Douglas C. (Douglas Crawford) McMurtrie.

The evolution of national systems of vocational reeducation for disabled soldiers and sailors online

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any locality is so small as to make difficult the absorption of manv
newly-trained men, or if the industry is on the wane rather than
enjoying a healthy growth, the indications are negative. The ideal
trade is one in which the wage standards are high, the employment
steady, and the demand for labor constantly increasing. In pick-
ing trades the present boom conditions should be discounted, and
thought should be given to the employment situation after the' war.

The section of the country in which a man lives also has a bearing
on the choice of a trade in which he is to receive instruction. Thus
a Canadian living in Montreal may be trained as a machinist; the
same man, if a resident of a far western province, would better be


given instruction in the operation of motor tractors for agricultural

It is axiomatic that a man should be given his course of training
in a locality near home. Here he will not feel so strange, friends will
not be far away, and the educational authorities will be in closer
touch with the local industrial requirements and employment condi-

It is the general consensus of experience that the decision by the
man to undertake a course of training must be a voluntary one. Of
course, he may be retained in the military organization and detailed
to trade classes in the same way as he is detailed to guard duty, but
this would not make for successful results. The unwilling and re-
bellious pupil learns but little ; the earnest and ambitious one makes
rapid progress. The man must be persuaded, therefore, to take up
instruction; the future advantages of being a trained workman in
some skilled trade should be pointed out, and the practical arrange-
ments to be made for him during the course of instruction carefully
explained. There is no royal road to success in this effort, but after
gaining the soldier's friendship and confidence, a patient persistence
will win the battle. If a competent visitor has been in touch with
the man's family during his absence at the front, the members of
the home circle can be easily convinced of the wisdom of his reeduca-
tion; this will make all the simpler persuasion of the man himself.

A great aid in helping a soldier to decide about his future is ac-
quaintance with the records of other men with similar physical
handicaps who have made good — men who have been trained and
who are now holding jobs at attractive wages. In addition, such
practical results lend plausibility to the expectations in prospect
which are being held out to him. A difficulty, however, is found in
the abnormal premium on industrial labor in war time. Even a dis-
abled man may be able to go out and earn a large daily wage in a
munitions factory. This constitutes a very potent present counter-
attraction to representations of moderate but permanent employment
after a course of training. If he makes the opportunist choice he
will, upon the return of employment conditions to normal, be re-
duced to the status of a casual laborer, perilously near the verge of
mendicancy. No pains should be spared to avert this eventuality.

Care should be taken, however, that representations to the man.
while encouraging, should in the main be accurate. Workers with
crippled soldiers should not be misled by reports of extraordinary
success in isolated cases. The men will, sooner or later, learn the
truth, which will thus tend to discredit the veracity of the vocational

In deciding which of the available courses an individual disabled
soldier should pursue the first effort should be to fit him for an occu-


pation related as closely as possible to his former job. His past
experience, far from being discarded, should be built upon. A com-
petent journeyman bricklayer who has lost an arm may be prepared
by a suitable course in architectural drafting and the interpretation
of plans to take a position as construction foreman of a bricklaying
gang. It were idle to give such a man a course in telegraphy. But
a train hand who has been all his life familiar with railroad work
may most wisely be trained as a telegraphic operator, with a little
commercial instruction on the side. This man will then be returned
to railway employment. There is an additional advantage in in-
stances such as the two mentioned in that the former employer will
be willing to engage again a man with whose record and character
he is familiar, once there is assured the competence of the ex-soldier
in his new capacity.

This rule applies, however, only to men who were, previous to
their enlistment, operatives in the skilled trades. Their problems are
the simplest of solution. But in the present war, when not only pro-
fessional soldiers but whole nations are in arms, there will return
disabled many young men who had not yet attained a permanent in-
dustrial status. Some will have entered the army direct from high
school or college ; others will have been migratory workers who had
not yet found a permanent niche and whose experience has been too
varied to be of much value; still others will have been drawn from
unskilled and ill-paid occupations which hold little future oppor-
tunity for the able-bodied worker and almost none for the physically
handicapped. Among the latter will be found those who have been
forced to leave school and go to work at too early an age, and to
whom society has not given a fair chance. When they now return
from the front, crippled for life and having made a great patriotic
sacrifice, it is surely the duty of the State to repair, so far as prac-
ticable, the former inequality of opportunity and provide for them
the best possible training. It would be a cause for national pride if,
m the future, such men could date their economic success from the
amputation of their limb lost in their country's service. And this
is entirely within the realm of probability.

With these latter classes there is, therefore, no former experience
of value to serve as a guide in the choice of a trade in which the war
cripple is to be trained. We must, then, fall back on the general
principles of vocational guidance. The more important factors will
be natural talent, personal preference or taste, habits of work, tem-
perament, and the general character of the individual. Advice in
each case should be given by an expert vocational counsellor, a man
familiar at once with trade education, with the requirements of the
various industries themselves, and with the current status of the
labor market. His opinion should take into account the report and


prognosis of the medical officer, and also the past record of the indi-
vidual. As has been pointed out, the friendship and confidence of
the soldier are absolutely essential. Very often these are difficult of
attainment and the prospective pupil's reserve is penetrated only
in the fourth or fifth visit. As the decision to undertake training at
all must be voluntary, so must the choice of a particular trade meet
with the full approval of the soldier himself. And if, after begin-
ning the course, the subject proves definitely distasteful, the oppor-
tunity to change to another trade should — within reasonable limi-
tation — be permitted. It can not be too strongly emphasized that
the unwilling pupil is a poor learner indeed.

It would seem inadvisable to train a man for an occupation which
he can pursue only by use of specialized apparatus adapted to the
individual motor limitations imposed by his deformity. While a
badly crippled man may be taught to operate a lathe with special
treadles or to run a typewriter with special paper feed and shifting
mechanism, his employment opportunities will be precarious. It
may be possible to secure for him one specific job which may be
arranged for at the time he starts training. But if he can not get
along personally with his employer, if his family must move to
another city, if his wages are not advanced as his product increases —
for these and a myriad other reasons, he may become practically un-
able to obtain other employment, and the value of his training will
be thus nullified. Ingenuity should be directed rather to fitting
crippled men to meet the demands of standard trades, in which there
will be, not one or a dozen possible jobs, but thousands. Only thus
can the man be made actually independent.

It is absolutely essential that training, if provided at all, be thor-
ough. The pupils are men, not boys, and they can not go out in
the apprenticeship category, as do the graduates of regular trade
schools — and even in these the present-day standards of proficiency
are high. If ill-trained men are graduated from the classes the
results will not be fortuitous. Employers will be convinced that the
theory of reeducating returned soldiers is unsound; the men will
come to distrust the representations of prospective success which have
been made to them. There will be, further, an unjustified disturb-
ance of the labor market and its wage standards if a school turns out
into a trade as professedly skilled operatives a crowd of undertrained
and inexperienced men. Schools of reeducation must not contribute
to difficulties of this character.


The attitude of the public toward the returned soldier will do much
to make or mar the success of work with the war cripples. The man
57710°— 18 2


returning disabled from the front deserves the whole-hearted grati-
tude and respect of the nation, but to spoil and pamper him is an
ill-advised way of meeting the obligation. Parents who wish to
do the best possible by their children do not manifest affection by
spoiling their digestion with an eagerly received surfeit of candy.
They rather seek to provide a good home environment, exert a firm
but kindly disciplne, and obtain for their children the best educa-
tional opportunities. In other words, the emphasis is on values of
permanence. The same general principles apply in the relations of
the public to the ex-service man.

In one of the allied countries the wife of a returned soldier com-
plained to the representative of a patriotic relief agency, which had
been attending to the family needs while the chief breadwinner was
at the front, that her husband would never spend any time with her
or with the children. She had wanted that afternoon to have him
accompany them to the park, but he disdainfully refused, saying
that he was going out for an automobile ride and later to a "sing-
song" at one of the fashionable hotels. The musical entertainment
referred to was being provided by the society ladies of the city, so
mother and the children went to the park alone, while the " hero "
was receiving appropriate recognition of his services.

Of course the most pernicious expression of this attitude is the
indiscriminate " treating " of the disabled soldier at the corner
saloon — in communities where this is possible.

In some cities the " patriotic " hysteria of the public has been such
that neither the police nor the military authorities are in a position
to restrain or punish returned soldiers, even when they have become
seriously disorderly and objectionable. This is no kindness to the
men and casts a most unfavorable reflection on the service as a whole.

On the other hand, the nation can not go too far in showing grati-
tude to the war cripple, provided the manner of its expression is
sound. To give him the best of medical care, a first-rate artificial
limb, a thorough and capable training to fit him for a remunerative
trade, and a chance of employment a little better than the average —
these constitute the real public duty, a duty not so simple of fulfill-
ment as the mere provision of social entertainment.

The one form of expression should be frowned upon as actually
unpatriotic; the other should be promoted and encouraged. A cam-
paign of public education is an absolute essential to the success of
any national program of reeducation.


To complete physical rehabilitation in amputation cases, artificial
limbs must be supplied. At the outbreak of the war the supply of
limbs presented to the European countries a most difficult problem..


The demand was many times greater than it had ever been in the
past, and the major portion of the continental supply had always
been drawn from Germany. In the emergency thousands of appli-
ances were imported from the United States, which has always been
credited with making the best artificial limbs. Later the various
belligerent countries began to manufacture limbs themselves. The
factories, operating under official auspices, are enabled to utilize any
patented features without paying royalties.

Each limb must be made to individual specifications and fitted to
the stump of the patient who is to wear it. That a stump shrinks for
some time after amputation introduces one element of difficulty, in
that a limb which fits 6 months after amputation may come far from
doing so after 12 months. For this reason it may be wise to provide
the soldier at first with a simple temporary limb, and later with a
more elaborate and permanent one. He must be quite explicitly as-
sured of this plan, however, as he will otherwise become suspicious
of being put off with an inferior article.

Very remarkable results in cases of arm amputation are now being
accomplished by prosthesis, i. e., the fitting to the stump of special
appliances. Thus, instead of being provided with a well-appearing
artificial arm, there will be attached to his stump a chuck in which he
can insert interchangeably a knife, a fork, a tool, a hook, or some
special implement by which to guide or steady work on which he is
engaged. These " working prostheses " are often individually de-
signed to meet the requirements of the particular trade which their
wearer is to follow.

Both prosthetic apparatus and artificial limbs advantage by sim-
plicity. When too complicated the men lose faith in and discard
them. For some types of manual workers it may be wise, for instance,
to provide the primitive " peg and bucket " leg for use in working
hours, and in addition a more esthetic type for wear on Sundays and


As the choice of trades should be influenced by the labor conditions
of the community, so must employment of the graduates be closely
integrated with the course of instruction. Not only must a position
be secured for the reeducated soldier, but he must be placed as intelli-
gently as possible. To the man the work must be satisfactory and
the environment agreeable; to the employer the personality of the
soldier must be acceptable and his product sufficient to the require-
ments. Of course, this ideal can only be approximated, but a trained
and capable employment officer can do much in this direction. Only
by skilled and thorough work can permanent results be obtained, and
nothing is more costly to all parties concerned than short-time em-
ployment and frequent change of job.


Ten men placed in 10 jobs by the opportunist method of sending
the first available applicant to the first available position may be
unhappy themselves and unsatisfactory to their employers. Yet the
same 10 under different and wiser placement direction may be almost
ideally located in the same jobs. It is to this end that tends the
natural system of employment and discharge, but it is a costly
method and one that, for the crippled soldier, should be made un-

The first job for the man returned from the front is easy to se-
cure — so easy that we should not be misled by the superficial indi-
cations. The employer is patriotic and anxious to help the crippled
soldiers. But when the war shall have been over a few years these
motives will be no longer effective. The man taken on in a time of
national stress will be just one of the employees, and his retention
in service will depend upon performance alone. If the original
placement was intelligent the man will have made progress, gained
confidence and experience, and made his position sure. If, on the
other hand, he was ill-fitted for the job, he will have grown pro-
gressively less efficient and in consequence discouraged, and his status
will be precarious indeed. A permanent injury might thus result
from an employment bungle in the first instance. All this simply
means that effective placement is not an amateur job.

The actual methods of placement need not be here discussed, but
to one feature attention may be called. Disabled soldiers must be
regarded as a special class. The transition from military to civilian
life involved in entering on the first job is a more radical step than
is taken by the average employee going from one position to another.
The placement must, therefore, be followed up after the first few
days of work, the apprehensions of the " green " employee must be
dispelled, his difficulties adjusted, and his confidence fortified. If
this follow-up can be done by a person whom the ex-soldier knows
and trusts it will be all the more effective.


Should the support and direction of after-care for the war cripple
be public or private? The answer to this question is unequivocal —
the responsibility is most emphatically a national one. This can be
demonstrated not only as a matter of principle, but also by actual
experiential results.

From the viewpoint of principle it may be concluded that the
returned soldier should not be dependent for one of his most vital
necessities on the dole of private charity, for which is expected a
grateful appreciation. Were the work's auspices of such character
it would materially prejudice the attitude of the men. The soldiers


might very logically object to passing around the hat in order to
provide for them, facilities, the need of which is not- open to argu-
ment. There should not be the least hint of patronage or pauperiza-
tion in this partial restitution made by the state to those who have
been disabled in its service.

Empirically, the indications for public assumption of responsibility
are all positive. The most obvious point lies in the uncertainty that
the facilities privately provided shall be commensurate with the
demands. In the wealthy urban centers schools for reeducation
would be numerous and well equipped; in the rural sections and in
the smaller cities there might be almost no provision at all. It would
be intolerable did a crippled soldier from Arizona have any less
chance for future success than his fellow veteran from Boston or
New York.

Again, the extent and thoroughness of the work would be subject
to fluctuation, varying with the results obtained in solicitation of
funds. The income would likewise adversely be affected by a com-
peting financial campaign — another issue of Liberty bonds, another
Red Cross week, might mean dropping a useful subject, shortening
a course, refusing admission to some eligible applicants.

Under private control, furthermore, the standard of work would
vary greatly. The schools would not have the advantage of central
direction by expert and capable executives. There is also no riper
field for the expression of mawkish sentimentality than in caring
for the crippled or blind, and the injured soldier must be protected
from becoming its victim. With schools operated under local aus-
pices there would be a few good ones and many of the indifferent
variety. And there is no problem more delicate than that of coping
with ill-directed and silly charitable enterprises. One can picture the
invective of local newspapers if the authorities refused to assign
soldiers to a certain institution because its standards of administra-
tion and instruction were considered below par. The time to avert
such predicament is prior to their use.

Let us consider, on the other hand, the advantages accruing from
centralized public control. The factor of most moment is the char-
acter the work then assumes in its relation to the individual war crip-
ple. It becomes regarded much as is the public school system; the
soldier is thus entitled to training by virtue of his rights as a citizen
and an honorable public servant. There is of charity no taint what-

With an acknowledged national responsibility, the facilities pro-
vided can keep pace with, or indeed ahead of, the requirements. The
work can be carried out on a plan fixed in advance, and its standards
be consistent country wide.


Another advantage of Federal control lies in the simplicity of inte-
gration between the medical and educational interests. The former
is under military and, therefore, national authority, and simplifica-
tion of procedure can not but result from having the latter of like
scope. The training classes must in many instances be carried on in
medical institutions, as there is a considerable period of convalescence
in which the men should be under reeducation. Again, one of the
principal methods of restoring disabled soldiers to health is the pre-
scription of specified exercise, and it has been found that this is best
gained in workshops rather than with mechanotherapeutic apparatus.
Finding that they can do some practical thing, however simple, is
immensely encouraging to men who may have lost all hope of future
usefulness. Occupational therapy plays now one of the leading roles
in the convalescent treatment of the wounded, and this makes all the
more desirable a close relation between the two branches of the work.

A central and national direction of the work for war cripples does
not in the least preclude the utilization of volunteer effort and facili-
ties. Such private assistance will be more than desirable; it will be
essential. For trade classes it may be better to obtain the use for part
time of shops in existing schools — institutions which will be in posi-
tion to afford such facilities on account of the number of their regu-
lar students who will have been called to arms. In England the
technical institutes are being widely used ; in France many war crip-
. pies are being instructed in the regular schools of agriculture.

But under these conditions the private contribution helps rather
than hampers the effectiveness of the national plan.


Vocational reeducation for disabled soldiers, as it is carried on in
France, is not the realization of a careful plan prepared by the Gov-
ernment in advance for an expected situation, but is the result of vari-
ous isolated attempts to cope with a great national emergency. In
the autumn of 1914 large numbers of men wounded in the retreat
from the Belgian border and the battles of the Marne and the Aisne
were being turned out from the military hospitals. They were, per-
haps, cured of their wounds, but they were unfit for further military
duty, and were therefore discharged from the army. That many of
them were equally unfit for civilian life did not at that time concern
the French Government. It bestowed upon them the tiny pension
allowed under a long-standing law and sent them to their homes.
How to help them to earn a decent living and to become again useful,
self-respecting citizens became then questions for each community to


A solution that went deeper than mere charitable giving was first
worked out in the city of Lyons through the initiative and foresight
of the mayor of the city, M. Fdouard Herriot. M. Herriot proposed
that the city should organize a school where men incapable of resum-
ing their former occupation should be taught a new trade compatible
with their disability. He secured for his project the approval of the
municipal council, and on December 16, 1914, he opened a school.
Three pupils only were enrolled at the beginning, but applications
came in rapidly and by May of 1915 the school was full to overflow-
ing. A second school was then established in the suburbs of the city. 2
These two institutions — the first, known as the ficole Joffre, and the
second called the ficole de Tourvielle — have served as models for
most of the other schools since formed in nearly every city of im-
portance in France. 8

Shortly after the organization of M. Herriot's pioneer trade school
for disabled men the National Government recognized the need for

Online LibraryDouglas C. (Douglas Crawford) McMurtrieThe evolution of national systems of vocational reeducation for disabled soldiers and sailors → online text (page 2 of 38)