Popular Science Monthly/Volume 53/August 1898/The Philosophy of Manual Training: the Manual Training School III
|THE PHILOSOPHY OF MANUAL TRAINING.|
By C. HANFORD HENDERSON,
LECTURER IN HARVARD UNIVERSITY.
III.—THE MANUAL TRAINING SCHOOL.
THE educational sequence in America is not yet an established order. The amount of schooling that a boy or girl is supposed to need is not the same in the Carolinas that it is in Massachusetts. In the more highly evolved communities the pressure is all in the direction of an elaborate educational process. The gap between the minimum and the maximum requirements is very great. It would be unfortunate, however, to believe that virtue lies at either extreme. It is quite possible to have an educational process so meager as to be utterly inadequate to the needs of modern evolved living. And this extreme is apt to be found in communities where either Nature is too bountiful in her offer of a living, or where the invitations to action are too strong to be resisted. It is difficult to imagine the educational process as too comprehensive in Florida and Louisiana, or at the present time in gold-smitten Alaska. But it is also quite possible for the educational process to be so elaborate, so exacting, so time-consuming, that it takes the juice quite out of life, and gives us weakness instead of strength. The friends of action have, I think, quite as just cause for complaint in the devitalized and unattractive specimens of manhood and womanhood that the schoolmen are apt to send them, as the friends of thought have in the crude and ignorant youth who turn out of a holiday.
It is impossible to overeducate, but it is very possible to overschool.
In my own experience I have found that I could accomplish more with the boys who had been least in school. I have had boys graduate at a high school whom I could not induce to take a college course. They had been under instruction eleven long years—for remember that in childhood the years are long—and they were simply tired out. I could not blame them for wanting a change, though I did feel very strongly that they had put in their time at the wrong end of the sequence, and were giving up the far better part. And I have talked with clever young fellows in high school and college and have asked them if they could remember anything useful that they learned below the high-school grade. They have replied that they could not, or else they have mentioned something so trivial that when balanced against six or eight years of human life it seemed absolutely pitiful. I should be sorry to use a false standard in estimating the value of these schools. Their work is to be judged not by the specific useful facts that the children remember in after years, but by the general influence upon their lives. You perhaps remember that incident of Garfield. He relates that he once heard Emerson lecture, and that it was for him the beginning of a new life. Yet all he could remember of the lecture was one of those bullet sentences of Emerson's—"Men are as lazy as they dare to be." It is quite possible to fire the imagination of men and women, and have them clean forget whether it was by an electric spark or a tallow candle—or neither.
But when we look at our educational structure, and note what tremendously extended foundations it has, what an almost unending vista is presented by the lower schools, and then see how palpably it shrinks in rising upward to the high school and college, what a very low pyramid it forms after all, I can not but feel that the influence of these schools in arousing children to the higher life has been quite as weak as has been their informational capacity.
I do feel that in failing to impart abounding life and health, in failing to arouse a keen interest in the many beautiful sides of life, these schools are partly responsible for the apathy and ennui that you read in the faces of middle-age and middle-class America.
The wise sequence does not lie at either extreme—either seven weeks a year for three or four years, or ten months a year for a score or more of years. The present sequence in our older communities runs somewhat as follows: the kindergarten up to six years; the elementary school for about eight years; the high school, four years; the college, four years; the graduate, technical, or professional course, from three to six years. The educational process begins with very tender baby flesh, and ends with pretty solid men and women. It is not one day too long if it lead irresistibly to the radiant life. It is many years too long if it lead to ill health, to apathy, to hopelessness, if it lead to loss of initiatory power, to pedantry, to conventionality, to cowardice. It is a question of the quality of the results. Even this elaborate process, however, is not yet correlated and continuous. The lower schools and the high schools have been brought into pretty close relations, since both are commonly under public administration, but even here, in many of our cities, a remnant of the old apartness remains in the entrance examination to which the children are obliged to submit at the doors of the high school. Curiously, the public administration is not willing to accept its own stamp of approval or blame as set by the lower schools. But between the high schools and the colleges there is a very noticeable gap. The two are under different administrations, and in our less enlightened communities they are not infrequently antagonistic. There are now, however, associations throughout the country that have for their express purpose the bringing about of a more complete understanding between the high schools and the colleges, and the mutual adjustment of the curriculum of the high school and the entrance requirement of the college. It is more and more coming to be felt that the best education should be the one leading to college and should be the one for all.
Now, into this somewhat vexed state of affairs the manual training school has come and must be given due place, and brought into relation with the rest. Coming as it did with its technical side uppermost, it was decided at once to be too strong meat for babes and was graded as a high school. This determined its relation to the lower schools, and there was no difficulty on that score. The children from the lower schools pass the same entrance examinations, whether they elect the manual training or the English or Latin high school. In some of our cities, and notably in those of the middle West, manual training has been incorporated into the regular high schools and consequently has introduced no new problems, at least as far as the educational sequence is concerned. But the older typical manual training school is a distinct, one of recognized high-school grade, but differing from the older high schools in having a three years' course in place of four years.
If I have at all succeeded in making clear to you the philosophy and methods of manual training, you will easily see that as a scheme of education manual training is equally applicable to all grades, the lowest as well as the highest. It is only that the work would have to be adapted to the age of the children. We should not expect babies to make steam engines any more than we should expect them to learn to read out of Shakespeare. From the artisan point of view it is limited to the upper grades, for little children can scarcely gain enough industrial skill to make it worth while. There are, however, only a few elementary manual training schools in this country. There is a public one in Philadelphia in the slum district, and there are several conducted by charitable organizations there and in New York and other cities. It is most encouraging to note, however, that manual training is rapidly making its way into the regular elementary schools. In New York city alone two hundred thousand children in the lower schools are having manual training, and it is making its way into nearly every progressive grammar school in the larger cities either as a required or elective study. But in the main, when we speak of a manual training school, we mean a high school having a three years' course, and it is to such a school that I want to call attention in this paper. Furthermore, I am sorry to say, a typical manual training school of the older sort means a school for boys onlv. But with the growth of the educational idea, manual training is rapidly being extended to the girls too. In the West they are much ahead of us in this respect. In Denver, for example, they have a fine manual training high school, with a very liberal course of study, and open, as it should be, to both girls and boys. In Kansas City, the new Manual Training High School has just opened with an initial enrollment of seven hundred and thirty-six children—three hundred and forty-nine boys and three hundred and eighty-seven girls. In San Francisco, the Polytechnic High School is open to boys and girls alike. And this represents the general spirit throughout the West. I am very glad to see it, and I am the more sorry that our older and representative manual training schools in Baltimore, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Chicago, Brooklyn, and Boston do not unlock their doors to girls in the same open-minded fashion.
The material that comes to a manual training school has always interested me. It does not come from any one class in society. On the contrary, it is a very composite group. News of the movement naturally reached the most advanced people of the community first. In the early days in Philadelphia—that is, something over a decade ago—it seemed to me that nearly all the boys in the training school were unusual. Their parents for the most part were come-outers of some sort, liberals, people interested in social and religious reform, very wide-awake people. As time went on, the groups became less marked. The industrial side of manual training got noised abroad, and for a time many boys were sent to the school merely because they were not fond of study, and the school was mistaken as a place for busy hands and sluggish brains. Boss mechanics, with no great faith in education, but with a strong desire to have their sons get on in the world, compromised the matter and sent them to the training school. From the very start, too, there was a large influx of Jewish children, whose parents were actuated, I think, not so much by that text in the Talmud which bids every man have a trade, as by the broader feeling that the children of Israel as a people were suffering from their too long and too exclusive devotion to commerce. The Jewish charitable organizations have since established a number of free manual training schools in the different cities, and are especially working among the poorer Russian Jews. There were also a number of colored boys, but these seldom remained to graduate.
Now that the schools are better known, and have taken their place alongside of the regular high schools, the choice has largely passed from the parents to the boys themselves. They come to the training schools, sometimes for good and sufficient reasons, because they have a taste along mechanical and scientific lines rather than linguistic lines, but often the reason is quite capricious. They come because some chum of theirs happens to come, or they don't come because some girl friend sticks up her nose at the dirt and the aprons, and calls the boys mechanics. And I should like to say in passing that I think we do not sufficiently realize the importance of having girls entertain high ideals of boyhood, and boys entertain high ideals of girlhood, for sooner or later each sex is bound to be what the other sex wants it to be. When I hear men running down women, or women running down men, I always feel very sorry, but I feel disposed to say: My friend, this may be so, but if so, it is partly your fault.
The average age of this composite group I should place at something over fourteen. The boys may enter at thirteen, and I am told that in New England they commonly do so, but the work as at present arranged is better suited to older boys.
The curriculum is divided into five departments:
1. The Humanistic, or Language Group. This includes English language and literature; French, German, Spanish, or Latin; history, civics, and economics.
2. The Mathematical Group. This covers advanced arithmetic, plane and solid geometry, algebra, plane trigonometry, elementary surveying, and bookkeeping.
3. The Science Group. This includes physical geography, biology, physics, chemistry, and an introduction to steam and electrical engineering.
4. The Drawing. This is both mechanical and free hand, and includes instruction in clay modeling, in plant analysis for decorative purposes, and somewhat of the history and practice of architecture.
5. The Manual Training. This is the most distinctive part of the curriculum, and includes wood work—joinery, pattern making, turning, and carving; vise work—chipping, filing, and fitting; smithing; sheet-metal work; ornamental iron work, and finally the machine-tool practice in constructive work.
This is a very full curriculum. The studies are all useful, and in the main well selected, but the amount of time that may be given to each is somewhat limited. The principal criticism to which the curriculum is open is indeed right here. It is not possible to offer the full equivalent of the four-year course in three years, and give so much of the time to the manual occupations. Let us look more closely at the disposition of the day. It is commonly divided into six periods of from forty-five to fifty minutes each. As there is no school on Saturday or Sunday, this gives thirty periods a week in which the curriculum must express itself. In the first and second years of the course, half of each day is given to manual work—that is, to tool work and to drawing; and the other half is given to the academic work, generally one period each to language, science, and mathematics. In the third year, the disposition of the time is somewhat different. About six hours per week, sometimes more, are given to manual training proper, four to drawing, and from four to six to the physical and chemical laboratories. Counting all this work as manual, however, the division of the day practically remains much the same as in the lower classes—that is, half the day to manual and half the day to academic work. Although half the curriculum bears so close a resemblance to customary high-school work, it is hardly practicable to consider the curriculum except as a whole, for in the best schools the course is distinctly a unit course, and the manual training does not form a bit of unrelated work apart from the rest. There is, of course, a tendency in such schools for the faculty to separate into two distinct parties, the academic and the manual, and the more so since the academic men are college-bred, while the manual men are mostly artisans taken directly from their shops, and devoid of even a high-school training. But such a separation is most unfortunate, for it makes the best results impossible. Where there is sufficient perception to see that the one problem is shared by all, and sufficient tact to co-operate in both spirit and letter, it becomes possible to realize the broad purpose of manual training. I confess that the demands made upon human nature by such a scheme are tolerably large, but I think that if you will go among the training schools of the country you will see that these demands are met here and there, and that the schools where they are met are animated by a singularly fine spirit of helpfulness and high purpose. The particular difficulty in the way of manual training just now is in finding men and women wise enough and skillful enough to carry it out. This is especially the case in the manual department. The supply up to this time has been drawn almost exclusively from the artisan class. Some of these men have shown themselves quite equal to the occasion, and have demonstrated anew that teachers are born, not made. But the majority are not satisfactory. The deficiency in general education is a serious drawback to the work of the academic departments, for it inevitably lowers the standard of the school. Particularly is this the case in the matter of language. The English is not the king's. Nor does it seem to me desirable that boys should come under the influence of the artisan view of life. It is bound to be narrow from the very nature of the case, for the artisan life is narrow, and a stream can not rise above its source. A serious objection, too, is that the artisan view of manual training, as I have tried to show, is a relatively poor one. It must suffer a complete change of heart before it can serve the purposes of education, and this is too much to expect from men whose very proficiency has been gained at the expense of their youth. You remember that when Harvey demonstrated the circulation of the blood, not a single physician in England, older than forty, accepted the new view. Darwin's theory of the origin of species fell for the most part on deaf ears except among the younger naturalists. It is unpsychological to expect men of a certain turn of mind and a certain way of life, and withal no longer young, to suddenly emerge out of their old selves.
The best work of the world is done without pay, the sacred work that asks no pay—the work of the mother, the work of the enlightened ones—but where the work is paid for, the rate of pay is a pretty sure gauge of the estimate that is placed upon the work. Now, in some of the manual training schools, the salaries in the manual departments are notably less, I should say about twenty per cent less, than the salaries in the academic departments. This seems to me a grave mistake. If manual training is to be put forward as a serious educational scheme, the teachers of manual training should be men and women quite as carefully educated, quite as acceptable in their language, quite as broad in their sympathies, quite as elevated in their morals—in a word, in every way quite as cultivated as the teachers of language and science and mathematics. And the first practical step in bringing about this equality of requirement would be to inaugurate an equality of pay. The manual teachers should get precisely what the academic teachers get.
In describing the manual training school, I am assuming that it is •one in which this unity of purpose prevails, just as, in developing the philosophy of manual training, I assumed the educational view. And if, at times, it should seem that I am describing an ideal rather than an actual school, bear in mind, please, that the picture has at least been suggested by a reality. Let us glance, then, at the several departments in succession.
The humanistic group is weak, especially in English, and this constitutes the gravest weakness of the manual training school as now organized. Adequate results can not be obtained in the time allotted to the studies. In the first year, only five periods a week are commonly given to the entire group, three to English literature and rhetoric, and two to a foreign language, and this, when you consider the importance of the studies, is a mere drop in the bucket. The children are not even well grounded in the bare structure of English. They come up from the so-called grammar schools, where it has seemed to me they learn the rules of grammar all morning, and break them all afternoon. We need really an excess of English, for the poor English heard in the manual departments, and bound, I fear, to be heard for some time to come, ought to be effectively offset, or these schools will never take their place as true culture schools. There is in Europe, and notably in Germany, a strong nationalistic element in current educational thought. We have a national spirit here in America, but it is apt to take a bad form, a form well expressed in that street cry familiar to you all—"America for Americans"—a cry, by the way, that is commonly uttered with either a brogue or an accent. But the national spirit that we want to cultivate is something quite different. We do not want national pride so much as we want national interest. This can be done by concentrating attention upon the national life, the national problems, the national literature. Furthermore, by this means we could hope to truly nationalize our very heterogeneous population, and weld it into one nation; not one as against the rest of the world, which is the spirit of the cry "America for Americans," but one nation strong enough and alive enough and good enough to work sturdily with the rest of the world toward that federation of the nations which is the dream of every lover of humanity.
The three hours a week are given to the study of obvious solecisms and crudities, and to the reading of American authors—Burroughs, Emerson, Thoreau, and others. The instruction fails in not giving the boys a command of the mother tongue, and in not arousing them to a sincere national life. It makes a brave attempt to do this, and it only fails for lack of time.
In the matter of foreign languages, much the same thing must be said. At first only modern languages were taught, and many of the schools adhere to that practice. In Baltimore, only German is offered; in Boston, only French; in Philadelphia, it is German or French; in Brooklyn, German or Latin, with a chance for some French later; in St. Louis and in Denver, Latin, German, and French are electives; in Chicago, only Latin is offered, with French the third year; in San Francisco, German, French, and Spanish are elective; and so on. I am quoting at such length from these representative schools both to show how variable the practice is, and also to point out that in the more progressive Western schools the studies are largely elective. The customary thirty periods a week are required, for either three or four years, but each student makes out his own roster, subject to the approval of the head master. Here, again, I think they are much ahead of us. In the older Eastern manual training schools the boys take their German or French but twice a week during the first and second years, and three times a week during the third year, and I am afraid that they come out of the school unable to read or write or speak the language with any degree of practical fluency. The time is too short and too scattered.
In the second year history appears in the curriculum—ancient, mediæval, and modern European history—and with the literature forms a unit course. English as a study does not appear, or else history and English are each given half time, and run through both years.
In the third year three periods are given to United States history, civics, and economics, and two to literature and theme writing. The nationalistic work here is commonly of high grade, but the English is weak, and the whole structure rests upon insufficient foundations.
It remains for me to suggest how the manual training idea, that of learning by doing, is applied to studies apparently so abstract, for undoubtedly the idea does permeate the entire English work. The one effort is to give reality to the instruction and to make it arouse the self-activity of the boys, to have it creative rather than merely assimilative. To carry out this idea, the composition work of the first year is limited to subjects in which the material can not be had from books, but must result from direct personal observation and experience. In the second year the history and the literature are closely correlated, and each lends an interest and reality to the other. For example, when ancient history is being studied, the literature will belong to that period—Plutarch's Lives, or portions of the Iliad, or some of the excellent translations of Greek plays, the Alcestis of Euripides, or the Antigone of Sophocles. Boys are thought not to care for literature, but really they take a keen delight in the more full-blooded sort. They may not care for subtleties of thought, but they do care for action, and they sympathize with the strong primitive passions of the Greek heroes. And it seems to me very wholesome in these cold northern winters of ours to have the boys plunge into the open sunshine, the pure animality, the sincere passion of the Greek world, and return warm and invigorated. Ivanhoe, or Men of Iron, is good collateral reading for mediæval history. I have known a non-book-loving boy to read Men of Iron three times in less than a fortnight. Kingsley's Water Babies is a good breath of the modern spirit. The American work, if I may so call the history, civics, and economics of the third year, is made strong and real by the use of original documents, by local illustrations, and by the study of current social problems. Here, again, it all depends on the man. In the hands of the unimaginative, economics is apt to become a mere effort to formulate social abuses with the idea of justifying them, and the boys get little inspiration out of such dreary work. • The English work is still formal. The boys read Shakespeare and other middle English authors, works that I have come to believe had much better be left until the boys come to them privately and of their own accord.
Let us look now for a moment at the work in mathematics. In the main, it is quite satisfactory, though the bookkeeping seems to me to have little educational value. In the first year, five periods a week, and in the second and third, an average of four, allow a reasonable though not a generous amount of time for what is attempted. The mathematical sequence is not the same in all the schools. The most typical is probably still the older scheme—advanced arithmetic, algebra to quadratics, geometry, advanced algebra, trigonometry, surveying, and bookkeeping. A partial inversion of this scheme would seem to me a better sequence, and I have carried it out in part, with results that confirm this opinion. There are three terms a year, so that we have in all nine terms of thirteen weeks each. I would suggest, then, plane geometry, two terms; elementary algebra, one term; solid geometry, two terms; elementary algebra and advanced arithmetic, one term; algebra, one term; plane trigonometry, one term; and surveying, one term. I would omit the bookkeeping. This sequence is, I think, logically defensible. The main idea in having geometry precede algebra is that the geometry is much more graphic and makes a far more direct appeal to the senses. The geometry may be made the means of the most excellent mental gymnastics if the chalk diagrams are for a time dispensed with and mental diagrams made to take their place. This was suggested, you know, by Herbert Spencer's father. We made the experiment at the Northeast School, and again at Chestnut Hill, and the results were very gratifying. While the putting of arithmetic after geometry and algebra may excite the greater surprise, it is practically the most defensible part of the whole inversion. The most important processes of advanced arithmetic are only explainable on algebraic or geometric grounds. Take, for example, the process of extracting the square or cube root of a number. I do not know of any simple arithmetical explanation of the process. There is only an empirical rule, and this has no educational value. It is a very simple matter, however, when the binomial theorem has been mastered, or it is a very simple problem in solid geometry. The surveying is practical, and is of course limited to the most elementary problems. There are few boys who do not enjoy it, however, and who do not get something of real educational value out of it.
The science work is good, and the sequence has been pretty carefully worked out. It is all laboratory and lecture work, and is made just as practical as possible. Indeed, it might almost be called a department of manual training, so strong is the desire to have the boys learn by doing, and through their own self-activity. During the first year, five periods a week are given to science, the work being in biology and physiography. This part of the work is, however, open to improvement. The present course is logical, and appeals to older minds as an admirable scheme. But boys of fourteen are not logical, and in science they are in too new and untried a field to appreciate the fact that the simple organisms and tissues they study under the microscope are the basis of a more interesting life. A philosophy with coherent, dependent, and interrelated parts, which you remember Mr. Frederic Harrison charged Arnold with lacking, does not make a very far-reaching impression on boys of this age. I believe the important thing is not to attempt to give the children a systematic knowledge of any part of natural history, but rather to arouse in them a keen and affectionate interest in the study of Nature. First impressions count for so much. The boys are just beginning the serious study of science, and it is so important that they should be fired by it, and not for a moment repelled. The cut-and-dried and systematic have their place, but not, I think, in secondary science work. And so I am advocating the seemingly illogical process of beginning at the end instead of at the beginning—of making, in truth, a very open bid for the boyish interest, and starting out with dogs and cats and horses and chickens and pigeons; with trees and flowers and vegetables, in place of lower and, from the childish point of view, less interesting organisms. In the same way, rocks and minerals and ores have more to teach than the more abstract chemical elements. Later, it may be, the work can lead back to the simple forms, and build up a world logical enough to suit Mill. But at present the boy is interested in the big things that he finds in his world, and would much prefer to investigate them. I believe that he is right, and that our elementary science work wants to be more thoroughly superficial, and less superficially thorough. I am not ashamed to recommend a return to the surface of things.
The second year's work in science is devoted to physics—to mechanics, heat, light, and sound. The work here is rich in possibilities, and is limited only by the ingenuity and skill of the teacher. It is work, too, that can be brought into the closest relation with the manual departments. Any number of projects in the way of physical apparatus can be made in wood and metal. The more of the apparatus is home-made and home-devised, the more truly practical and educational is the work. There is also a danger here that the instruction will run too much to measurement, and not enough to the experimental and phenomenal. I put in this word of caution because the teachers are mostly college men, as we want them to be, but men who have been so deeply drilled in laboratory methods of work and thought that they may have come to look upon the entire phenomenal world as somewhat of a divine concession to the vulgar mind. This attitude, I think, is unfortunate educationally.
The third year's work in science is particularly strong. From three to six periods a week in the older schools are given to chemistry, a practical laboratory course in inorganic; and three periods to physics, to the special study of steam and electricity. The tendency at one time was to make the electrical work almost too practical. It grew to be weak from a lack of fundamental instruction. But this tendency is now being corrected, and the work put on a much sounder basis. There are, however, plenty of chances for practical work. The schools all have their own steam engines and dynamos, switchboards and installations of electric lights and bells. There is plenty to be done in running the engine and dynamo, and in repairing and renewing the several installations, as well as in the more strictly quantitative work of the laboratory proper. To an active boy the attractions of electricity are simply irresistible, and this department, which in the early days was known by the too ambitious name of the electrical engineering department, has not only been a source of lively interest, but in no small measure a determining factor in the future career of many of the manual training graduates.
The work in drawing in nearly all the manual training schools is admirable. It continues throughout the three years; five periods a week during the first and second years, and four periods during the third. A little more than half the time is given to mechanical drawing, or, as we prefer to call it, constructive drawing, and the work is in the closest possible relation with the manual departments. The practice is not uniform. In some schools the boys make the drawings for all the articles that they afterward construct in the workshops. This has the manifest advantage of giving reality to the work, and making it continuous and practical. On the other hand, one can draw much faster than one can construct in wood and metal, and many of the projects, being somewhat similar from the draughtsman point of view, do not offer sufficient range of experience to form an ideal course. In many of the schools, therefore, it is growing to be the custom to modify the drawing, giving only a few selected exercises of the manual departments and the special projects, and adding an independent course of drawings chosen because they involve useful problems in draughting, and require the original working out of details. The steam engine is naturally a prolific source of such problems. By giving an outline dimensioned drawing, and then assigning to different boys a specific position of the piston, it is possible to teach not a little mechanics along with the drawing. In the same way the development of curved surfaces in the drawings for the tinsmithing work involves a helpful amount of applied geometry. As a rule, the manual training schools turn out very good draughtsmen. I think this is because the work is so real. Few of the later drawings are mere copies. They have enough in them that is original to require that they shall be understood before they can be made. The free-hand work is no less important. From an evolutionary point of view it is even more important, for it requires greater power and greater concentration, and in developing the aesthetic faculty it makes an even more substantial contribution to life as a fine art. The work is similar to the elementary work of the art schools. It is in touch with the shops in supplying all the designs for the ornamental iron work and for the wood carving, and it includes, on the constructive side, an important part of manual training, and one that I hope to see still more developed in the future, the work in clay modeling.
I have purposely left the consideration of the strictly manual training part of the curriculum—that is, the tool work—to the last, and I have done this that I might make it very clear that the humanistic studies, and the mathematics, and the science, and the drawing are quite as essential a part of the school as the tool work; and also that I might make it very clear, beyond all peradventure and even perhaps at the expense of repetition, that manual training is a scheme of education, a deliberate attempt to shape evolution toward definite social and moral and æsthetic ends, and is very far from being a mere system of hand training. At its best, the school is a practical as well as a philosophic unit. It has one purpose and one method.
The instruction in tool work occupies about one third of the entire time—that is, ten periods a week. In the first year, at the older schools, this is equally divided between wood and metal. In the disposition of the time, the different schools are pretty much agreed. In the details of the work no two schools are alike. All the manual training work is still fluid and experimental; but, to hear some of us talk, you might think that there was something quite fixed and sacred about it all. You have perhaps remarked the very solemn and knowing air that the tailor takes on when he assures you that a certain coat or gown is or is not in style. I never quite believe him; but, nevertheless, I am always impressed that any one should even pretend to have such inscrutable knowledge. It is a little bit the same here.
The wood work during the first year may consist of two terms of joinery and one of turning. It is very attractive work. There is something fresh and sweet about the smell of the wood. It conjures up all sorts of pleasant pictures of sawmills and logging camps, and, though it is a passing pain to remember that the tree has been cut down, if you happen to be a lover of trees, still the wood never seems quite a dead thing. The feeling grows very strong, as you stand in the wood shop, that you would like to stop there and go to work yourself. You remember, perhaps, that Jesus was a carpenter. You recall good Adam Bede and Dinah Morris. You see again the touching little wooden saints and angels on the stalls of the Antwerp Cathedral, and quite before you know it the occupations of the woodworker have become idealized and have passed from labor into joy. It is pleasant, too, to go again from day to day, and, as one term melts into another, to note the growing skill, the quickened intelligence, the greater aliveness on the part of the little workers. At first they are so awkward and helpless; they seem to have so small control over their organisms, and they are half ashamed of their pitiful little efforts. But all this changes. There comes not only skill, but a sense of skill, and a sturdy self-reliance that amuses while it pleases you. They seem to be passing into control of themselves and to know it. They are delightfully unconscious of you, and quite regardless, too, of your criticism, unless indeed it coincide with their own. They soon come to know whether a piece of work is good or not, and are as generous in praising the skill of a neighboring worker as they are frank in ridiculing his failures. I should like to give you an instance of this sturdiness: I had once a very solemn little boy in my science classes, whose delight it was to read Forney's Catechism of the Locomotive. He kept a little notebook in which he entered his difficulties in the form of questions. When he had a sufficient cargo of these, perhaps ten or a dozen, he would come sailing into the lecture room after school and present them one by one. I had answered seven or eight of such questions one afternoon, when we came to some detail of the steam cut-off. I could only answer on general principles, and told him that the answer was a partial one. He looked at me very solemnly and said: "I will take this question to Mr. Whitaker. I think he can answer it better than you can." I was immensely pleased.
But, as I say, the first impression on going into these workshops is not with the work, but with the workers, and I think it is high commendation when in any school you are more taken up with the children than with the process.
The work in joinery mainly involves the use of the saw, plane, chisel, and rule. Hammer and nails, sandpaper, glue, and shellac are taken for granted. The sandpaper and shellac are secondary, and are quite discountenanced if used to cover up defects. The term joinery is well chosen. The work covers all sorts of joints and frames, and joinable and fittable things. The wood turning, I think, is less valuable than the stricter hand work, though it does undoubtedly cultivate an accuracy and delicacy of touch, combined with quickness that might not result from slower operations. It is also possible that the inartistic forms produced by our turning mills and displayed with such prodigality in the construction of cheaper houses does something to prejudice one against the lathe. The forms turned out in the schools are not all beautiful, but they might be. They consist of rings, balls, vases, tumblers, balustrades, dumb-bells, Indian clubs, and the like, and are very sound and true in the matter of workmanship.
The manual work for girls during the first year usually includes joinery and sewing. The homely arts of mending and darning are taught, and also the more scientific processes of draughting patterns and cutting out garments.
The second year's work in wood may cover two terms in pattern making and one in carving. The main tools are the saw, plane, chisel, gouge, lathe, sandpaper, and gluepot. The work in pattern making is wonderfully nice and exact, and makes other wood work seem rough by contrast. Pattern makers as a class know this, and show a becoming appreciation of their own work. They quite look down on less exact workers. I have often wondered that, with their immense skill in wood and varnish, they do not turn to some more profitable and artistic work—such, perhaps, as violin making. The art of Stradivarius and Guarneri and Amati might prove recoverable. The present work in pattern making is very technical, and can not be other than an industrial abstraction, since the patterns are only used for forming the molds into which the molten lead and iron are afterward to be cast.
The wood carving is more human and more artistic. It used to be very elaborate and in very high relief; but this meant that the teacher had to do too much of it. It is now less ambitious and truer. The articles are smaller, and the carving is in lower relief. The so-called chip carving, borrowed from sloyd, has been introduced with advantage. It is effective artistically and is well within the boys' capacity. The regular wood work ends with the second year. In sloyd schools, wood is the material most used, and I think that it will occupy a larger place in the manual training school proper as the educational idea prevails.
The girls, meanwhile, during this second year, have also been taking wood carving, and have been extending their knowledge of sewing by fitting garments as well as cutting them out, by using the machine, and by instruction in the selection of materials.
The work in metal is limited, of course, to the boys. It is more varied and elaborate, and from an Back of them stand the begrimed and impoverished workmen. Tubal-Cain was doubtless a strong man, but he does not greatly touch the imagination. You may think it a fancy, but I can not help believing that the hard and glittering surfaces of the metal exercises have a less humanizing effect than the other manual work. These influences of sound, color, texture, odor, and touch are very subtle, but they are not to be neglected, and particularly in the case of young children. I should therefore like to see the metal work somewhat reduced in amount, and thrown toward the end of the course. Its place could well be taken by work in wood and clay. I am glad to see that this is now being done in the majority of manual training schools, and that no metal work is introduced in the first year. In the early days, the poor little first-year boys used to have three solid terms of vise work, and it was somewhat dreary. Where the elementary metal work is still distributed over the first and second years, care is now taken to make it less monotonous. There may be one or two terms of vise work, one of sheet-metal work, one of molding and casting, one or two of smithing, and one of ornamental iron work. This is still the sequence in Philadelphia, but elsewhere the tendency is to throw the joinery and carving and part of the turning in the first year; the pattern making, molding, and smithing in the second; and to leave the vise work until the last year.point of view also more important. It is not, however, so attractive as the wood work. The noises are more trying—the anvil chorus is only one out of many possible sounds. Nor are the odors of the metals agreeable. The pictures of mine and furnace that they bring up are not pleasant.
The most interesting and important of the metal work is undoubtedly that of the third year, the machine-tool practice and the construction of finished articles in the way of apparatus and machines. In the hands of a scientific man this department can be made to yield very rich results. The instruction may include so much to arouse and awaken a boy and bring reality into life and thought. Here he can learn to interpret mechanical drawings—a large training for the imagination; he can learn the niceties of mechanical construction, and by means of vise work, lathe, drill, planer, and shaper can turn his designs into solid facts in three dimensions; here he can embody scientific principles in suitable forms; can test new plans by carefully constructed models; he can do a hundred things that are useful and helpful, and will bring him into possession of himself. The work does not always take this broad turn, for it requires a very broad man to give it such a turn, but in estimating it, it is proper, I think, to value it for what it may become as well as for what it is.
Meanwhile, the girls have not been idle. They have been deep in the mysteries of cookery and domestic economy—mysteries so deep that I had better leave them to your imagination, for they would require of themselves a long chapter. But it is to be remarked that the occupations of the girls have nearly all of them a distinct practical end rather than a direct educational purpose. But they are defensible, I think, on the same broad grounds that the occupations of the farmer are defensible, that they contribute directly and essentially to the maintenance of life, and, like his, they may be made artistically excellent. Well-dressed men, women, and children, well fed men, women, and children are ethical realities still far in the future. When you remember that we are dressed during the whole period of our social life and that we eat three times every day, eleven hundred times a year (allowing an occasional late supper), it is astonishing that these very human arts have not been brought to greater perfection. So I would not disparage the practical turn that is being given to the girls' education any more than I would disparage the practical arts which minister to distinctly human ends in the culture of the boys. But I do insist, quite as uncompromisingly for the girls as for the boys, that the arts of life are secondary, that the major end is life itself. And I hope to see manual training for girls given such a human and æsthetic turn that it will mean not only more accomplished home makers, but in even a deeper sense more perfect and more charming women.
I have tried to present an adequate picture of the manual training school. One will get a better picture if one will supplement this criticism by a day spent in the school itself.