TT167 Prosser, Charles Allen
B7P7 Study of the Boston
1915 Mechanic Arts High
A Study of the Boston Mechanic
Arts High School
Being a Report to the Boston School Committee
C. A. PROSSER
SECRETARY, NATIONAL SOCIETY FOR THE PROMOTION OF
SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS
FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
IN THE FACULTY OF PHILOSOPHY,
(Uollrgp, (Eolurnhia Itttiurraitu
NEW YORK CITY
A Study of the Boston Mechanic
Arts High School
Being a Report to the Boston School Committee
jfc. A. PROSSER)
SECRETARY, NATIONAL SOCIETY FOR THE PROMOTION OP
SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS
FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
IN THE FACULTY OF PHILOSOPHY,
u/rurlirrn (Cnllritr. Columbia Ituturnutu
NEW YORK CITY
Copyright, 1915, by C. A. Prosser
FINDINGS IN BRIEF 8
I. WHAT is THE PURPOSE OP THE SCHOOL AS DEFINED BY THE SCHOOL
II. HOW FAR DOES THE AIM OF THE SCHOOL AGREE WITH THAT OF THE
SCHOOL COMMITTEE? 19
III. HOW FAR IS THE SCHOOL REACHING BOYS WHO DESIRE PREPARATION
FOR INDUSTRIAL CAREERS? 23
IV. IS THE SCHOOL GIVING THE KIND OF TRAINING WHICH THE AIM OF
THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE REQUIRES? 28
V. HOW FAR DOES THE SCHOOL SUCCEED IN PLACING ITS PUPILS IN
THE KIND OF INDUSTRIAL EMPLOYMENT INTENDED BY THE AIM
OF THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE? 47
VI. CAN THE M. A. H. S. SERVE AS A PREPARATORY SCHOOL FOR THE
THE ENGINEERING COLLEGE AND AT THE SAME TIME REALIZE THE
AIM OF THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE? 48
VII. IS THE PER CAPITA COST OF THE SCHOOL SUCH AS WILL REALIZE THE
AIM OF THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE? 50
VIII. Is THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE SCHOOL SUCH AS TO PROMISE A
REALIZATION OF THE AIM OF THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE? 54
1. As TO METHODS OF FINDING THE GROUP 59
2. As TO THE TRAINING TO BE GIVEN 61
3. AS TO EMPLOYMENT AND VOCATIONAL GUIDANCE 62
4. AS TO EQUIPMENT 64
5. AS TO PART-TIME INSTRUCTION 65
A. THE MECHANIC ARTS HIGH SCHOOL AS A PREPARATORY SCHOOL FOR
THE TECHNICAL COLLEGE 69
B. SUGGESTIONS CONCERNING THE COURSE OF STUDY 73
C. SUGGESTIONS CONCERNING METHODS OF INSTRUCTION 81
D. SUGGESTIONS AS TO IMMEDIATE CHANGES IN THE SCHOOL 82
E. ANSWERS OF THE HEADMASTER TO THE QUESTIONAIRE WITHIN THE
F. TABLES SHOWING OCCUPATIONS OF GRADUATES OF THE MECHANIC
ARTS HIGH SCHOOL. . . . 106
G. TABLE GIVING COMPARISON OP OCCUPATIONS OF GRADUATES OP THE
MECHANIC ARTS HIGH SCHOOL 108
H. SUGGESTIONS AS TO DEVICES IN GETTING HOLD OF PUPILS DESIRING
TO BE TRAINED TO BE INDUSTRIAL CADETS 109
I. COMPARATIVE PER CAPITA COST OF MAINTENANCE OF VARIOUS
BOSTON HIGH SCHOOLS AND VOCATIONAL SCHOOLS Ill
J. TABLE SHOWING PUPILS' INTENTION CONCERNING COLLEGE 112
K. POSITION FOR WHICH GRADUATES OF THE MECHANIC ARTS HIGH
SCHOOL OF BOSTON SHOULD BE PROPERLY FITTED 112
L. QUESTIONS SUBMITTED TO THE HEADMASTER OF THE MECHANIC
ARTS HIGH SCHOOL AND ANSWERED BY HIM IN APPENDIX E 118
A STUDY OF THE BOSTON MECHANIC ARTS
1. Reasons for the report. This report presents the results of
a study of the Mechanic Arts High School undertaken at the
request of the Boston School Committee. Its aim has been to
determine to what extent the school is effectively performing in
the school system the purpose intended by the committee of
preparing boys for advantageous entrance to industry on the
business and directive side. With the wisdom of that purpose
this report has nothing to do.
Owing largely to the rapid development of industrial educa-
tion in Massachusetts during the past few years and a changing
conception of the purpose and place of manual training, the
aim of the Mechanic Arts High School has of late frequently
been called in question and several investigations have been
made with a view to determining just what kind of service the
school ought to render the city of Boston and how that service
can best be performed. The first of these studies was made
by Mr. Arthur L. Williston, director of Wentworth Institute,
and the second by the business men's advisory committee for the
school, consisting of Messrs. Fish, Alexander, Burton, Lindall,
Green, Ziegler, Russell, and Kaven. The findings and recom-
mendations of this present report are compared with those of
the two previous studies.
2. Scope of the report. This report is concerned with these
two questions: (1) How far is the school now effectively accom-
plishing the purpose of the school committee, and (2) what
changes, if any, should be made in the work of the school in order
that it may better accomplish this purpose.
3. Spirit of the report. It should be understood at the out-
set that this investigation has been undertaken in no hostile
6 A Study of the Boston Mechanic Arts High School
spirit and that this report is not intended as an indictment of
the headmaster and the faculty of the school, or a criticism in
general of their efficiency.
The Mechanic Arts High School was organized in 1892 as a
manual training high school. An early report of the committee
in charge of the school indicates that they believed it should be
a fundamental purpose of the institution to serve as a high school
offering systematic instruction in the mechanic arts and draw-
ing, and that preparation for the engineering college was also
a legitimate part of its work. This policy has been consistently
followed since the founding of the school and until recent years
has had the approval of the sub-committee in charge of it, as
well as that of the executive officers of the school committee
responsible for its supervision.
In agreement with this policy, the headmaster and his as-
sociates have built up a school which has stood in the front
rank of similar institutions throughout the country. Few
schools can show among their teachers a better esprit de corps
or, on the part of their pupils, a finer spirit of manliness and
studious attention to work. Few schools, indeed, possess in-
structors of greater teaching ability or more sympathetic under-
standing of adolescent boys. Abundant credit should be given
those charged with the administration of the school for the wis-
dom, the skill, the large executive ability, and the incessant
labor necessary to develop such an institution.
In recent years, however, the School Committee has adopted
a change of policy for this school. It is with the administration
and development of the institution in the light of this new
policy that this report is primarily concerned.
4. Method of the report. In making this study, the Boston
School Committee, as the final authority, was asked to state the
purpose it wished the school to accomplish. The effort has
been made to test the school by this aim. To a very large
extent, the study has relied upon the headmaster for information.
This information he has always been very ready to furnish and
the findings given herein are largely based on data obtained
from this source and included in the Appendix of this report.
(See Appendix E.) The thanks of the writer are due the head-
master for his kindness and courtesy in giving his assistance in
this manner. The data from the school office were supplemented
by a number of visits to the school and conferences with the
members of the faculty. The records of the Boston School
Committee, the reports of the Mechanic Arts High School and
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and answers to
printed questions by students both of the English High School
and the Mechanic Arts High School, have also been drawn upon
Grateful acknowledgment is here made of the exceedingly
valuable information and helpful suggestions contributed by a
number of persons, particularly by Mr. Arthur Williston, direc-
tor of Wentworth Institute, and for the active and able assistance
of Mr. W. A. O'Leary, director of Evening Training Classes
for Teachers at Pratt Institute, in the preparation of this re-
FINDINGS IN BRIEF
1. The aim of the Boston School Committee for the school is, as
has been stated, the preparation of boys for advantageous en-
trance into industry on the business and directive side. The
Committee has said it is not the function of the school to pre-
pare for the engineering college. 1
2. The aim of the school itself seems to be at variance with that
of the School Committee. This is indicated by the published
reports of the school setting forth the aim of the course of study,
the course of study itself, the statements of the headmaster,
the text-books used, the type of examination given, and the
character of the instruction. Instead of aiming to prepare boys
for advantageous entrance into industry on completing the high
school course, there is every evidence that the controlling aim
of the school is to give boys general education and to fit them
to enter the engineering college.
3. Some of the students of the school wish to be prepared for
industrial careers of the kind contemplated by the school com-
mittee. Evidence of this is found in the fact that less than
15 per cent go to higher institutions, and that a fair percentage
appear to go into some form of industrial work.
4. No attempt is made to select boys who wish to be trained in
accordance with the stated aim of the school committee. There is
no organized method of reaching such boys or bringing the
school to their attention and no attempt is made either at or
before the time of entrance to determine a pupil's purpose in
selecting the school or his fitness to take the special training it
is expected to offer.
5. The course of study is not the right kind to give the training
desired by the school committee. It is too abstract and too far
removed from the practical experiences the pupil will meet
1 Throughout this discussion the term engineering college will be used to mean &
school of college grade, like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or the Wor-
cester Polytechnic Institute, offering instruction in engineering branches. The term
will be used as synonymous with the expressions: the technical school or college,
the higher scientific school, and the higher technical school.
Findings in Brief 9
when he goes into industry. The academic part of the course
is essentially the same as that of any general high school.
6. The kind of instruction is not that required to prepare boys
for industry. The shops are largely organized on an exercise
basis and the instruction throughout the school, principally
owing to the lack of correlation between shop and classroom,
is not sufficiently practical.
7. The classes are much too large for efficient work. This is
especially true in the shops. To a certain extent large classes
appear to have been a conscious policy of the school in the ef-
fort to keep down the cost of instruction.
8. The majority of the instructors of the school are well qualified
to give the kind of instruction required by the aim of the school
committee. Many of them have a large asset of practical
experience which the school is not now utilizing to best advan-
tage. A few are not equipped to train boys for industrial pur-
suits and probably cannot acquire the necessary qualifications.
9. The shops and equipment of the school are in the main ad-
mirably adapted to training boys in accordance with the aim of
the committee. The shops, however, are too crowded and the
shop equipment is not sufficiently varied. Some of the equip-
ment necessary for efficient instruction in printing and the
application of power in industry is lacking.
10. The school is not necessary as a preparatory school for the
engineering college. The English High School is preparing nearly
as many pupils for the engineering college and appears to be
doing it at least as well and probably better than the Mechanic
Arts High School.
11. The school fails to meet the needs of the 85 per cent of its
pupils who do not go to the engineering college, because it serves
primarily the interests of the 15 per cent of its pupils who do.
12. The headmaster is evidently not in agreement with the
School Committee regarding the purpose of the school.
SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS
This report makes the recommendations that:
(1) No changes of any kind be put into effect before Septem-
(2) All classes now in school be allowed to graduate on the
10 A Study of the Boston Mechanic Arts High School.
(3) All changes be made gradually beginning with the class
(4) The school gradually abandon all attempt to fit for the
engineering college and confine its instruction to preparing boys
for industry in accordance with the aim of the school committee
(5) The course of study be immediately reorganized for the
first year, according to the suggestion given in Appendix D and
be put into effect in September, 1914.
(6) The whole course be gradually reconstructed according
to the suggestions given herein.
(7) Such subjects as foreign languages, general science, and
general mathematics, which belong to the field of general edu-
cation or of college preparation, be eliminated from the course.
(8) Suitable agencies be established for finding and selecting
boys who wish to be trained for industrial careers and who have
the right kind of interest and ability.
(9) The shops be organized on a commercial basis.
(10) Instruction in the shop, the classroom, and the labora-
tories be more closely correlated with each other.
(11) The customary use of text-books be largely discarded
and the materials for instruction be gathered from such sources
as the school shops, outside plants, and trade literature. Ex-
perience goes to show that instruction, when given by highly
competent teachers, can be worked out much more pedagogically
without the conventional use of the usual text-book which should
serve as reference rather than as lesson plan.
(12) Visitation to industrial plants and lectures by business
men and experts from outside plants be included in the instruc-
(13) All instructors be required to have some industrial
experience as a qualification for service and those who do not
have such contact or cannot acquire it be gradually transferred
to other high schools and replaced by those who do possess such
(14) Varied equipment, as described later, be added to the
(15) The school day be lengthened to 7 hours for the class
of 1918, of which not less than six shall be given to actual in-
Findings in Brief 11
(16) The number of pupils in shop classes be reduced to not
more than 28 to each teacher.
(17) Shop work be required of every pupil throughout the
(18) A placement bureau, in charge of a vocational counselor,
(19) The course be so arranged that boys may elect drafting
during the last year, or may specialize in some one industrial field.
(20) Boys who discover after entering the school that they
wish to prepare for the engineering college be transferred to some
other high school, and it be the duty of a special vocational
guidance committee to advise concerning such transfers and
see that they are made to best advantage.
(21) Part-time courses of instruction be established which
will enable the school to place its students on actual industrial
work, while taking training for a portion of their time in the
classroom, and which will enable those who have gone to work
to secure through the school the further preparation they need
POINTS OF AGREEMENT WITH THE FINDINGS REGARDING EX-
ISTING CONDITIONS DESCRIBED BY PREVIOUS REPORTS
The findings of this report agree with those of Mr. Arthur Wil-
liston made in a previous report in every main condition, and
especially in the following particulars:
(1) No adequate system is maintained for selecting boys for
admission to the school.
(2) Preparation for the engineering college is the controlling
aim of the instruction.
(3) Mechanical branches taught do not furnish adequate
(4) The small per cent of pupils who go on to higher institu-
tions of learning can be cared for in other high schools.
(5) The teaching of many subjects, such as physics and
mathematics, is too academic.
(6) Shop work is not sufficiently practical in character.
(7) There is a lack of correlation between the work of shops
(8) English is well taught.
An exception should be noted In the case of the elective course In drafting In the
senior year. (See p. 32.)
12 A Study of the Boston Mechanic Arts High School
(9) History is not sufficiently industrial in character.
(10) Classes are too large.
(11) Shop instructors are required to teach too many periods.
(12) Cost of instruction is abnormally low.
(13) The English High School offers better preparation for
the engineering college than does the Mechanic Arts High School.
(14) The equipment is inadequate to train for industry in a
POINTS OF AGREEMENT WITH THE RECOMMENDATIONS FOB
CHANGES MADE BY PREVIOUS REPORTS
This report agrees with the reports of Mr. Williston and of the
Business Men's Advisory Board in regard to the following recom-
(1) Systematic plans should be put into effect for reaching
the right group of pupils.
(2) Only those qualified to profit by industrial training should
be admitted to the school.
(3) The school should give up all attempt to prepare for the
(4) The school should aim to prepare boys for industrial
(5) All instruction in foreign languages should be omitted.
(6) Work in pure mathematics should be reduced and instruc-
tion both in science and mathematics should be specialized.
(7) Shop work should be prescribed for everybody through-
out the course.
(8) There should be some latitude in the choice of course in
the fourth year.
(9) Classes should be reduced in size.
(10) The school day should be lengthened.
(11) A placement bureau should be established.
(12) Records should be kept of the boys' experience and suc-
cess in the industry after graduating from school.
(13) More shop space should be provided.
(14) The equipment of the shops and laboratories should be
so far as possible such as would be found in the shops, tool
rooms, and testing rooms of commercial plants.
(15) Arrangements should be made for the transfer of misfit
pupils from the Mechanic Arts High School to other schools.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE SCHOOL AS DEFINED
BY THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE?
1. Purpose of the school as stated by the Committee. The
School Committee, in instituting a change of policy, has officially
stated the purpose of the school to be "the preparation of non-
commissioned officers of industry." 1
2. The term "non-commissioned officer," as just stated, is here
used to mean a subordinate executive or assistant on the busi-
ness and directive side of productive industry. He may, for
example, be a detail designer or engineer's assistant in a factory
or manufacturing plant, or the motive power department of a
steam or electric railway; an assistant engineer for a power plant
or office building; an inspector for a factory and steam boiler
insurance company; a salesman for the sales department of
factory and machine houses; a tester of apparatus; a sub-fore-
1 "The Mechanic Arts High School is designed to prepare boys for industrial ef-
ficiency. Training for industrial efficiency may be of at least three different kinds:
(1) That which fits for productive skill as an advanced apprentice looking forward
to journeymanship and leadership on the productive side of industry, such as is rep-
resented by the training given in the Boston Independent Industrial School for Boya
(Brimmer Building) and in other all-day schools, of the same type together with part-
time and continuation schools, yet to be established ; (2) that which, by the advanced
instruction in technical colleges like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, fits
for technical insight giving favorable entrance as a commissioned officer in business
and industry, looking forward to leadership on its technical and business side; sec-
ondary school preparation for such technical colleges is being given satisfactorily by
other Boston high schools and according to previous decisions of the School Com-
mittee, is not hereafter to be a part of the work or service of the Mechanic Arts High
School; (3) that which aims to give through a school of secondary grade both the
technical knowledge and the elementary experience in certain industrial processes
which will make the pupil 'industry and business wise* as a preparation for favor-
able entrance as a non-commissioned officer in industry looking to promotion and
leadership on its business and directive side.
"It is the belief of the School Committee that inasmuch as the first two of the
different kinds of training for industrial efficiency are being given satisfactorily by
other Boston institutions, the purpose of the Mechanic Arts High School should be
to confer the third, and that the training of this character given by the Mechanic
Arts High School should moot the same demand in industry which the High School
of Commerce is attempting to meet by fitting boys to become non-commissioned officers,
in business and commercial pursuits." Statement of Boston School Committee in cor-
respondence relating to this report.
16 A Study of the Boston Mechanic Arts High School
man; an assistant manager or chief. These titles carry various
meanings in different industries, but in general this type of em-
ployment is filled by a subordinate executive rather than a highly
technical expert. A very suggestive list of the many different
kinds of positions to which the work of the school should lead
is given in Appendix K.
The non-commissioned officer should know the general pro-
cesses, methods of production, materials, and machines of
productive industry, as well as shop and business organization.
He need not have the skill of hand of the trained workman or
the special knowledge of the technical expert, but he should
have an appreciative understanding of both good workmanship
and technical knowledge.
On graduating from the school the pupil would not, of course,
be ready to assume immediately the leadership for which he
had been preparing. While his training should enable him to
make advantageous entrance into his future work he would still
have to acquire the expert knowledge of business and industry
and the judgment, essential to leadership, which comes only
through experience. On entering business, therefore, he might
well be termed a novitiate in industry who is looking forward
to serve as a prospective officer or as a sub-engineer of industry.
No amount of schooling or technical training however de-
sirable and excellent can take the place of actual experience in
industry itself. Both are necessary. The pupils in the school
should be given the discipline of hard work as well as a knowl-
edge of how to work. They should be made at the outset to
understand that much straight hard work in subordinate posi-
tions lies before them. The Mechanic Arts High School should
give them a type of training which will fit them to go out into
industry with enough power and practical usefulness to get a
good start with the prospect always ahead of advancement in
proportion to their ability and effort.
For several years a few commercial high schools have been
training the commercial cadet for business, leaving largely to
the private business college the task of preparing the skilled
workers in the ranks such as bookkeepers, stenographers, and
typewriters. The Boston High School, of Commerce, for ex-
ample, is definitely engaged in training boys for such advan-
tageous entrance into commerce as shall enable them to fill
School Committee's Statement of Purpose 17
eventually subordinate executive positions at least in the dis-
tributive as contrasted with the productive side of business.
It is the understanding of this Report that the School Commit-
tee desires the Mechanic Arts High School to serve in a similar
way in the preparation for advantageous entrance into industry
of industrial recruits, who shall eventually fill subordinate ex-
ecutive positions at least on the productive side of industry.
3. The statement of purpose quoted above is in accord with the