Charles Henry Ham.

Manual training : the solution of social and industrial problems online

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ences are strengthened by the law of heredity. The ten-
dency to automatic action of the mind is still further
promoted by the environment of modern life. The
crowding of populations into cities, and the division and
subdivision of labor in the factory and the shop, and
even in the so-called learned professions, have a tenden-
cy to increase the dependence of the individual upon the
mass of society. And this interdependence of the units
of society renders them more and more imitative, and
hence more and more automatic both mentally and phys-

* "Body and Mind," p. 22. By Henry Maudsley, M.D. New
York: D. Appleton & Co., 1883.
f Ibid., p. 26.


Another powerful influence contributes to the same
end. The schools educate automatically. They train
the absorbing powers of the brain, but fail to cultivate
the faculties of assimilation and recreation, and neglect
almost wholly to develop the power of expression. Mr.
John S. Clark, of Boston, has made this point of the
failure of the schools to train the brain-power of expres-
sion to its utmost so plain that it is here reproduced in
full, as follows :

" Studying the functions of the brain, we find that for
educational purposes it may be likened to an organism
with a threefold form of working, an organism with a
power of absorption, a power of assimilation and recrea-
tion, and a power of expressing or giving out. The
force or character of a brain is measured entirely by its
expressing power, by what comes out of it. Examining
a little closer, we find that the brain absorbs through all
the five senses, while for expressing purposes it makes
use of but two of these senses, or rather of but two
organs of these senses
the tongue and the hand.
Fig. 1 is a simple dia-
gram representing a brain
with the five senses placed
on one side, as means of
absorbing power, while on

the other side the tongue and the hand are placed as
organs of expressing power. The other function of
the brain, that of assimilation and recreation, cannot of
course be graphically represented. It may, however, be
said to be the result of the action of the other two func-
tions. Now, the equipping of a brain, or the healthy
education of a brain, consists in giving it expressing


power through the tongue and the hand, coextensive
with the power of absorption and the power of re-

Applying our popular schemes of education to the
brain, and especially those based on the 3-R idea of edu-
cation, we find what is indicated in Fig. 2, that provision
has been made for greatly distending the absorbing side
of the brain, while for the expressing side, the practical
side, provision has been limited to the use of the tongue
in speech and to the hand in writing. If now we follow
the result, of this brain equipment into practical life, we
find that speech and writing, as means for expressing









Natural Hi.tory.

Theoretical Science!.

Fig. 2.

thought, have their applications mainly in the commer-
cial and financial employments and the professions, and
only incidentally in the industrial and mechanical em-
ployments. With such an inadequate and one-sided
brain equipment it is not possible in any broad, prac-
tical way to bring thought or brain-power to the service
of industry. The fact so generally admitted, that we
are getting so few intelligent artisans or mechanics from
our scheme of public education, that we turn out pupils
of both sexes with a decided repugnance to industrial
labor, is an attestation to the truth of this statement.
The simple fact is that our education is not broad
enough on the expressing side of the brain, that too
much attention has been given to the absorbing side of


this organ, that no adequate provisions have been made
whereby it can discharge its power in work connected
with the industries.

" In Fig. 3 a remedy for this defect is indicated in the
addition of the study of graphic and aesthetic art, through
drawing, and of training in the manual arts, to the pre-
vious brain equipment. Observe where these features
come in the scheme on the expressing side of the brain
and in the service of the hand, thus giving the brain
ample power to discharge thought in its most complete
form for use or for beauty. With these features added
to the brain equipment its power of expressing thought









Natural History.

Theoretical Sciences.

Practical Sciences.

Fig. 3.

in all practical directions will be coextensive with its ab-
sorbing and recreating powers ; and just as soon as the
public can clearly see that in the outcome of our public
education there is no respecting of persons or of classes,
that pupils are trained for honest labor with their hands
as well as to living by their wits, are taught to produce
something, to create values by the action of their brain
through the work of their hands, a much deeper interest
in public education will not only be manifested, but gen-
erous provisions for its support will also be given."*
The charge that the schools educate automatically

* Address delivered before the Philadelphia Board of Trade and
the Franklin Institute, June 6, 1881.



rather than rationally is of such vital importance that
it should be sustained by the best attainable proof.
Strong proof is at hand in the history of the so-called
Quincy (Mass.) experiment.

In 1878 doubt of the efficiency of the schools of Nor-
folk County, long indulged, culminated in action by the
Association of School Committees and Superintendents.
It was insisted by certain members of the committee that
the existing methods were "about as good as human in-
telligence could devise," and by others that the people
were getting " no adequate returns for the money ex-
pended under the system in general use." It was re-
solved to institute a searching investigation, and the
standard for the measurement of the acquirements of
pupils adopted was, "a reasonable degree of ability to
read, to write legibly, correctly, and grammatically, and
to deal readily with simple mathematics after about eight
years of schooling."

The association selected Mr. George A. "Walton, an
experienced educator, to make the examination of the
schools of the county, and the number of pupils exam-
ined exceeded three thousand. In their preface to Mr.
Walton's report the gentlemen of the association say :

"Publicity, discussion, and discontent are wholesome
things to apply to school management in Massachusetts.
That this is a fair sample of the results now accomplished
cannot be questioned. But though they may not be flat-
tering to our pride, we yet believe that they are as good
as can be obtained in any other county in Massachusetts,
or, indeed, of any other State where similar tests are
applied in a similar manner. If any school authorities
elsewhere doubt the truth of this statement, let the ex-
periment be tried in the schools of their county.


"The questions naturally arise, What is the cause of
this lamentable ignorance? and what is the remedy?
The answer to the former suggests the reply to the latter.
Too much has been attempted in the schools. There has
been a slavish adherence to the text-books, and no room
given for freedom and originality of thought. Rules
have been memorized, and the children taught to recite
from the text-book, while they have not had the slightest
conception of the true meaning of the subject. . . .

" The rules and exceptions in grammar are faithfully
committed to memory, and most intricate sentences can
be successfully analyzed, the phrases separated, and the
modifiers named in true grammatical style, while the pu-
pils who have undergone such severe training in this re-
spect are unable to present their own thoughts concisely
or clearly, or even correctly, upon paper. The memory
is cultivated, and the reason allowed to slumber.

"In arithmetic the pupils show a readiness to solve
a problem when they are able to fit it to some rule that
they have learned ; but when they are given a simple
question out of the regular course, they are like a ship at
sea without rudder or compass."

This is the severest and most sweeping criticism ever
passed upon our American common-school system, and it
emanates from its friends and the friends of universal

Mr. Walton says of reading, as taught in the Norfolk
County schools, " As for any systematic analysis by which
the pupil learns to make a careful and independent study
of his piece, it is but little practised in the schools even
of the grammar grade ;" and he declares that reading,
without comprehending the ideas of which the words
are mere signs, " is not merely useless, but dangerous,


just in proportion to the facility with which the words
are called."

Of the results of his examinations in penmanship Mr.
Walton says, " Most of the faults in the writing indicate
imperfect teaching." Of his examinations in spelling he
says that "the commonest words are misspelled when used
in sentences or composition, while words of difficult or-
thography are spelled with accuracy when dictated for
spelling." For example, he says, " The words ' whose,'
' which,' and ' father,' when spelled orally, were generally
correct, but when w r ritten in sentences they were fre-
quently in many schools, in a majority of cases, errone-
ous." No test could more clearly demonstrate the purely
mechanical character of the methods of instruction than
this of a comparison between the pupils' oral and written
spelling. The average of excellence in spelling the three
simple words "which, whose, scholar," of the primary
grade for the whole county of Norfolk, as found by Mr.
Walton, was the exceedingly low one of 55.9, the basis
being 100.

The ingenuity in bad spelling of this grade of pupils,
who had been at least four years in school, is well illus-
trated by the example of the word " carriage," written
as follows : " Garage, carrage, craidge, caradg, carege, car-
riag, carrige ;" and of the word " sleigh," written " saly,
slay, slaig, slaigh, slagh, slaw, sleig, sleugh, sleight, sligh,
sley, slew, slave, sleygh ;" and of the word " Tuesday,"
written " Tusgay, tuestay, toesday ;" and of the word
" Wednesday," written " wanesday, wedenyday, Wederns-
day, wednest, Wenday, Wendsday, wensday, wenesday,
wensdaw, wenze, Wenzie, Wendsstay, wenstday, Wesday,
Whensday, winday, Windday, Winsday," etc.

The word " scholar " presented one hundred and sixty


different erroneous spellings ; that of "depot" fifty, among
which were the following: "Deappow, deppowe, deaphow,
deapohoe, teapot, doopo," and " bepo." An exercise in
spelling by both grades of pupils, the "primary," com-
posed of pupils from eight and a half to ten and a half
years old, and the " grammar," composed of pupils from
twelve and a half to fifteen and a half years old, showed
errors of which the following are examples : Any, spelled
ane and enny ; along, alond and alon ; amongst, amunt ;
animals, anables ; arithmetic, rithmes ; asked, asted ; beau-
tiful, beuful ; been, ben, bene, and bin ; by-and-by, bimeby ;
coat, coot, coth, cote, goat, and coate ; Boston, bostone ;
boy, poy, and bou ; city, sitty ; eggs, ages ; custard-pie,
ousted puy; coming, comin, commun, gomming, and

An exercise in composition developed the following
specimen errors : " The was two boys ; They was two
boys ; How is all the boys ? Things that was good ; They
is not many here I know ; He come to school ; I see him
yesterday ; He asked cyrus what he done that day ; I had
saw him ; he had wore a coat," etc.

The examinations in mathematics yielded similar re-
sults to those developed in reading, writing, spelling, and
composition. Mr. Walton says, " If instead of this [the
routine method of the school] the pupil should be com-
pelled to deal with real things, and to find his answer by
studying the conditions of his problem, the fiction which
arithmetic now is to most pupils would become to them
a reality."*

* "The New Departure in the Common Schools of Quincy," by
Charles F. Adams, Jr., and the "Report of Examination of Schools
in Norfolk County, Mass.," by George A. Walton. Boston : Estes
& Lauriat, 1881.


The prime difficulty is here stated. The schools deal
in "fictions." In the language of the Norfolk County
committee, "The memory is cultivated and the reason
allowed to slumber." Now, if to every fact memorized
the pupil were required to apply the test of reason to
analyze it and find out its relation to other facts, and fix
it with all its relations in his mind, he would possess cer-
tain solid information of an ascertained practical value.
It is very simple. It is making the pupil think for him-
self by showing him how to think for himself instead
of thinking for him. Of course this is object-teaching.
In the reading-lesson the pupil is required to know the
meaning of the words of which it is composed in or-
der to read with correct expression. When required
to spell a word orally he is also required to write it.
In the study of arithmetic he is shown certain objects,
blocks of cubical and other forms, and required to ap-
ply the rules of the book to the ascertainment of their
contents. In grammar the analysis of the sentence is
followed by the writing of it, and the construction of
other sentences involving similar principles in the art of
composition, and so on.

This is the kindergarten system now rapidly coming
into high favor as an essential preliminary step in educa-
tion. It is also the system of the manual training school.
Under that system the pupil is not merely told that the
saw is a thin, flat piece of steel with teeth used for cut-
ting boards and timbers ; a saw is placed in his hand and
he is taught to use it : and so of all the hand and ma-
chine tools of the trades. He stands at the forge, bends
over the moulding-form, shoves the plane in the carpen-
ter-shop, presides at the turning-lathe, that ingenious in-
vention of Maudslay an automaton truer than the human


eye, more cunning and more accurate than the human
hand ; executes plans for patterns and then makes the
patterns, and finally, from the faint lines he has traced
on paper, constructs a machine, breathes the breath of life
(steam) into its veins, and with it moves mountains !

In further support of the charge that the schools edu-
cate automatically, and hence superficially, the following
intelligent opinions are cited :

Charles Francis Adams, Jr., remarks that the com-
mon schools of Massachusetts cost $4,000,000 a year;
and adds, " The imitative or memorizing faculties only
are cultivated, and little or no attention is paid to the
thinking or reflective powers. Indeed it may almost be
said that a child of any originality or with individual
characteristics is looked upon as wholly out of place in a
public school. ... To skate is as difficult as to write ;
probably more difficult. Yet in spite of hard teaching
in the one case and no teaching in the other, the boy can
skate beautifully, and he cannot write his native tongue
at all."*

Mr. Edward Atkinson says, "We are training no
American craftsmen, and unless we devise better meth-
ods than the old and now obsolete apprentice system,
much of the perfection of our almost automatic mech-
anism will have been achieved at the cost not only of the
manual but also of the mental development of our men.
Our almost automatic mills and machine-shops will be-
come mental stupefactories."f

Prof. Barbour, of Yale College, says, "Our schools are

* " Scientific Common-school Education." Harper's New Monthly
Magazine, November, 1880, pp. 935, 939.

f "Elementary Instruction in the Mechanic Arts." Scribner's
Monthly, April, 1881, p. 902.


suffering from congestion of the brain : too much thought
and too little putting it in practice."

An English observer of our public schools says, " They
teach apparently for information, almost regardless of de-
velopment. This system develops no special individual-
ity or power, forms few habits of observation, benefits
little except the memory, and herein lies its great weak-

The late Mr. "Wendell Phillips said, " Our system stops
too short, and as a justice to boys and girls as well as to
society it should see to it that those whose life is to be
one of manual labor should be better trained for it."

Mr. Wickersham, late Superintendent of Public In-
struction for the State of Pennsylvania, says, "It is
high time that something should be done to enable our
youth to learn trades and to form industrious habits and
a taste for work."

Dr. Runkle, of the Massachusetts Institute of Tech-
nology, says, "Public education should touch practical
life in a larger number of points ; it should better fit all
for that sphere in life in which they are destined to find
their highest happiness and well-being."

Opinions of this character might be multiplied almost
indefinitely. They reflect the general sentiment that, as
an industrial agency, the public school is a failure ; but
its value as an enlightening and civilizing agency is not
therefore underestimated. It was not established as an
industrial agency ; it was established as a bulwark of lib-
erty, and nobly did it fulfil its mission. The colonial
fathers had a horror of ignorance, and as a barrier against
it they raised the public school. But they were without
industrial interests in the higher departments of skilled
labor, and without commerce in a large way. Lord Shef-


field said that the American colonies were founded with
the sole view of securing to England a monopoly of their
trade, and Lord Chatham declared that they had no right
to manufacture even a nail or a horseshoe. Even after
the Revolution, in 1784, the commerce of the country
was so insignificant that eight bales of cotton shipped
from South Carolina were seized by the customs authori-
ties of England on the ground that so large a quantity
could not have been produced in the United States !

These humble conditions no longer exist, and to object
to the expansion of the public - school system to meet
the requirements of new exigencies is to ignore the logic
and march of events. The nations are running an in-
dustrial race, and the nation that applies to labor the
most thought, the most intelligence, will rise highest in
the scale of civilization, will gain most in wealth,, will
most surely survive the shocks of time, will live longest
in history. In the race for industrial supremacy we are
not at the front. It is a fact to be pondered that we are
exchanging the products of unskilled for skilled labor
with the nations of Europe. In the course of a year, for
example, England exports of raw material and food only
about $150,000,000 in value, while her exports of manu-
factures aggregate about $850,000,000 in value. On the
other hand, our exports consist almost entirely of raw
material and food, their annual value being about
$800,000,000, while of manufactures we export only a
beggarly $75,000,000 worth, and our imports of manu-
factures are of the annual value of about $250,000,000.
In crude, uneducated, unskilled labor capacity we have
grown much more rapidly than in the departments of
educated, skilled labor ; and in the exact ratio of this
growth of unskilled over skilled labor we are behind the



age. We are industrially ill-balanced. We are selling
brawn and buying thought cunning, invention, genius ;
exhausting our physical manhood and impoverishing a
virgin soil. We are suffering from a paucity of skilled
labor, and we hesitate to apply the needed and obvious-
ly adequate remedy the training of the youth of the
country in the elements of the useful arts, in the public

A final and conclusive evidence of the verity of the
charge that prevailing methods of education are auto-
matic, and hence superficial in their character, is found
in an examination test recently made in one of the public
schools in a large American city, in the department of
mathematics. The superintendent begins to distrust his
own system, of abstract instruction, and resolves to test
the acquirements of certain classes of pupils ranging from
ten to twelve years of age. He submits a series of ques-
tions in number, which are promptly solved either orally
or in chalk on the black-board, showing a complete mas-
tery of the subject from the abstract side, or point of
view. To test the practical value of the knowledge thus
exhibited the superintendent repeats his series of ques-
tions, applying them to things. For example : He passes
six cards to a pupil, and requests that one-half of them be
returned. This question having been promptly and cor-
rectly answered by the return of three of them, and the
six cards being again placed in the hands of the pupil,
the second question is propounded, namely, "Please give
me one -third of one -half of the cards in your hand."
The pupil is puzzled ; he fumbles the cards nervously,
blushes, and returns a wrong number or becomes entirely
helpless and "gives it up." This question, or some other
question of similar general import, is submitted to each


member of the class with a like unfavorable result in
eight or nine cases in a total of ten cases. The superin-
tendent is astonished ; he is more than astonished, he is
deeply chagrined ; for he knows that the kindergarten
child of six or seven years of age, with the blocks, would
answer his series of questions correctly eight or nine
times in a total of ten.

It is impossible to conceive of a more striking illustra-
tion of the prime defects of automatic education than is
afforded by the foregoing described experiment. It sus-
tains and justifies the severe criticism of the schools by
Mr. Charles Francis Adams, Jr., in his magazine article
of 1880, in the course of which he says,

"From one point of view children are regarded as
automatons; from another, as india-rubber bags; from
a third, as so much raw material. They must move in
step and exactly alike. They must receive the same
mental nutriment in equal quantities and at fixed times.
Its assimilation is wholly immaterial, but the motions
must be gone through with. Finally, as raw material,
they are emptied in at the primaries, and marched out
at the grammar grades and it is well !"*

The testimony of Col. Francis W. Parker, of the Cook
County (Illinois) Normal School, is to the same effect.
He says,

" The most important work of to-day is to collect, rec-
oncile, and apply all the principles and methods of edu-
cation that have been discovered in the past, into one
science and art of teaching. This would certainly radi-
cally change all our school work in this country. When

* " Scientific Common-school Education." Harper's New Monthly
Magazine, November, 1880, p. 937.


this is done the ground will be made ready for new ad-
vances in the incomplete science of education. Because
a complete science has not yet been discovered is a very
poor reason for not applying what we already know.
"What specific changes would the application of known
mental laws, in teaching about which all psychologists are
in agreement, bring about ? For it is only by a sharp
comparison of what is now done according to tradition
and custom in our schools, with that which can be done
by the application of the simplest principles of teaching,
that the value of the true art of instruction may be in
some degree appreciated.

"To illustrate this it may be mentioned that little
children have been taught to read, in the past, and a great
majority of them are now taught, by a method that is
utterly opposed to a mental law, about which there can
be no dispute among those who know anything of the
science of teaching. I refer to the ABC method. Near-
ly three hundred years ago Comenius discovered a rule
of teaching which may be said to embrace all rules in its
category ' Things that have to be done should be learned
by doing them.' This rule is so simple and plain that

Online LibraryCharles Henry HamManual training : the solution of social and industrial problems → online text (page 14 of 30)