John Franklin Bobbitt.

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therefore, deal with every normal child and youth on the
theory that, when adulthood is reached, he must earn his
living. Each is to be a producer to the extent that he con-
sumes. -

In any survey of civilized conditions the most obvious
thing is that men and women must work; that to their call-
ings they must devote a major portion of their time and
energy. They find Nature very parsimonious with her sup-
plies of Tj food, clothing, fuel, shelter; more illiberal still in
supplying books, pianos, theaters, railroad and steamship
tickets, church pews, and college courses. Nature supplies
only the crudest raw materials. The rest must be created
by human labor.

Were man content with what Nature supplies, he would
not be man, but only an exceptionally intelligent animal
species. But he has not been content. He has manfully
taken raw Nature in hand and through heavy labor con-
trolled it and shaped it to his high human purposes. Thus
he has laid the foundations of his civilization; won his
measure of freedom from stern biological necessity; and
thus alone can he hold his gains. Through productive toil
he has won his leisure, his surplus energies, and the means
for his art, his literature, sports, travel, science, religion.

Occupational labors clearly represent the basic service to
humanity, the most fundamental social service. In a day


when the watchword of the world's humanitarian religion
is "social service," it is well to note that the most solid
and never-relaxing portions of this service are the labors
of farmer and merchant, plumber and carpenter, housewife
and seamstress, miner and engineer, physician, teacher, and
journalist, and the rest of the valiant army of men and
women who labor.

Those who object to vocational education in public schools
because manual labor is sordid and unclean, should note
that its frequent unloveliness is due, not to the fact that men
work, but to the conditions of their labor. Insanitary shops,
factories, and mines sap the physical vitality of the workers.
Their inertia, ignorance, and inefficiency result in too long
a work-day and a too-extended deadly mechanical monot-
ony. They live usually within a narrow mental and social
horizon. There is a great dearth of humanizing influences,
companionships, and associations; and owing to this absence
of uplifting influences and opportunities, they all too often
tend to vicious and destructive animal pleasures. Too often
they are compelled to live in crowded, unwholesome houses;
are too often ill-fed, ill-clad, and uncleanly of habit; and
have wages that permit little better even if they should
desire and attempt a higher standard of living. The frequent
ugliness of labor conditions is sufficiently evident.

The undesirable conditions are debasing, even destruc-
tive. Their malign influence year after year does degrade or
even destroy the laborer. After long exposure to them, his
character cannot usually be of socially desirable type. Men
should, however, clear the scales from their eyes, and see
that while the maleficent influences may be the usual con-
comitants of labor, they are not necessary concomitants.
Each is really a foe to right labor; a demonstrable obstacle
to efficiency.

The purpose of occupational education is the removal through


general enlightenment of the injurious or destructive labor
conditions. To admit that much of labor is debased and
debasing is not an excuse for faltering before the task of voca-
tional training. It is the very reason for manfully undertak-
ing it. It is the prdience of imperfections in the labor field
that justify the ameliorative labors of education. As in the
field of language, where there are no imperfections, there is
no reason for. training hi grammar. The more mistakes there
are, the more the reasons for education. In the same way
in the labor field, the greater the number of imperfections,
the greater is the need of vigorous occupational education.

In objection to the social-service doctrine of labor, it may
be urged that vocations are and ought to be individualistic.
It must be admitted, however, that there are some voca-
tional classes upon whom does rest the moral obligations of
social service. The physician, for example, supported by a
given community is expected to serve that community to
the best of his ability. He will respond to calls for service
at any hour and under all conditions. Not his convenience,
but theirs, is to be served. He must respond to the call of
the poor who cannot pay with the same promptness and
good-will that he extends to the call of the well-to-do. He
must keep inviolate all information professionally confided
to bis care. In these matters the ethics of the medical voca-
tion is clearly social. The work is recognized as social serv-
ice. The physician's measure of honor is the greater because
it is so.

Most professional service is of analogous type. And it is
these social-service vocations that we regard as the highest.
Men of the largest intelligence and ambitions regard them
as the ones most desirable. To develop an ethics of social f
service about a calling does not deprive it of honor or desir- 1
ability. On the contrary, it is thereby exalted.

These professional labors are not the only ones about


which public opinion is weaving systems of social ethics.
We hear much nowadays of "public-service" corporations.
The phrase is one of recent coinage. Until within a few
years corporations were expected to serve the stockholders
and directors. Now we have faced them the other way.
They are to serve the public. A railroad company, for
example, can no longer fix the qualities, rates, or conditions
of service in ways dictated solely by self-interest. These
are fixed in the interests of efficient public service. Manu-
facturers of foodstuffs and of clothing are no longer wholly
free to follow the dictates of individual self-interest in the
choice of the raw materials, the labeling of the product, the
labor conditions under which produced, or, in extreme cases,
even prices, when self-interest runs counter to community
welfare. Where the two interests conflict, the public interest
is coming to be dominant. The old plan was to "charge all
that the traffic would bear." In other words, there was to
be a maximum of social extortion for a minimum of social
service. The new situation reverses the terms. Its aim is a
maximum of social service for a minimum of social expen-

This weaving of a social ethics about vocational groups
proceeds with almost disconcerting rapidity. Many are
finding it difficult to readjust their systems of ideas fast
enough to keep pace with social changes. But the move-
ment appears to be the irresistible movement of civilization.
Many vocations, hitherto self-centered and materialistic,
are being humanized, socialized, and lifted into a purer
atmosphere. Bankers, manufacturers, and railroad officials,
for example, in recognizing and absolving their recently dis-
cerned social responsibilities, are taking places in social
esteem formerly reserved only for the few so-called " learned "

Far less clear is this movement of the public conscious-


ness as regards the work of the farmer, the small merchant,
the housekeeper, the artisan, the factory-worker, and the
unskilled laborer. It is easy to see that these classes serve
the general welfare as fully and as fundamentally as the
other classes mentioned above; but their labors are not yet
so fully recognized as community service. Their labors are
looked upon as simply self-seeking modes of making a liv-
ing. The difference in the social-service situation is not a
difference of reality, but only one of social understanding
and recognition. The farmer, for example, performs an
indispensable community service in supplying the original
elements of food and clothing. His service is not less high
than that of the physician simply because he ministers to
the bodily side of man. The physician also ministers to the
bodily welfare; and in a less fundamental way. We can do
without the labors of the physician most of the time; but
the services of the farmer extend to every day of our lives.
His labors are fully as strenuous, involve as long hours, and
require as great disregard of physical discomforts.

Recognition of the social-service position of the farmer,
although inadequate as yet, is developing visibly and rap-
idly. The general public is coming to see that many of its
ills are due to inadequate service received at the hands of
the men on the farms. The public is coming to scrutinize
the service of the farmer, and to point out, through public
opinion and legislation, ways in which he may better serve
the general welfare; as in the handling of milk, the tuber-
culin test of cattle, etc. Only a few regulations of this type
have yet been extended to the farmer's work. In general his
social responsibilities are yet unrecognized. Whether the
soil socially entrusted to his care shall bring forth twenty or
one hundred bushels to the acre is altogether an affair of his
own, and in no wise an affair of the rest of the men and
women whom that land must feed. He is in the position of


the street-car company that runs cars or not just as the
company pleases without regard to the general welfare; or
of the physician who responds or not to a call for help
according to his own personal desires. The countless sug-
gestions made nowadays by bankers, merchants, packing-
house directors, grain-dealers, ultimate consumers, etc., to
"educate " the farmer so as to bring about better and bigger
crops of all kinds, to keep him and his family healthy, happy,
and efficient, and to keep the sons upon the farm, are indi-
cations of a growing recognition of the indispensable social-
service aspect of the farmer's work. In spite of any desires
on his part, a social ethics is being woven about the farmer's
work in the public consciousness.

Responsibility is not all on one side, however. In serving
all other groups efficiently, the farmer puts upon all of them
the responsibility of serving his interests equally in return.
He must have opportunities for himself and family for self-
realization as full as those accorded to the groups which he
serves. Current discussions of rural education, churches,
social opportunities, rural surveys, etc., indicate a rapidly
growing realization of these return social responsibilities.
In developing this recognition of mutual obligation, the
farmer loses nothing: he gains much. It means improved
material conditions, a widened mental and social horizon,
more numerous social contacts and opportunities, and
heightened social esteem. His measure of honor and of
reward must be in proportion to the general consciousness
of his measure of service.

It should be mentioned here that the development of a
social ethics about any vocation is perhaps always done
by those who receive the service, not by those who perform it.
Food manufacturers are not the ones who pointed out the
community-service aspect of their labors, and the result-
ing obligations of purity, honesty of label, and full weight.


Recognition of their obligations had to be forced upon them
by those to whom they owed their responsibilities. This is
equally true of railroads and municipal-service corporations,
of journalists and Congressmen, of teachers and clergymen,
judges and physicians. An occupational class does not of
itself develop its own social ethics. This must be done by
the general public, and perhaps always in the face of oppo-
sition from the class that is being socially assimilated. The
superintendent of schools in a large city recently stated that
after fifty years of service within the city as teacher, princi-
pal, and superintendent, he had never known a progres-
sive educational movement to be proposed that was not op-
posed in the beginning by the majority of the teachers. If
such is the case with an occupational group already so en-
lightened as teachers, and already so imbued with the spirit
and traditions of service, much more may initial oppositions
be expected of social groups which are in less close contact
with enlightenment, and which have not yet the social
momentum of tradition.

Social service does not mean self-renunciation. Self-
interest cannot be eliminated. It is the steam that runs the
whole machine. It has always been and must always be the
mainspring of human action. It must be noted, however,
that, on the one hand, there is a narrow, ignorant, materi-
alistic self-interest; and on the other, an enlightened, hu-
manistic self-interest characterized by wide social vision,
which recognizes that individual welfare at its highest comes
only through general community welfare at its highest.

The growing zeal for the vocational education of all
classes, shown by clear-sighted men and women whose
primary interest is general human welfare, is closely related
to this changed and still rapidly changing attitude toward
all useful vocations. They see that every useful calling is
not only in itself social service, but that it is coming to be so


recognized; and that it is being more and more given its
proper measure of social reward and honor.

This is solving a problem hitherto insoluble, although our
schools pretended to solve it by an impossible method. A
certain few occupations, the professional and the mana-
gerial, have been looked upon as possessing an ethical su-
periority to commercial, mechanical, agricultural, or house-
hold occupations. It has been felt that in the professions
men can live honorable, worthy social lives, while in the other
callings men are of necessity sordid-minded, self-seeking, and
generally more or less debased. It has been felt that edu-
"* ication must close the gates of full opportunity to no child.
The only gates of full opportunity are those that open
toward the professions. These are the ones, therefore, that
are to be held open to every child these and no others.
To start him toward anything else is to deprive him irrevoca-
bly and forever of the opportunity of f ull-statured, socially-
honored manhood. The result has been that we have of-
fered pre-professional training to all pupils. And we have
refrained from recommending to students that they prepare
for the so-called "lower" occupations. In this attitude
teachers have been honest and high-minded. They have
felt that only the best was good enough for their pupils.
Their highest service, they have felt, has been to help their
pupils to the highest.

While honest and well-intentioned, the plan is incredibly
shortsighted. The doors of opportunity are not opened to
our twenty million children and youth in any such easy way.
If all of them should take advantage of the opportunities
and fit themselves to enter upon professional or managerial
labors, they would find, when they reached the world of
affairs, that there are positions of this type for less than
ten per cent of them. More than ninety per cent would
after fruitless preparation be compelled to enter the ranks


of tradesmen, merchants, miners, farmers, facto x ry opera*
tives, etc. Nearly all would be turned back into the so-
called "lower " vocations. Our people must be given credit
for seeing the fallacy of the plan. The withdrawal of pupils
of adolescent grades, of which we hear so much lament,
appears to be indicative of a certain amount of common
sense. Men see that the plan only pretends to offer high
opportunity to all; it does not really do so. If every man and
woman were a college graduate, the useful labors of the
world would still have to be performed. Productive labor
is not to be escaped by shunting everybody into the pro-

So long as equally useful vocations have been so unequally
honored and rewarded, and so long as labor conditions
have offered such unequal opportunities for self-realization,
this educational problem has been insoluble. The solution is
coming, not through the impossible plan of lifting all
people into the professions, but through lifting all vocations
to the social level of the professions. The process is making
the door to any useful vocation a door of opportunity.

The objectives of occupational training

In the imperfections of the occupational world, one finds
the call for directed vocational training.

If all occupational affairs were efficiently and harmoniously
conducted by the present adult generation, education would
have but a simple task to perform. It would be nothing
more than to hand over to the members of the rising genera-
tion the fully developed occupational heritage of the pres-
ent generation. Educators would make a survey of actual
occupational conditions by way of finding the particular
objectives for which the young people are to be trained.
It would be easy to discover demonstrable objectives ac-
cepted by everybody, because they would be already actual
in the world of affairs.


Unfortunately, the present world of occupation is not of
the type described. Affairs in general are managed neither
efficiently nor harmoniously. As a matter of fact, the ad-
vocates of most vocational training are often chiefly inter-
ested in raising the labors of agriculture, mechanical trades,
commerce, etc., to higher levels of efficiency. They are in-
terested not so much in the education of youth as in the
improvement of the work in the world of practical affairs.
The improved education of the worker is simply a means of
bringing about this result.

Education under the circumstances has, therefore, a
double task to perform: (1) to act as a primary agency of
social progress, lifting the occupational world to a higher
and more desirable level; (2) to do this by educating the
rising generation so that they will perform their occupational
functions in a manner greatly superior to that of their
fathers. The task is to develop in the rising generation, not
merely the degree of proficiency found in the world about
them, but to carry them much beyond; to look, not merely
to the actual practices, but rather to those that ought to be.
It is so to train them that the occupational mistakes, weak-
nesses, imperfections, maladjustments, etc., that now appear
so numerously in the occupational situations of their fathers
shall be as fully as practicable eliminated in that more har-
monious and more 'efficient occupational regime that they
are to establish and maintain.

Since the training is for the purpose of eliminating the
various undesirable weaknesses, obviously one of the first
tasks of education is to discover what these are. This at
present is a baffling and in part an impossible task because
of the vagueness of our knowledge as to what ought to be.
Large portions of the occupational realm have not yet been
sufficiently explored by scientific investigators. These un-
explored regions constitute fields of great disagreement on


the part of differently situated interested parties. A list of
occupational weaknesses drawn up by an employers' asso-
ciation will differ in essential particulars from one drawn
up by a labor organization. A group of social or civic
workers will prepare a list that will differ in important
respects from either.

Educators meet here with a grave difficulty . The correction
of grammatical or spelling errors, for example, has no impor-
tant economic results. Property distributions are not af-
fected. Men do not, therefore, greatly care what the list
of grammatical or spelling weaknesses may be that are to
be corrected by the training in our schools. They give little
heed to our lists, however complete they may be. But in the
occupational field, property is affected. An undesirable oc-
cupational condition very frequently gives increased profits
to one group and does harm to a second. It is, therefore,
considered good and desirable by one and evil by the other.
Each side develops a special economic theory. One justifies,
the other condemns. Public education, however, must train
the individuals of both groups for the occupational and eco-
nomic things that ought to be. We cannot employ two sys-
tems of thought in the drawing-up of the training; and each
side forbids our using that of the other. And in the face
of such a blocked situation, each side demands of the schools
that something adequate be done.

Apparently the only practicable thing for the present is
to assemble that quite considerable list of occupational de-
ficiencies upon which all sides can now agree sufficiently for
getting a program under way. This can be only a partial
program; but it can provide a common ground of under-
standing which can be gradually extended until in time it
embraces the whole field.

A long list of occupational deficiencies can be obtained
from the Report of the United States Commission on In-


dustrial Relations. This commission visited all portions of
the country and secured testimony from representatives of
eighty-two labor organizations; thirty-six employers' asso-
ciations; one hundred and thirteen firms and corporations;
thirty-eight civil organizations; and fifty public institu-
tions. Naturally witnesses of different types did not agree
as to occupational maladjustments, or remedial measures.
But education cannot wait till the world has settled all its
differences. We must secure a list of deficiencies that can
be agreed upon by at least a majority of citizens. In the
following brief list we present a mingled sample of occu-
pational deficiencies and maladjustments as reported to the
commission by employers, employees, and social workers;
or as implied in their testimony. 1

Occupational deficiencies

1. Inefficiency of workers.

2. Inefficiency of managerial officials in organization, admin-
istration, and direction of work.

3. Dearth of high ideals and standards of workmanship.

4. The misunderstanding and misvaluation on the part of each
other of both labor and capital; the lack of mutual confidence;
the class prejudices.

^ 5. The failure of workmen to appreciate the superior power of
intelligence over force in the correction of social and eco-
nomic difficulties.

6. Inaccessibility of facts concerning the various occupational
fields to many or most interested parties.

7. Violence in labor troubles: lockouts, strikes, black lists,
boycotts, use of provokers, spies, and gunmen, sabotage,
"soldiering," etc.

8. A lack of industrial democracy; the presence of industrial

9. The presence of opposing special interests which make neces-

1 Mainly taken from a summary of the Report of the Commission,
published in The Survey, December 12, 1914.


sary opposing organizations and the resulting inevitable
class warfare.

10. Employers and employees both largely lacking in the social-
service point of view, and in social conscience.

11. The deadening effect of long mechanical monotony in highly
specialized industry.

12. Insanitary and dangerous conditions hi many industries. The
prevalence of occupational diseases.

13. The insecurity which the wage-earner feels at all tunes. Un-

14. The lack of a voice on the part of workers in the regulation of
the conditions under which they labor.

15. The loss of the feeling of individual responsibility, as men
are swallowed up hi large factories or other corporate organi-

16. The lack of the scientific attitude of mind, in the considera-
tion of the conditions of workmen, wages, relations of em-
ployers and employees, relation of the vocational group to
the general public, etc.

17. Lack of principles or accepted standards of judgment for
fixing wages or just income for the various social classes.

18. A general ignorance on the part of occupational groups as
to the social relationships of their labors: their rights, and
their responsibilities.

19. A highly fragmentary and inadequate knowledge of the
occupational situation on the part of the general public.

20. Public indifference to the welfare and general success of occu-
pational groups.

21. The unawareness on the part of the general public of the
ways in which facts can be used hi the settlement of occu-
pational difficulties.

22. The different ethical levels to which equally useful occupa-
tions are assigned in the public consciousness.

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Online LibraryJohn Franklin BobbittThe curriculum → online text (page 5 of 22)