Popular Science Monthly/Volume 53/June 1898/The Philosophy of Manual Training I
|THE PHILOSOPHY OF MANUAL TRAINING.|
LECTURER IN HARVARD UNIVERSITY.
IT is said of a well-known American Hegelian and educator that he always starts out with Adam and Eve. The method is thorough, but it gives a long preface. I may seem guilty of the same tendency when in writing about manual training I appear to write about everything else, and very seldom directly about the subject in hand. But this is precisely what I expect to do, and I expect to do it for the sole purpose of throwing light on manual training.
No scheme of education has any serious claim upon our attention unless it is founded upon some rational system of ethics—that is to say, upon some rational view of the proper conduct of life. And the foundations of any acceptable scheme of ethics must be laid deep in the broadest generalization of all, in our philosophy of life.
Education then, is not an inductive but a purely deductive science.
It is true that every primary science, in the course of its historical development, passes through two distinct stages: the stage of induction, in which from the study of special cases we are led to the perception of a general law or principle; and the stage of deduction, in which from this body of general principles we work out a whole series of special and important conclusions. This double course of development is now so well recognized that we are withholding the name of science from those branches of inquiry which have not yet reached the deductive stage. Comte's test of science was the power of prediction. This power comes only when we have such a store of general principles to consult, and can with their help state with confidence just what will happen under any given set of conditions.
Judged by this stricter standard, many of our so-called sciences are only now earning the name. Chemistry is an excellent case in point. Tor many years it was purely inductive. Every new reaction was very properly described as an experiment, for no one knew precisely what would happen. It is still largely experimental. But out of this accumulation of experimental data there are slowly emerging a few general principles which give us the power of limited prediction.
It is the same with physics and the group of studies generally classed as natural sciences. Some of them, such as mineralogy, are hardly sciences as yet, since they allow small deduction. Similarly with the group of studies that may be called the human sciences—sociology and economics. So far as they are primary, they must first be studied in their manifestations, and any general laws wrought out from just such a mass of details.
These remarks are limited to the primary sciences. The distinction between these and what may be called the secondary sciences is of great practical importance. I conceive those to be primary which are, so far as we know, self-founded, and must perforce work out their own laws. The first stage of their development is necessarily inductive, for they have nothing to build upon except direct and immediate experience. And I conceive those sciences to be secondary which receive their laws at second hand, if we may so phrase it, from some more basic science, and simply apply them to a special class of conclusions. Such sciences are necessarily derivative in origin, and must proceed deductively. The present trend of scientific opinion is to recognize but one science, mechanics, as fundamental or primary, and to regard all other sciences as secondary. It does this when it attempts to explain the phenomena of these sciences by referring them to mechanical principles. With the progress of scientific generalization we may look forward to a time when there will be but one theorem in the geometry of Nature, and the separate sciences of to-day—biology, physics, chemistry, sociology, and the rest—will assemble themselves under this theorem as a series of manifest corollaries.
And I may say that such a view, suggested with increasing emphasis by the experimental sciences, is also in harmony with the deepest generalization of a more abstract philosophy, which sees in the universe the operation of but one power. It is also interesting from a metaphysical point of view to notice that of all the concrete sciences, the one chosen as fundamental—mechanics—is just that science which embodies the largest a priori elements with the least possible external elements.
I have said that education is a purely deductive science, and the reason now becomes plain. It is necessarily a secondary science, since it depends, not upon any self-contained principles which may be brought to light by careful inductive reasoning, but solely and entirely upon external considerations—that is to say, upon the social ideals growing out of our accepted ethics and philosophy, and upon the methods which our current psychology suggests as the proper means of realizing those ideals. It is for this reason impossible to study education, and much less any specific scheme of education, such as manual training, at first hand, as a thing in itself. Education can not evolve its own laws, can not be said to have any definitely discernible end and purpose of its own. It is purely a process—a delicate, subtle process by which psychological methods are made use of to attain social ends. In saying this, one does not belittle the function of education; one magnifies it. I should then be treating manual training in a most superficial way, alike unjust to it and to the reader, if I considered it other than I propose to consider it—as a part of a larger plan.
Emerson, and others less inspired than he, have repeatedly pointed out to us how prone we are to mistake the means for the end. And this is nowhere more marked than in education. We start out very badly as students of education when we erect it into an end in itself. It is very far from being an end. It is simply a means, the servant of a higher science, the servant of the social ideal.
I have always cherished a sympathetic interest in the progress of American architecture. It is an interest that survives the years, and I constantly find myself looking at new buildings and at old with half-closed eyes, and through my lashes—which they tell me is a sure sign of the artistic temperament. But, be this as it may, what I see, even with half-closed eyes, does not, in the main, please me. I see a dreary succession of unbeautiful buildings. And I ask myself the cause. The American schools of architecture are admirable. The work done in several of them will bear comparison with the best work done at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and the École des Beaux-Arts is, I believe, the Mecca of all our young architects. And in contemporary architecture it is not boastful, I think, to say that America is abreast of the world. Nowhere in Europe will you find more beautiful modern buildings than the Public Library in Boston, the Madison Square Garden in New York, or the Pennsylvania Station, before it was spoiled, in Philadelphia. And yet the mass of our buildings are hopelessly ugly. Many of these aberrations are due to poor architects, for the profession is not yet limited to men of taste; but for much of the ugliness, and especially the suburban ugliness, we are indebted to that individual known as the architect and builder. I need not enlarge upon his sins. You will, perhaps, see him at his worst in San Francisco, where eleven bay windows are sometimes bestowed upon one small house.
The characteristic of the architect and builder is excess of action and deficiency of thought. He looks so long and so steadily at the mere process of building, at the operation itself, that he quite forgets to ask whether what he builds is beautiful or suitable. He belittles the graver function, the designing. The putting of architect before builder on his signboard is merely for trade purposes. Even excellence of workmanship is no extenuation for such social crimes. No matter how strong and solid and tight an ugly, inconvenient building may be, it remains a social offense, for it has done violence to the higher and essential requirement.
The same criticism must be applied to the schools. They are not admirable simply because they are alert. They may do with rigor and vigor many things that had better be left undone. However well and thoroughly their methods may be carried out, they are a poor thing, after all, if what they create is not beautiful and seemly. Back of the hundreds of builders who put together the Public Library, the Madison Square Garden, the Pennsylvania Station, stand the several true architects in whose hearts and brains these buildings first took shape. Ten million builders could never alone have created so beautiful a result. It was not in them to do it. And as an old lady once said in speaking of her sister-in-law, "You can't get more out of people, my dear, than there is in them"
Back of everything that is noble and beautiful you will find a compelling idea. Back of the five hundred thousand teachers in America, who are to-day fashioning sixteen million young minds into patterns beautiful or grotesque, there should stand the compelling impulse of a high social idea.
The main question in education, indeed, I may say the one question in education, is simply this. What type of men and women do we wish to prevail? What is the social ideal toward which we wish to work? And the one question of method is. What process will produce this type, will realize this ideal?
I need not point out that the question of method can not possibly be answered until the first question is definitely settled. That would be a perfectly useless journey which had no objective point in view. Yet I think it is no exaggeration to say that the very large majority of teachers and school boards have very vague ideas indeed as to where they want the children to be landed when the formal process of education comes to an end. And these ideas are not only vague, but frequently they are contradictory as well, and so the long journey turns out to be aimless.
To attempt to formulate, and particularly to formulate for others, what would be a reasonable ideal of life, is to put one's philosophy to the supreme test. When I look about me on the drama of life—when I look within, upon the drama of my own life—what is it that stands out above the rest as the very necessary and essential thing? What constitutes the most evolved conduct and animates the most evolved people? In putting such basal inquiries as these it may be thought that, like the Hegelian I mentioned, I am going back almost as far as Adam and Eve. But unless one is willing to ask such questions one's speculations will continue to play forever about the surface of all educational problems, and will never strike into the heart of the matter.
In the first place, then, how much of conduct does education cover? The answer is not far to seek. If education be a process for the realization of an ethical ideal, it must have to do with all that part of human action which is touched with morality—that is, with conduct as a whole. And what constitutes conduct? Arnold says that conduct is three fourths of life. Spencer says that it includes all action which involves a purpose. But the ethical teaching of these undoubted masters of ethics may, I think, be profitably extended. A keener scrutiny of cause and effect throws out the fractions and dispenses with the qualifications. Conduct has to do with the whole of life, and education, which has to do with conduct, must have to do with the whole of life. There is no action which is ethically indifl:'erent. Even the bodily functions, the act of breathing, the beating of the heart, the process of digestion, which in health are so automatic that we are quite unconscious of them, are nevertheless the product of knowable conditions, and as such are under the indirect control of the informed spirit.
Whether the breathing be long and deep, bringing with it the power of wholesome, manly action, is a moral question. Whether the pulse beat be strong and steady, sending the blood coursing through the veins and making one the center of a radiant helpful life, is a moral question. Whether the digestive apparatus is doing good work, renewing and refreshing the tissues, is a moral question. Since all these functions are open to modification, they are open to improvement, and the quality of the life dependent on them may be made better or worse. In the last analysis, every act of life, be it bodily or intellectual, is morally significant. Modern man has tasted too deep of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to plead ignorance and hide when the lord Conscience walks through the garden of his spirit in the cool of the evening. I must not linger too long over this idea. But it is a transforming idea. It allows no act of life to be commonplace. It makes every act of life a moral act, and if it be touched with emotion it makes every act of life a religious act. It is a thought to awaken enthusiasm, for it seems to me in a very real sense to transfigure life.
All conduct, all action, is, then, either good or bad; not good or bad abstractly and absolutely, but good or bad with respect to some tangible end. But this relativity must always be kept in mind. A coat is good in winter if it keeps us warm; it is good in summer if it keeps us cool. A shot is a good one if it goes straight to the mark. A machine is a good one if it does the required work. The criterion of the thing seems to lie in this, whether it is well or ill adapted to the end in view. It is precisely the same with conduct. Evolved conduct is marked by a nice adjustment of means to ends.
Now, a thoroughgoing analysis of every scheme of life shows that happiness, whether it be called such with all frankness and sincerity, or whether it be called blessedness, or virtue, or perfection, is in reality the final end. The immediate end must be the means to happiness, and morality, the art of right living, must consist in the realization of these means in the fullest possible measure. But bear in mind that happiness is not self-existent, a bright light shining in the darkness of the unfelt. It is a state of individual consciousness, which results from the gratification of individual desires. You remember what Omar Khayyám says:
"I sent my Soul through, the Invisible,
Some letter of that After-life to spell;
And by and by my Soul returned to me,
And answered, 'I myself am Heaven and Hell.'
Heaven but the Vision of fulfilled desire,
And Hell the shadow of a Soul on fire."
The moral life consists in realizing the utmost attainable measure of happiness, and this, not alone for one's self, but quite as ardently for one's children and one's fellows. It is not a selfish scheme of life, not happiness for one's self and misery for others, but happiness as a universal end. It means fullness of living, the entertaining of manifold desires and interests, and their most complete and rational gratification. It is a divine abandon, rather than a narrow asceticism; extravagance, rather than parsimony. Plato, you may remember, speaks of the world as the product of the divine ungrudgingness. What an unparalleled description, and how pleasant to repeat to one's self in the midst of a commercial age! The human life which most nearly approaches the divine is steeped in this same generosity and openness. We want to drink greedily of this cup of life. We want to press it upon others, for it is good. This is not alone the teaching of modern science. It is, as well, the song of modern verse.
Life in its fullness and totality means much. It means youth, manhood, and old age. It means one day and all days. It means the life of the body, that it shall be clean and sweet and wholesome; it means the life of the intellect, that it shall be keen, inquisitive, receptive, creative; it means the life of the emotions, that they shall be strong and deep and human.
These needs of the complete man, these needs of the body, of the mind, of the heart, must be recognized and gratified if life in its fullness and totality is to be realized. Human nature is many-sided, and in this consist its charm and its promise.!Not one of its many sides may be neglected. As Spencer puts it, "The performance of every function is in a sense a moral obligation" The social ideal which philosophy and ethics press upon us is not that of an economical community, but rather that of a community touched with the divine ungrudgingness, a community made up of men and women of large needs, large appetites, large hearts, large capacities for receiving and giving pleasure, and in addition equally large opportunities for gratifying to the full these many sides of an enriched human nature.
Do you realize that to-day nine tenths of our people, perhaps more, are leading starved lives, and the pity of it is that they don't even know that they are starved? It is the mission of social culture to arouse these benumbed spirits, to set them on fire with the vision of the complete life, to quicken the social conscience so that it shall not rest content until these, our brothers and sisters, shall have drunk to the full of the riches and glory of life. The social ideal of philosophy and ethics has little to do with the economic law of supply and demand, and much to do with the human law of need and fulfillment. To accomplish this end, to open to each soul the fullest life of which that soul is capable, is manifestly the social purpose of which education is the formal process.
In deciding upon the type man and woman we wish to have prevail, we assuredly stand at the parting of the ways. The more definite and concrete ends appeal to practical minds, because they seem the more attainable. But if, my friends, a careful analysis of life shows—and I am sure that it does show—that these ends are not the major ends, it is surely a poor victory to compass them and to leave the major ends unessayed.
We stand to-day in the midst of much educational activity. We see a great deal of dull, routine work, but we also see many new departures, teachers with their own particular methods and special ends. I should be the last to disparage this attempt at originality, for out of it in the end some good will come. But when I look upon it, and upon its first harvests, I am constantly reminded of some wise words of Arnold's—words to the effect that not alone must we live up to the light that is in us, but as well must we see to it that the light be not darkness. These are simple, homely words, but if they once lay hold upon your spirit, they have a compelling force that is imperative.
It is not uncharitable, I think, to say that much of this educational activity is one-sided. Analyze it for a moment. Here is a man who has looked so long and so steadily upon the function of government that he has lost all sense of proportion. The giant apparition of the State has obscured the other sides of life, and has come to occupy the whole field of vision. He sees in men only citizens, and in children only possible citizens. The one study is civics, and education groups itself around that. Here is another man, upon whom the bread-and-butter study has made a too deep impression. When he reflects upon life, the pale and haggard faces of the poor stare at him, and their thin and ragged garments flutter in the wind of his imagination. In the rich city of ]!^ew York a woman died of hunger. It is horrible. The daily loaf stands out in large dimensions and obscures the rest of life. The one study becomes for him the bread-and-butter study, and education gives place to industrial training. Here is still another man who has busied himself with questions of rent and wages, profit and loss, currency and land, free trade and protection, until these tools of social life become for him the life itself, and the great issue—it seems a sacrilege to say it—• is plainly economic. And another, who sees in trade and shopkeeping the blood of life, and would make arithmetic and bookkeeping and business practice the food of children. Or another, who is impressed with numbers, and who believes that New York and Chicago are great cities because of their millions of people. To him children are socially interesting as future mothers and fathers. His cry is the vainest of all. It is the race. Nor should I omit in even so partial a survey that large group of men and women who rightly hold the achievements of the human spirit to be very precious, but who see, unfortunately, in the vehicle which brings these records from the past into the present—that is to say, in language—a thing as worshipful as the achievements themselves. Are we to forget that Thucydides and Zenophon were soldiers, that Goethe was a chancellor, and Shakespeare an actor; that all the men and women who have reported the spirit worthily have been men and women who have tasted life, and have had something to report? Are we to forget that in the age of Pericles, that flowering time of the human spirit, there was but one language held worthy of study—the native tongue? To look too steadily upon the vehicle of thought and erect that into an end is to make no less grave a mistake than was made in the other partial ends that we have examined and rejected.
But it is un-Froebelian and unphilosophic to dwell too long upon the negative side of things. The materials of life are positive. I have had a purpose, however, in stopping so long among these negations. I have wanted to make it very clear that these ends are partial and fragmentary, and quite unworthy of those who seek the highest good. If one still believes that citizenship, or industrialism, or economics, or trade, or parenthood, or language, is a defensible end of education, it will be difficult to concentrate the interest upon a worthier image.
It is not idle to let one's imagination and one's love play about this image of the complete man, to picture him in all his beauty of body, of intellect, and of heart, for it is only by thus entertaining this conception and making it thoroughly our own that we shall ever have it prevail, and ever have the educational process conform to this as its ideal product.
It is perhaps convenient for purposes of study to consider man in the threefold aspect of body, intellect, and heart. But the division is not true to Nature, and if it blinds us to the essential unity of man, it is an expensive convenience that we had much better do without. The common conception of his nature is dualistic. He is body and spirit, or he is body and soul. This conception, which from an educational point of view, is certainly unfortunate, is founded upon the current dualistic philosophy, which discerns a universe made of mind and matter. Even more particularly is it founded upon that theological dualism which makes the spirit and the body the most unhappy of partners, forever at warfare, and each defeating the other's best interests. It is a philosophy whose logical extreme is asceticism, and would land us all, like poor Simon Stylites, on top of a pillar of useless renunciation. It would lead us to miserably dwarf our natures instead of gloriously expanding them. This bloodless philosophy is deeply instilled into us all, for it has been a part of our creed for many generations back. Even now, I find myself and probably many of you do the same—when taken unawares, deciding that the disagreeable thing must be the right thing, and simply because it is disagreeable. The Jonathan Edwards in those of us who have inherited both the riches and the poverty of the New England blood is very apt to speak out and commit us to many such immoralities.
This dualistic philosophy is the very opposite of the philosophy involved in manual training, and in the new education generally. The systems of education founded upon dualism must seem to us false and irreverent. The truer conception of life is monistic. It dwells not upon the shadows and the cold and the evil of life, the subjective demons of negation, but upon the brightness and warmth and goodness of life, upon the joy and sunshine and beauty of Nature. This is the positive material out of which we are to construct our world. And this vivifying, beautiful spirit comes to us not from Edwards and Calvin, but from men like Emerson and Froebel, men who believed in righteousness rather than sin, in light rather than darkness, in heat rather than cold.
Our image of the complete man is, then, the image of a unit, of an organic whole, and the educational process, whose sole function is to expand and develop and perfect this organism, must address itself to the whole task, and must deal with man as a unit, with his emotional, physical life as well as his intellectual life. And here, observe, we do not say that it is desirable to do this—we say that it is necessary. A modern educational scheme founded on dualism might profess that it were good to have a sound body and a warm heart as well as an evolved intellect, and might even work with some degree of intelligence and success toward the solution of the double problem. But the weakness lies in this, that the least pressure, a lack of time or equipment or power, and some selection is bound to be made, under the belief that one part of the problem may be solved apart from the others. It is impossible. It is quite impossible. Concentrate all effort upon the body, and we have an athlete who turns out to have not even good health. Concentrate all effort on the emotions, and we have a sentimentalist, who is neither loving nor lovable. Concentrate all effort on the intellect, and we have that sorry creature, the pedant, who does not even know.
Development must be continuous, and must proceed step by step. And this, let me repeat, not merely because it is desirable to have sound bodies, and warm hearts, and evolved intellects, but because they depend upon one another, and can not be separated. I conceive this unity of man to be the very basis of the new education. It is certainly the foundation of all we do in manual training. It is, therefore, a principle which invites the closest scrutiny. If this philosophy be true, if this doctrine of ethics be sound, if man is so essentially a unit, if his happiness and welfare are the business of morality, then we can not escape the conclusion that any scheme of education, to be a true scheme, must have its foundations laid deep in such a doctrine of ethics and such a philosophy of life. But if these be false, if between mind and matter there is eternal warfare, if the conflict between Ormuzd and Ahriman is to go on forever in the human soul; if duty consists in a daily death, in the ceaseless thwarting of one's nature, in self-sacrifice in place of self-realization; if Satan be the reality that God is, then I believe that the new education is a sad mistake, a thing quite false, and that I could render best service by presenting manual training pathologically as a thing to be known in order to be avoided.
In thus seeking the philosophy of the new education, we assuredly stand at the parting of the ways. It is useless to blink the fact. Indeed, it is worse; it is cowardly. Let us frankly admit it—everything is involved. When you scrutinize your educational creed, you scrutinize your religious creed, your ethical creed, and your social creed as well. And until there is harmony among these, until your religion and your ethics and your sociology have been settled upon some rational basis, it is impossible for your education to be other than a poor makeshift thing, like the work of the architect and builder, showing an excess of action and a deficiency of thought.
Until one makes such a thoroughgoing examination of one's fundamental beliefs and reaches some degree of consistency, one can not teach one's self, one can not direct the teaching work of others. One can go through the emotions of teaching and can do infinite harm. Do you remember the story of the man who led the little ones astray, and the sad comment on his life—it were better that a millstone had been hanged about his neck and he had been drowned in the depths of the sea? It would be horrible in the end to feel that these words applied to us. If you have not the time to make such an examination, or, having attempted it, if you have not been able to reach any broad and human philosophy of life, it were better not to teach; it were better not to concern yourself with education; it were better, like Thoreau, to go to raising beans, for this at least you can do honestly. How can you hope to renovate others until you have renovated yourself?
As I see the matter, then, the philosophy of manual training, and of the new education generally, is plainly monistic. It sees in man not body and mind, with independent powers of action, and astonishing possibilities for conflict, but the contrary, a unit organism, with thinking and feeling among its essential characteristics quite as much as extension and impenetrability. And this organism is a sensitive one, responding to the stress and strain of desire and emotion, quite as readily as to mechanical forces, to the push and pull of bodily contact. What affects one aspect of this organism affects the other. If you touch the body you touch the spirit. If you touch the spirit you touch the body. One reacts on the other. The unfolding and perfecting of the human spirit is the object of manual training, as it is of all education.
This view of man, of unit man, offers a new avenue of approach to the spirit. Every good thought strengthens and vitalizes the body. Every wholesome exercise of the body invigorates the spirit. The action of each is carried out in terms of the other. See how wonderfully true this is. Each conscious act of the outer bodily life is first rehearsed in the inner thought life. If you stir, you do it first in thought. If you go on a journey, you go first in thought. If you build a house, you build it first in thought. If you work in your garden, you do it first in thought. An idea precedes each conscious act, is indeed the father of the act, the essential part of it. But the converse is just as true. The drama of the inner life would be quite impossible without the imagery and symbolism of the bodily life. Imagine, if you can, a formless, immaterial world, and then try to think. There would be no terms in which to think, and nothing to think about. It would be complete cessation of being. Thought is not carried out in terms of thought, but in terms of things. It is as dependent upon these as bodily action is dependent upon thought.
Regard for a moment the interaction between this inner and outer world. Every bodily experience affects one or more of the sense organs, and sends one or many impulses along the nerves to that central receiving station, the brain. And here something very wonderful takes place, something so wonderful that we have no explanation for it in the whole realm of empirical science. The nerve current setting in from the outer world to the inner world of the brain manifests itself there as a fact of consciousness, a sensation. All we know about it is that these impulses taken together produce that stream of thought which is the drama of existence. The richer and more varied these impulses or sensations, the richer and more varied the stream of thought. With meager sensation comes meager thought. We must cut the coat according to the cloth. This perceptual knowledge, this report of the senses is the only thing that comes to us, and out of it we build our entire world. Reflection and reason make use of this material, but they can add nothing to its original content. It is impossible to overestimate the importance of having the senses alert and keen that they may report the outer world accurately. It is impossible to overestimate the importance of giving the senses much to operate upon, the largest possible field that they may report the outer world fully. We want for the complete life, the fullest and most accurate perceptual knowledge, and we can only get this through the activity and training of the senses. The application in education is obvious. This is what constitutes the great difference in environment, and makes one favorable to growth and another unfavorable. A keen tool with nothing to work upon, a dull tool with a wealth of material, can neither of them turn out much of value.
We please ourselves by saying that experience is the best teacher, that the world is the best schoolhouse, that travel is the best education. But in reality we prevent experience, we shut out the world, we disallow travel. We ask children to reason and reflect about a world that they do not yet know. Surely this is unphilosophic. We give them small perceptual knowledge—mainly what they get on holidays and when they play truant—and spend nearly all our time in attempting to build larger logical structures than we have the material for—bricks without straw. It is this that makes the school teacher's life hard. It is not working with the children. The children are the most lovable and interesting part of creation. It is in attempting impossible tasks. It is a very large part of the philosophy of manual training that the senses shall be alert and keen—good tools; that the brain shall be well developed and active—a good workman; that the store of perceptual knowledge shall be full and accurate—good material to work upon. And it seems to me that we have here a recognition of cause and effect that is not only in the highest degree logical, but is also far ahead of the position taken by any other scheme of education.
Furthermore, it is very evident that not only is every bodily act preceded by a mental act, but if it produce a new sensation is followed as well by a distinct mental reaction. The circulation is complete. If we arrange a series of bodily acts, we bring about a corresponding series of mental reactions, and if we arrange the bodily acts with sufficient cleverness, we bring about a series of mental reactions of high educational value. This is what manual training attempts to do—to utilize this newly apprehended avenue of approach to the spirit. It arranges a series of bodily acts, for the most part having to do with the hand and eye, and does so simply and solely for the sake of the mental reactions that follow upon these acts. While the term manual training is roughly descriptive of the outer fact, you will notice that the real purpose and essence of the training are mental.
I need not point out the evolutionary significance of such a training. If we accept evolution, if we believe that man is the reaction of the world environment on the human spirit, we will not be slow to seize upon the thought that it is now possible to direct this reaction and so make evolution a conscious process. Do you see that manual training attempts to do precisely this thing—to create a definite bodily environment in order to bring about definite spiritual results? Nor need I point out again how absolutely such a scheme is dependent for its justification upon our philosophy, how utterly false it must be if the spirit of man is one thing and his body another.
But the end of evolution is a moral end, and education, evolution made conscious, is also moral. The series of mental reactions brought about by the succession of bodily acts undertaken by manual training has a definite moral end. If the most evolved conduct is, as we have tried to show that it is, that which leads to the fullest measure of happiness for one's self and for one's fellows, and if morality, the art of right living, or right conduct, consists in the realization of the means of happiness, the end of the educational process is no less clear. It must be an attempt to lead man out of a narrow existence, poor in experience, in sensation, in thought, in feeling—poor, that is to say, in happiness—into a broader and more complete life, rich where the other is poor, rich in experience, in sensation, in thought, in feeling; that is to say, rich in happiness. Now, manual training is just such an attempt, and it has just such a warm, human end. It is an attempt through a succession of bodily acts to bring about a series of mental reactions of a definite, happiness-producing kind.
The exercise of every faculty short of the point of fatigue brings a strengthening of that faculty. Every demand upon the skill, judgment, and accuracy means a building up of those qualities, and this increase of power brings an increase of interest. We like to do what we do well. It is this development of a many-sided interest that enriches life and makes each day a welcome experience. It is loss of interest that makes the tragedy of old age. What a spiritual abyss is represented by the men and women who are killing time! The mental reactions of well-planned bodily work make for power, and for that power which leads to the complete full measure of life. Not only is the instrument itself, the brain, made more sensitive by this play of activity, but its power has more to work upon. An enlarged world of experience and sensation makes possible an enlarged world of thought. The effect is cumulative.
Manual training, believe me, is not practically or theoretically a scheme to merely train the hands, to make boys useful about the house, to supply the world with artisans, to take the place of a dead apprentice system, or to meet in education the demands of an industrial age. It has no such special and technical end. Its true end is the major end, the attainment of the complete life, the unfolding and the perfecting of the human spirit; and this end it proposes to gain by recognizing to the full the principle of cause and effect, and by setting into operation agencies adequate to bring about such large results. These agencies are organic. They have to do with the person of the child. Such work can not be exterior. It must be done in the blood and the tissue. It means literally a change of structure, a new birth, a refining and sensitizing of the organism, a nicer adjustment of the bodily powers. It is only by such thoroughgoing practical work that the process of education can be carried out and the ethical ideal realized.
Nor must we forget that while this ethical ideal has to do solely with the individual, it has equally to do with every individual, and so becomes a social ideal. The full measure of life and happiness which we have in mind as the educational goal can only be attained when each individual life is full to the brim. But the results are never mass results. They are purely individual results. There are moments in life—moments to be remembered—when a whole group of men is stirred by a common sentiment, joy or sorrow, fear or anger, applause or condemnation, and one seems to feel the pulse beat of the whole, and to stand in the presence of something larger and more beautiful than the individual life. But this social organism, of which we seem to catch a glimpse, is at best a mirage, and when followed leads one further and further into the desert. It is true that the mass results which make this vivid appeal to the imagination are due to the multitude of men, but their quality, the thing that gave them value, is inseparable from the individual. The new education has always in mind this large social ideal, but it is a practical process and must proceed individually. It gains the social end by the very emphasis it places on individuality. The complete man, strong in his bodily powers, keen in his intellect, warm in his affections, sees in his own personality something very beautiful and very sacred, and comes increasingly to respect the personality of others.
I have tried to present the philosophy of manual training. Let me sum it up. It rests upon a belief in the unity of man. It creates a definite environment for the bringing about of definite moral and æsthetic results. It has for its ethical ideal the complete life of the individual. It has for its social ideal the complete life of every individual. In a word, it is monistic, evolutionary, individualistic, social. Believe me, it is a human movement, directed to human ends, and warm with the best sentiment and best aspiration of the human heart.