education of the faculties which it is the function of a manual training school to accomplish.
In glancing at the several schools of this character which have been established in America, one must admit that the artisan spirit is more prevalent than the educational. The fact is to be deplored. It means that unless the advocates of the higher position are alert and vigilant, the fine opportunity for broader culture offered by manual training will be lost in mere technique. The man-element will go under, and the world of things will again rule.
The chief claim of manual training, it must be repeated, is not mechanical. It is spiritual, the development of character; and while its success in this direction can not always be judged from the standard of formal scholarship, there are other and very ready tests which are infallible. Conduct is a sure gauge of the stuff of which a boy is made. No better index of the moral atmosphere of a school can be found, I think, than its discipline. The boys in a manual training school are not yet old. The younger among them are only thirteen or fourteen years, and to boys of this age there are special temptations to disorder in the freedom and movement of the laboratories. To maintain order among three hundred of these active young spirits without appealing to their fear of consequences, or to other vicious motives, would not seem an easy task. Yet it is accomplished in a highly satisfactory manner. There are plenty of noise and life, it is true, and a fair share of fun, but this seldom goes beyond wholesome bounds. As far as possible the order of the school is left to the boys themselves. Certain customs are observed as a matter of convenience, but there are no formal rules for conduct. The boys know perfectly well what is right, and they are encouraged to do it because it is the right, and not because they will get into trouble if they do otherwise. As little personal authority is exerted as possible. The inexorable law of right is taught as a principle, to which both teacher and boy must conform. It is a high ground to take, but it works—as all appeals to the better nature of a boy generally do. It is possible that this abnegation of authority robs the professorial chair of some of its dignity, but there are better levers in the world than this. The friendly, even affectionate, comradeship between teacher and pupil which takes its place, is the source of a deeper influence and of a more profitable intercourse.
It is felt by those imbued with the new idea of education that punishment, however judiciously applied, is an inadequate and superficial thing, and represents at best misapplied energy. Nature has placed an indissoluble bond between cause and effect. Wrong conduct is so surely followed by natural punishment that it seems a presumption on the part of a teacher to attempt to measure out a suitable penalty in addition. The same effort can better be applied to an attempt to show the boy why a certain line of conduct is wrong, and the greater beauty of the right. All appeals are avoided which involve in any way the fear of consequences. This applies not only to the discipline of the school but also to questions of scholarship. The system of daily marking has been abolished, and an attempt made to substitute the natural and proper motive for study in place of the lower and artificial one. No rod, either mental or physical, is held over the boy. Solomon was the great advocate of that system of government, but, judging from the subsequent behavior of Rehoboam, it has been suggested that it was not a success even in the hands of so wise a man. The school is to prepare for life, and in life things are not conducted in that way. The difficult art of governing one's self can best be learned if the practice begins in boyhood. It becomes increasingly difficult to choose the wrong as one recognizes more and more clearly that the offense is primarily against one's own nature, and can meet forgiveness only by self-atonement. The deepest philosophy of life thus forms an essential part of the curriculum of a manual training school. I do not believe that a school conducted in this spirit ever graduates a boy who feels that he is escaping from restraint when he leaves the school. He is under the eye of an ever-present master, who judges with increasing culture, not according to appearance, but righteous judgment; for that master, if the school has been successful, is himself. We feel justified in subordinating the less serious ends of education to this one supreme end; for conduct, as Matthew Arnold says, is at least three fourths of life. It is the essence of religion, the material of men.
In thus seeking to reach the inner sources of conduct and achievement, the manual training school renders an inestimable service if it succeed in arousing boys to think for themselves, and in making them the guardians of their own destiny, working under divine law. But the work of the school does not end here. The occupations of life which open before its graduates are varied and numerous. There is something for all talents, however diverse. A school which produces men must so train its boys that they will be competent to take some definite and acceptable part in this complex activity. The selection of the right part to be taken is a matter of no small moment. It must be made ultimately by the boy himself, but he is as yet so young and so inexperienced, it is no wonder that many men declare in after-life that they have mistaken their vocation. Unless his genius be of the pronounced type which knows its future from the very cradle, this selection, all-important as it is, is extremely difficult to make. The boy needs help and friendly counsel. To prevent the enormous waste of energy and the life-long unhappiness which arise from mistakes in one's calling, is certainly a highly important function of an institution which professes to prepare a lad for the problems of daily living. The absence of pronounced taste in the boy is not the only obstacle to be overcome. There are few boys totally devoid of some interest which may be made available for future work, but it needs something to bring it out. The ordinary school training does not do it. In the outcry which is periodically made against what is mistakenly called "over-education," there is discernible the bitter tone of men who feel in a blind way that somehow the schools have cheated them in so ill-preparing them for life. There is much reason in their complaint. It is not true that such questions are outside the business of the school. What a boy is to do after he leaves school is very much the business of the school, and its neglect is scarcely less than criminal. If what is done before graduation bears no relation to what is to be done after graduation, then the school—and it is said in all soberness—had better give place to the gymnasium, for that at least would give health and beauty in place of narrow chests and pseudo-culture. But the faculty of a manual training school do not so believe. They believe that the development of a useful, judiciously chosen purpose in life is a very important element in education, and it receives in such schools an amount of attention commensurate with its importance. A boy can not judge rightly for what sort of work he is best fitted unless his experience be so enlarged by those who guide his course that he shall at least come in contact with the different departments of human activity, and taste them, if we may so phrase it, for himself. Even with these advantages, the choice is a difficult one. The first boyish impulse is not always to be trusted; but, by giving these impulses as free play as practicable during the three years of the course, the chances of mistake are at least greatly reduced. In a well-equipped manual training school there are few boys who are not able to become interested and proficient in some one of its several departments. In the hope of making the school still more useful in helping boys to select a suitable life-work, and in helping to prepare them to carry it out with efficiency, the plan of post-graduate study has been introduced. By permitting a boy to work a year in that particular department where his undergraduate performances have shown the greatest promise, he can be still more effectively prepared for the work of the world. This is a special and experimental feature of the school at Philadelphia. The results indicate that it is worthy of further extension.
It is significant of the spirit of its teaching that so large a proportion of manual-training graduates continue their studies in universities and higher technical schools. Its effect, as far as one can judge, has been to make boys aspire after the better things of life.
I have read that Pestalozzi, in his eager enthusiasm, used to find many things in his little school which less partial though not less careful observers failed to discover. I should be sorry to repeat his mistake in connection with the manual training school. I have tried, therefore, to so temper my praise with criticism that both the beauty of the system and its danger should be fairly represented. The view taken might still be too favorable, if it were given as the veritable history of a single school. The spirit of manual training, to which I have tried to give expression, represents rather an ideal, which in moments of extreme hopefulness we are tempted to believe that we have partially realized, and in moments of discouragement we still hold to be worthy of our effort.