Trade classes and schools, their importance in the international market—Our dangers and the superiority of German workmen—The effects of a tariff—Description of schools between the kindergarten and the industrial school—Equal salaries for teachers in France—Dangers from machinery—The advantages of life on the old New England farm—Its resemblance to the education we now give negroes and Indians—Its advantage for all-sided muscular development.
We must glance at a few of the best and most typical methods of muscular development, following the order: industrial education, manual training, gymnastics, and play, sports, and games.
Industrial education is now imperative for every nation that would excel in agriculture, manufacture, and trade, not only because of the growing intensity of competition, but because of the decline of the apprentice system and the growing intricacy of processes, requiring only the skill needed for livelihood. Thousands of our youth of late have been diverted from secondary schools to the monotechnic or trade classes now established for horology, glass-work, brick-laying, carpentry, forging, dressmaking, cooking, typesetting, bookbinding, brewing, seamanship, work in leather, rubber, horticulture, gardening, photography, basketry, stock-raising, typewriting, stenography and bookkeeping, elementary commercial training for practical preparation for clerkships, etc. In this work not only is Boston, our most advanced city, as President Pritchett has shown in detail, far behind Berlin, but German workmen and shopmen a slowly taking the best places even in England; and but for a high tariff, which protects our inferiority, the competitive pressure would be still greater. In Germany, especially, this training is far more diversified than here, always being colored if not determined by the prevalent industry of the region and more specialised and helped out by evening and even Sunday classes in the school buildings, and by the still strong apprentice system. Froebelian influence in manual training reaches through the eight school years and is in some respects better than ours in lower grades, but is very rarely coeducational, girls’ work of sewing, knitting, crocheting, weaving, etc., not being considered manual training. There are now over 1,500 schools and workshops in Germany where manual training is taught; twenty-five of these are independent schools. The work really began in 1875 with v. Kass, and is promoted by the great Society for Boys’ Handwork. Much stress is laid on paper and pasteboard work in lower grades, under the influence of Kurufa of Darmstadt. Many objects for illustrating science are made, and one course embraces the Seyner water-wheel.
In France it is made more effective by the equal salaries of teachers everywhere, thus securing better instruction in the country. Adolescence is the golden period for acquiring the skill that comes by practice, so essential in the struggle for survival. In general this kind of motor education is least of all free, but subservient to the tool, machine, process, finished product, or end in view; and to these health and development are subordinated, so that they tend to be ever more narrow and special. The standard here is maximal efficiency of the capacities that earn. It may favor bad habitual attitudes, muscular development of but one part, excessive large or small muscles, involve too much time or effort, unhealthful conditions, etc., but it has the great advantage of utility, which is the mainspring of all industry. In a very few departments and places this training has felt the influence of the arts and crafts movement and has been faintly touched with the inspiration of beauty. While such courses give those who follow them marked advantage over those who do not, they are chiefly utilitarian and do little to mature or unfold the physical powers, and may involve arrest or degeneration.
Where not one but several or many professes are taught, the case is far better. Of all work-schools, a good farm is probably the best for motor development. This is due to its great variety of occupations, healthful conditions, and the incalculable phyletic reënforcement from immemorial times. I have computed some three-score industries as the census now classifies them; that were more or less generally known and practiced sixty years ago in a little township, which not only in this but in other respects has many features of an ideal educational environment for adolescent boys, combining as it does not only physical and industrial, but civil and religious elements in wise proportions and with pedagogic objectivity, and representing the ideal of such a state of intelligent citizen voters as was contemplated by the framers of our Constitution.
Contrast this life with that of a “hand” in a modern shoe factory, who does all day but one of the eighty-one stages or processes from a tanned hide to a finished shoe, or of a man in a shirt shop who is one of thirty-nine, each of whom does as piece-work a single step requiring great exactness, speed, and skill, and who never knows how a whole shirt is made, and we shall see that the present beginning of a revival of interest in muscular development comes none too early. So liberal is muscular education of this kind that its work in somewhat primitive form has been restored and copied many features by many educational institutions for adolescents, of the Abbotsholme type and grade, and several others, whose purpose is to train for primitive conditions of colonial life. Thousands of school gardens have also been lately developed for lower grades, which have given a new impetus to the study of nature. Farm training at its best instills love of country, ruralizes taste, borrows some of its ideals from Goethe’s pedagogic province, and perhaps even from Gilman’s pie-shaped communities, with villages at the center irradiating to farms in all directions. In England, where by the law of primogeniture holdings are large and in few hands, this training has never flourished, as it has greatly in France, where nearly every adult male may own land and a large proportion will come to do so. So of processes. As a student in Germany I took a few lessons each of a bookbinder, a glassblower, a shoemaker, a plumber, and a blacksmith, and here I have learned in a crude way the technique of the gold-beater and old-fashioned broom-maker, etc., none of which come amiss in the laboratory; and I am proud that I can still mow and keep my scythe sharp, chop, plow, milk, churn, make cheese and soap, braid a palm-leaf hat complete, knit, spin and even “put in a piece” in an old-fashioned hand loom, and weave frocking. But thus pride bows low before the pupils of our best institutions for negroes, Indians, and juvenile delinquents, whose training is often in more than a score of industries and who to-day in my judgment receive the best training in the land, if judged by the annual growth in mind, morals, health, physique, ability, and knowledge, all taken together. Instead of seeking soft, ready-made places near home, such education impels to the frontier, to strike out new careers, to start at the bottom and rise by merit, beginning so low that every change must be a rise. Wherever youth thus trained are thrown, they land like a cat on all-fours and are armed cap-à-pie for the struggle of life. Agriculture, manufacture, and commerce are the bases of national prosperity; and on them all professions, institutions, and even culture, are more and more dependent, while the old ideals of mere study and brain-work are fast becoming obsolete. We really retain only the knowledge we apply. We should get up interest in new processes like that of a naturalist in new species. Those who leave school at any age or stage should be best fitted to take up their life work instead of leaving unfitted for it, aimless and discouraged. Instead of dropping out limp and disheartened, we should train “struggle-for-lifeurs,” in Daudet’s phrase, and that betimes, so that the young come back to it not too late for securing the best benefits, after having wasted the years best fitted for it in profitless studies or in the hard school of failure. By such methods many of our flabby, undeveloped, anemic, easy-living city youth would be regenerated in body and spirit. Some of the now oldest, richest, and most famous schools of the world were at first established by charity for poor boys who worked their way, and such institutions have an undreamed-of future. No others so well fit for a life of respectable and successful muscle work, and perhaps this should be central for all at this stage. This diversity of training develops the muscular activities rendered necessary by man’s early development, which were so largely concerned with food, shelter, clothing, making and selling commodities necessary for life, comfort and safety. The natural state of man is not war, hot peace; and perhaps Dawson is right in thinking that three-fourths of man’s physical activities in the past have gone into such vocations. Industry has determined the nature and trend of muscular development; and youth, who have pets, till the soil, build, manufacture, use tools, and master elementary processes and skills, are most truly repeating the history of the race. This, too, lays the best foundation for intellectual careers. The study of pure science, as well as its higher technology, follows rather than precedes this. In the largest sense this is the order of nature, from fundamental and generalized to finer accessory and specialized organs and functions; and such a sequence best weeds out and subordinates automatisms. The age of stress in most of these kinds of training is that of most rapid increment of muscular power, as we have seen in the middle and later teens rather than childhood, as some recent methods have mistakenly assumed; and this prepolytechnic work, wherever and in whatever degree it is possible, is a better adjunct of secondary courses than manual training, the sad fact being that, according to the best estimates, only a fraction of one per cent of those who need this training in this country are now receiving it.
[Footnote 1: The Place of Industrial and Technical Training in Public
Education. Technology Review, January, 1902, vol. 4, pp. 10-37.]
[Footnote 2: See an article by Dr. H.E. Kock, Education, December, 1902, vol. 23, pp. 193-203.]
[Footnote 3: See my Boy Life in a Massachusetts Country Town Forty
Years Ago. Pedagogical Seminary, June, 1906, vol. 13, pp. 192-207.]
[Footnote 4: The Muscular Activities Rendered Necessary by Man’s Early Environment, American Physical Education Review, June, 1902, vol. 7, pp. 80-85.]