Charles Henry Ham.

Manual training : the solution of social and industrial problems online

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every one, except the teachers, has adopted and used it
since man has lived upon the earth. If I am not very
much mistaken, the school-master for the last fifty years
has been incessantly inventing ways of doing things in
the school-room by doing something else. We try to
teach the English language by rules, definitions, analyses,
diagrams, and parsing. Before the poor innocent child
can write a single sentence correctly, we teach the painful
pronunciation of words without the grasping of thought
as reading. We vainly endeavor to give children a
knowledge of number by teaching figures, the signs of


number. "We cram our victim's mind full of empty,
meaningless words, instead of inspiring and developing
it by the sweet and strong realities of thought. This
futile struggle to do things by doing something else is
to-day costing the people of this country millions and
millions of hard-earned dollars; and it is much to be
feared that it will one day cost their children the bless-
ings of a free government. This is a serious charge.

" The three hundred thousand teachers of this country
are as faithful, honest, and earnest as any other class of
active workers. If, then, these great truths in education
be at the doors of our educators, why do they not acquire
and use them ? The answer is not far to seek. Not one
teacher in five hundred ever makes a practical, thorough
Btudy of the history of education, to say nothing of the

" The tremendous projecting power of tradition stands
stubbornly in the way of progress in education. It can
only be m'et and overcome by the most thorough search-
ing and indefatigable study of the child's nature, and of
the means by which the possibilities for good in God's
greatest creation may be realized."*

The change from automatic to scientific education
ought not to be very difficult. It has been made in
the kindergarten. It consists in substituting things in
the place of signs. The boy should be taught to read in
school as he will be required to read ; to write as he will
be required to write ; and to cipher as he will be required
to cipher, when he becomes a man.

In teaching chemistry, for example, there should be

* Letter to the author under date of April, 1883, and by him re-
produced in a communication published in the Chicago Tribune,
April 23, 1883.


a laboratory with the necessary illustrative apparatus.
In teaching geography, in addition to the books and the
globe, the form of the continent should be moulded in
sand, with coast lines, mountain ranges, rivers, canals, har-
bors, cities, etc. In teaching number the pupil should
have the things and parts of things, represented by signs,
in his hands. In teaching mechanics the pupil should
handle the saw, the plane, the file, the hammer, and the
chisel, and stand at the bench, the forge, and the turn-
ing-lathe. It is in this way only that the pupil can be
taught the power of expressing, as Mr. Clark puts it,
" what has been absorbed on the receptive side."

Mr. MacAlister illustrates the force of Mr. Clark's di-
agrams in a sentence : " We must not close our eyes to
the fact that by far the larger number of men in every
civilized community are workers to whom a skilled hand
is quite as important as a well filled head."* The prevail-
ing methods of teaching fill the head but do not provide
for assimilation, recreation, and expression. Now to as-
similate, to reduce to practical value and put to use facts
memorized, and to create, the power of expression is an
essential prerequisite ; creating is expressing ideas in con-
crete form. But under the old regime of education only
two modes of expression are provided speech and writ-
ing. A third mode drawing has been very generally
adopted. Drawing, however, is only the first step, an
incomplete step, so to speak, of expression. It is a sign,
an outline, of a thing. What we want is the thing itself.
That thing can only be produced at the forge, the bench,
or the lathe ; and this is manual training in the arts.

* Mr. James MacAlister, Superintendent of Schools of the City of
Philadelphia, Pa., at the meeting of the American Institute of In-
struction, Saratoga, N. Y., July 13, 1882.


What manual training will do for the pupil is ex-
pressed in the following terse paragraph by Col. Augus-
tus Jacobson :

"The boy leaving school should carry with him me-
chanical, business, and scientific training, fitting him for
whatever it may become necessary for him to do in the
world. I would secure for society the advantage of all
the brain capacity that is born and all the training it can
take. It is possible and practicable to let every child of
fair capacity start in life from -his school a skilled worker,
with the principal tools of all the mechanical employ-
ments, an athlete with the maximum of health possible
to him, and thoroughly at home in science and literature.
The child so trained would, when grown, be to the ordi-
nary man of to-day what Jay-Eye-See is to an ordinary



CATION Continued.

The Failure of Education in America shown by Statistics of Railway
and Mercantile Disasters. Shrinkage of Railway Values and Fail-
ures of Merchants. Only Three Per Cent, of those entering Mer-
cantile Life achieve Success. Business Enterprises conducted by
Guess: Cause, Unscientific Education. Savage Training is better
because Objective. Mr. Foley, late of the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology, on the Scientific Character of Manual Education
Prof. Goss, of Purdue University, to the same Effect also Dr.
Belfield, of the Chicago Manual Training School. Students love
the Laboratory Exercises. Demoralizing Effect of Unscientific
Training. The Failure of Justice and Legislation as contrasted
with the Success of Civil Engineering and Architecture.

A STRIKING illustration of the defective character of
both public and private systems of education, in the
United States, is afforded by the statistics of commercial,
railway, and other business failures. In 1877 a careful
compilation of figures in regard to the shrinkage of rail-
way values showed the following result :

" In round numbers, eighteen hundred millions of dol-
lars, or thirty-eight per cent, of the capital reported as
invested in two hundred of our railway companies alone,
is wholly unproductive to the investors, and the greater
part is wholly lost to them. This is sufficiently appalling,
but when we consider how many companies that have
managed to keep up the interest on their bonds have
wholly, or almost, ceased to pay any interest on their cap-
ital stock, which stock, in turn, has shrunk to seventy-


five, fifty, twenty-five, ten, in some cases five per cent, of
its par value, it will seem to be a reasonable conclusion
that the actual shrinkage and loss to somebody on the
face value of railway investments in the United States
has been fully fifty per cent. !"*

In view of this startling exhibit it is evident that in
the projection, construction, and management of the rail-
ways of the United States there has been gross incom-

In 1881 Messrs. R. G. Dun & Co., the well-known
commercial agents, showed that of the wholesale mer-
chants doing business in the city of Chicago in 1870
fifty per cent, had failed, suspended, or compromised
with their creditors.

Forty years ago Gen. Dearborn, a prominent citizen
of Chicago, declared that not more than three per cent,
of the individuals who embark in trade end life with suc-
cess. The success meant, doubtless, is unbroken solven-
cy during the business experience of the merchant, and
the final accumulation of a competence. The mercantile
ranks in the United States afford many instances of in-
dividual merchants and firms who have settled or com-
promised with their creditors several times, and finally
succeeded succeeded at the expense of their creditors.
But this is not the success meant by Gen. Dearborn.
This statistical information, furnished by Messrs. R. G.
Dun & Co., tends to confirm, approximately, the verity
of the common remark that in trade not one in a hun-
dred succeeds.

Let us suppose that three merchants in a hundred so
conduct their business as never to ask their creditors for

* The Chicago Railway Age.


a favor, never to " settle " for 50 or 25 cents, but always
pay " dollar for dollar," and come out in the end rich.
This is strictly legitimate success. It would be very in-
teresting to learn what becomes of the other ninety-seven
merchants. Most of them go down after a few years,
never again to emerge above the surface of commercial
affairs. They live on salaries, enter the ranks of the
speculative class, or become genteel paupers. But doubt-
less seven at least of the ninety-seven " compromise " and
" settle " themselves over the breakers, and finally achieve
success. So that of the ten successful merchants out of
a hundred those who succeed at the expense of their cred-
itors are as seven to three of those who win success by
the highest degree of mercantile merit.

"With ninety utter failures, seven successes which in-
volve the misfortune or wreck of others, and only three
untarnished successes in a hundred, the general ambition
to enter mercantile life is simply unaccountable. Of
course the small number of successful merchants have to
calculate upon the failures which will inevitably occur.
They must discount the losses they are sure to incur
through those failures provide for them by increasing
the otherwise sufficient profit of each transaction. In
this way the public pays the cost of each failure. In
other words, the consumer is taxed to pay the expense
of ninety complete failures, and seven partial failures, in
every hundred mercantile experiments. This expense
aggregates scores of millions of dollars in this country
alone, every year. The sum of losses by the failure of
merchants in good seasons is very large, and in seasons
of commercial depression it is vast.

It is evident that ninety-seven in every hundred mer-
chants mistake their avocation. Only three in a hundred


are exactly fitted for the business they undertake. They
are morally the "fittest" who survive by virtue of abil-
ity and integrity ; the seven who survive by levying
contributions on their creditors may also be regarded as
the " fittest " according to the Darwinian theory. Of the
ninety who go down without even a struggle to " settle "
or " compromise," they answer to the received definition
of dirt^ u matter out of place."

The investigation made by Messrs. R. G. Dun & Co.,
which resulted in the statistical information here repro-
duced and commented upon, was brought about by the
assertion in 1881 of a life-insurance agent that fifty per
cent, of the wholesale merchants doing business in the city
of Chicago in 1870 had meantime failed, suspended, or com-
promised with their creditors. Out of this investigation
the question logically springs, " Is not failing in business
made too easy ?"* If " compromises," " settlements," and
" failures " carry with them no disgrace, it is but natural
that thousands should take the risk of them in the con-
test for the great prizes which are the reward of success.
The distinction in the public mind between the three
merchants in a hundred who succeed legitimately and
the seven who succeed by questionable "compromises"
or "settlements" is very slight; and too many of the

* "Mercantile honor is held so high in some countries that the
calamity of bankruptcy drives men mad. In France there are nu-
merous instances of almost superhuman struggles on the part of
ruined merchants to regain, by patient effort and pinching economy,
their lost station in the business community. Cesar Birotteau, Bal-
zac's hero of such a struggle, dies from excess of emotion in the hour
of his triumph. ' Behold the death of the just !' the Abbe Loraux
exclaims, as he regards, with lofty pride, the expiring merchant."
" Ten-minute Sketches," p. 220. By Charles H. Ham. Chicago and
New York : Belford, Clark & Co., 1884.


ninety who fail utterly retire .with large sums of money
which belong honestly to their creditors. Doubtless the
life-insurance agent, in depicting the perils of mercantile
ventures, urged the propriety of the merchant fortifying
himself against disaster by insuring his life for the bene-
fit of his family. This is a legitimate argument when
addressed to the merchant in solvent condition ; but the
life-insurance agent's intimate acquaintance with the
shaky finances of nine-tenths of the commercial commu-
nity teaches him that a large share of the money he re-
ceives in premiums, comes not from the merchant, but
from the merchant's creditors, who will soon be called
upon, in the natural course of events, to consent to a
composition of his claim, while the shaky merchant will
retire with a paid-up policy of insurance in favor of his

It is quite plain that in nine cases out of ten the mer-
chant who carries a large policy of insurance on his life
actually pays for it out of his creditors' instead of his
own money. To be sure, it may be said that the nine
merchants hope and expect to succeed as well as the one.
But is not it the duty of the merchant who owes large
sums of money to think more of providing means for
the payment of his immediate debts than of laying up a
support for himself and family in the event of failure ?
Some disgrace ought to attach to failure in business ; that
is to say, disgrace enough to make the merchant cautious
and economical, with a view, not to his own protection
in the event of failure, but to the protection of his cred-
itors, and of his own reputation as a business man.

These failures, on so vast a scale, of railway enterprises,
and the almost total wreck of mercantile ventures, show
that the business of this country is done, as a Yankee


might say, "by guess," or as the mechanic of the old
regime would say, " by the rule of thumb." The conclu-
sion is hence irresistible that the youth of the United
States are not so educated as to fit them for the conduct,
to a successful issue, of great business enterprises. And
this is an impeachment of what is regarded, on the whole,
as the best system of popular education in operation in
the world. A system of education which turns out nine-
ty-three or ninety-seven men who fail, to three or seven
men who succeed in business, must be very unscientific.
If the savage system of education were not better adapt-
ed to the savage state, the savage would perish from the
earth in the process of civilization. The savage bends
his ear to the ground and robs the forest of its secrets,
not three times in a hundred, but ninety and nine times.
Ninety-nine times in a hundred the savage traces the
footsteps of his enemy in the tangled mazes of the path-
less wood.

In "Aborigines of Australia"* Mr. G-. S. Lang states
that "one day while travelling in Australia he pointed
to a footstep and asked whose it was. The guide glanced
at it without stopping his horse, and at once answered,
' Whitefellow call him Tiger.' This turned out to be cor-
rect ; which was the more remarkable as the two men be-
longed to different tribes, and had not met for two years."
Among the Arabs it is asserted that some men know
every individual in the tribe by his footstep. Besides
this, every Arab knows the printed footsteps of his own
camels, and of those belonging to his immediate neigh-
bors. He knows by the depth or slightness of the im-
pression whether a camel was pasturing, and therefore

* "Aborigines of Australia," p. 24.


not carrying any load, or mounted by one person only,
or heavily loaded. The Australian will kill a pigeon
with a spear at a distance of thirty paces. The Esqui-
mau in his kayak will actually turn somersaults in the
water. After giving many illustrations of the skill of
various races of savages, Sir John Lubbock says,

" What an amount of practice must be required to ob-
tain such skill as this ! How true, also, must the weapons
be ! Indeed it is very evident that each distinct type of
flint implement must have been designed for some dis-
tinct purpose." He adds, " The neatness with which the
Hottentots, Esquimaux, North American Indians, etc., are
able to sew is very remarkable, although awls and sinews
would in our hands be but poor substitutes for needles
and thread. As already mentioned (in page 332), some
cautious archaeologists hesitated to refer the reindeer
caves of the Dordogne to the Stone Age, on account of
the bone needles and the works of art which are found in
them. The eyes of the needles especially, they thought,
could only be made with metallic implements. Prof.
Lartet ingeniously removed these doubts by making a
similar needle for himself with the help of flint ; but
he might have referred to the fact stated by Cook in his
first voyage, that the New Zealanders succeeded in drill-
ing a hole through a piece of glass which he had given
them, using for this purpose, as he supposed, a piece of

The education which enables the savage to make these
extremely nice adjustments of means to ends is scientific.
The observation, for example, of the Arab who draws

* "Prehistoric Times," pp. 544, 548. By Sir John Lubbock, Bart.,
M.P. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1875.


such accurate conclusions from the "printed footstep of
the camel," if applied to the problems of civilized life,
would result in success, not failure.

The excellence of this savage training consists in its
practical character, in its perfect adaptation to the end in
view. For example, the Esquimau boy is not instructed
in the theory of turning somersaults in the water, in his
kayak. He sees his father perform the feat ; he is given
a kayak and required to perform it also. The result is
early and complete success. So of the Arab. In trav-
ersing the desert it is important for him to read every
sign, to translate every mark left in the sand. Upon the
accuracy of his observation his life may often depend.
The print of the camel's footstep may tell him whether
he is, soon or late, to meet friend or foe. Hence from
early childhood his faculty of observation is trained until
it soon becomes as delicate and nice as the sense pf touch
of a blind, deaf mute. Sir John Lubbock thinks that a
great amount of practice must be required to achieve so
much skill ; but the results are due probably more to the
nature, than to the extent, of the practice. It is the ex-
cellence of the training that produces results which ex-
cite wonder and admiration. The savage is indolent ; he
works only that he may eat, and he works well simply
because he has been taught objectively instead of sub-

The difference in results between the best and the
poorest methods of instruction is very great, as witness
the testimony of Mr. Thomas Foley, late instructor in
forging, vise-work, and machine-tool work in the school
of mechanic arts of the Massachusetts Institute of Tech-
nology. He says,

"It is a great waste of time to spend two or three


years in acquiring knowledge of a given business profes-
sion or trade that can be acquired in the short space of
twelve or thirteen days under a proper course of instruc-
tion. Twelve days of systematic school-shop instruction
produces as great a degree of dexterity as two or more
years' apprenticeship under the adverse conditions which
prevail in the trade-shop."* The manual training meth-
ods are the same as those which enable the savage to
perform such feats of skill. They are the natural and
hence most efficient methods of imparting instruction.

The manual training school is a kindergarten for boys
fourteen years of age. Miss S. E. Blow, in formulating
the theory of the kindergarten, describes the methods of
the savage's school, and those of the manual training
school, as follows :

" It is a truth now universally recognized by educators
that ideas are formed in the mind of a child by abstrac-
tion and generalization from the facts revealed to him
through the senses ; that only what he himself has per-
ceived of the visible and tangible properties of things
can serve as the basis of thought; and that upon the viv-
idness and completeness of the impressions made upon
him by external objects, will depend the clearness of his
inferences and the correctness of his judgments. It is
equally true, and as generally recognized, that in young
children the perceptive faculties are relatively stronger
than at any later period, and that while the understand-
ing and reason still sleep, the sensitive mind is receiving
those sharp impressions of external things which, held
fast by memory, transformed by the imagination, and

* Report on "The Manual Element in Education," p. 30. By John
D. Runkle, Ph.D., LL.D., Walker Professor of Mathematics, Insti-
tute of Technology, Boston, Mass.


finally classified and organized through, reflection, result
in the determination of thought and the formation of

" These two parallel truths indicate clearly that the
first duty of the educator is to aid the perceptive faculties
in their work by supplying the external objects best cal-
culated to serve as the basis of normal conceptions, by
exhibiting these objects from many different stand-points
that variety of interest may sharpen and intensify the
impressions they make upon the mind, and by presenting
them in such a sequence that the transition from one
object to another may be made as easy as possible."*

This admirable exposition of the theory of scientific
education solves the mystery which has always enveloped
savage skill. It also affords a philosophic explanation of
the fact discovered by Mr. Foley, namely, that the stu-
dent of the manual training school acquires as much
knowledge in one hundred and twenty hours as the ap-
prentice of the machine-shop does in two years. In a
word, it shows exactly why scientific education is so in-
comparably superior to automatic education. Mr. Foley
asserts, in substance, that the scientific methods of the
manual training school are twenty times as valuable to
the student as the unscientific methods of the trade-shop
are to the apprentice.

In a familiar letter to the author, Prof. Gossf shows
why the methods of the manual training school are so
very valuable. He says :

* " The Kindergarten. An address, delivered April 3, 1875, before
the Normal Teachers' Association, at St. Louis, Mo."

f Prof. William F. M. Goss, a graduate of the school of mechanic
arts of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and at present in-
structor in the mechanic arts department of the Purdue University.



" In such a school, or course, a student is taught to per-
form a series of operations, involving practice with a va-
riety of tools, on pieces of suitable material. It is not to
be supposed that his ability to make a certain piece is
directly valuable, for the experience of a lifetime may
never require him to make it again. It is not expected
that while making the piece he will learn a number of
formulated facts relating to his work, and its application
to other work, for that is not the best way to learn. Nor
can we expect him to acquire a high degree of hand skill
(accuracy and rapidity of movement combined), for this
his limited time will not permit. But he does this : he
works out a practical mechanical problem with every
piece he makes. He sees how the tool must be handled,
and how the material operated on behaves. He comes to
understand why the tool cuts well in some directions and
not so well in others; and all the time he queries to
himself where it was that he saw a joint like the one he
is making. He is an investigator as much so as a stu-
dent in chemistry. His mind must always guide his
hand; his reasoning opens new fields of thought with
every stroke of the chisel.

" A boy ten years old, who was a member of a class
under my direction in Indianapolis in 1883, is reported
to have said, ' Why, mother, I never looked at the doors
and windows so much in all my life as I have since I be-

Online LibraryCharles Henry HamManual training : the solution of social and industrial problems → online text (page 15 of 30)