COPTBIGHT 1911 BY
S. CHESTER PARSER
SECRETARY OP THE SOCIETY
Published February 1911
Composed and Printed By
The University of Chicago Press
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
VIII. VOCATIONAL GUIDANCE
Director of the Vocation Bureau of Boston
When the Civic Service House, a social settlement in the crowded
North End of Boston, invited the late Professor Frank Parsons, in
October, 1908, to undertake a work of personally advising with the young
men and women who attended its clubs and classes it soon found an
outside call for such service to a degree which taxed the strength of the
adviser and the resources of the institution.
So thoroughly did Professor Parsons conceive and outline his work,
so detailed and even scientific were his methods of consultation, that
before very long there literally came to him a. country-wide demand for
information and personal help. He was spared only long enough to
write his Choosing a Vocation, the first modern work on this subject.
After his death, one of Boston's leading merchants and a number of
public-spirited men and women decided to organize the work of voca-
tional advising on a scale adequate to the demands which kept increas-
ing. Mrs. Pauline Agassiz Shaw, the founder of the Civic Service House,
and the writer, who for ten years had been its director, co-operated in
this effort. Later the writer secured a leave of absence from settlement
duties in order to direct the development of the new Vocation Bureau.
On May 4, 1909, Mr. Edward A. Filene, as one of the moving spirits
of the civic movement known as Boston 1915, received the following
letter from the secretary of the Boston School Board:
DEAR SIR: I respectfully call your attention to the following order which
was passed by the School Committee at a meeting held yesterday evening.
"Ordered, that the Boston- 191 5 Committee be requested to secure the
co-operation of the Vocation Bureau for the purpose of assisting graduates of
the public schools of this city in choosing wisely the most appropriate employ-
On May 12, after a conference in the Boston-i9i5 of&ce, the Execu-
tive Committee of the Vocation Bureau sent the following statement of
its plan of co-operation to the School Board:
HO THE ELEVENTH YEARBOOK
First, The Vocation Bureau will employ a Vocational Director to give
practically his entire time to the organization of vocational counsel for the
graduates of the Boston Public Schools during the ensuing year;
Second, The work of this Vocational Director shall be carried on in co-
operation with the Boston School Committee or the Superintendent of Schools,
as the committee shall see fit;
Third, It is the plan of the Bureau to have this Vocational Director organ-
ize a conference of the masters and teachers of the Boston High Schools through
the School Committee or through the Superintendent of Schools, for the pur-
pose of providing that members of the graduating classes will be met for
vocational advice either by this Vocational Director or by the co-operating
schoolmasters and teachers, all working along a general plan, to be adopted by
Fourth, This Vocational Director should, in co-operation with the Superin-
tendent of Schools or any person whom he may appoint, arrange vocational
trips and vocational lectures for the members of the graduating classes.
Fifth, The Bureau believes that schoolmasters and teachers should be
definitely trained to give vocational counsel, and therefore that it is advisable
for this Vocational Director, in co-operation with the Superintendent of Schools,
to establish a series of conferences to which certain selected teachers and
masters in the schools shall be invited on condition that they will agree in
turn definitely to do vocational counseling with their own pupils.
On Monday, June 7, the Boston School Committee having adopted
the vocational guidance plans submitted, instructed the superintendent
to appoint a school committee of three masters and three sub-masters
to meet regularly with the director of the Vocation Bureau. This
committee has been holding weekly meetings at the office of the Bureau,
and its report after a year of service deserves quoting. Among its more
important statements and recommendations are the following:
The Committee on Vocational Direction respectfully presents the follow-
ing as a report for the school year just closed. The past year has been a year of
beginnings, the field of operation being large and the problems complicated.
A brief survey of the work shows the following results:
A general interest in vocational direction has been aroused among the
teachers of Boston, not only in the elementary but in the high schools.
A vocational counselor, or a committee of such counselors, has been
appointed in every high school and in all but one of the elementary schools.
A vocational record card of every elementary-school graduate for this
year has been made, to be forwarded to the high school in the fall.
Stimulating vocational lectures have been given to thirty of the graduating
VOCA TIONAL GUIDANCE III
classes of the elementary schools of Boston, including all the schools in the
more congested parts of the city.
Much has been done by way of experiment by the members of this com-
mittee in the various departments of getting employment, counseling, and
following up the pupils after leaving school.
The interest and loyal co-operation of many of the leading philanthropic
societies of Boston have been secured, as well as that of many prominent in the
business and professional life of the city and the state.
A good beginning has already been made in reviewing books suitable for
vocational libraries in schools.
It was early decided that we should confine our efforts for the first year
mainly to pupils of the highest elementary grade as the best point of contact.
The problem of vocational aid and counsel in the high schools has not as yet
been directly dealt with, yet much that is valuable has been accomplished in
all our high schools on the initiative of the head-masters and selected teachers.
It is safe to say that the quality and amount of vocational aid and direction
has far exceeded any hitherto given in those schools. The committee, through
open and private conferences, and correspondence with the head-masters, have
kept in close touch with the situation in high schools, but they feel that for the
present year it is best for the various types of high schools each to work out its
own plan of vocational direction. The facts regarding their experience can
properly be made the basis of a later report. A committee of three, appointed
by the Head-masters' Association, stands ready to advise with this committee
on all matters relating to high-school vocational interests. Once during the
year the principals of the specialized high schools met in conference the voca-
tional counselors of the city and have presented the aims and the curricula of
the schools in such a way as to greatly enlighten those responsible for advising
pupils just entering high schools.
The committee have held regular weekly meetings through the school
year since September. At these meetings every phase of vocational aid has
been discussed, together with its adaptability to our present educational
system. Our aim has been to test the various conclusions before recommend-
ing them for adoption. This has taken time. Our most serious problem so
far has been to adapt our plans to conditions as we find them, without increas-
ing the teachers' work and without greatly increased expense. We have
assumed that the movement was not a temporary "fad," but that it had a
permanent value, and was therefore worthy the serious attention of educators.
Three aims have stood out above all others: first, to secure thoughtful
consideration, on the part of parents, pupils, and teachers, of the importance
of a life-career motive; second, to assist in every way possible in placing pupils
in some remunerative work on leaving school; and third, to keep in touch with
and help them thereafter, suggesting means of improvement and watching
112 THE ELEVENTH YEARBOOK
the advancement of those who need such aid. The first aim has been in some
measure achieved throughout the city. The other two have thus far been
worked out only by the individual members of the committee. As a result
we are very firmly of the opinion that until some central bureau of information
for pupils regarding trade and mercantile opportunities is established, and
some effective system of sympathetically following up pupils for a longer or a
shorter period after leaving school is organized in our schools as centers, the
effort to advise and direct merely will largely fail. Both will require added
executive labor which will fall upon the teachers first. We believe they will
accept the responsibility. If, as Dr. Eliot says, teachers will find those schools
more interesting where the life-career motive is present, then the sooner that
motive is discovered in the majority of pupils the more easily will the day's
work be done and the product correspondingly improved.
In order to enlist the interest and co-operation of the teachers of Boston,
three mass meetings one in October and two in the early spring were held.
A fourth meeting with the head-masters of high schools was also held with the
same object. As a most gratifying result the general attitude is most sym-
pathetic and the enthusiasm marked. The vocation counselors in high and
elementary schools form a working organization of over one hundred teachers,
representing all the schools. A responsible official, or committee, in each
school stands ready to advise pupils and parents at times when they most need
advice and are asking for it. They suggest whatever helps may be available
in further educational preparation. They are ready to fit themselves pro-
fessionally to do this work more intelligently and discriminatingly, not only
by meeting together for mutual counsel and exchange of experience but by
study and expert preparation if need be.
As a beginning of our work with pupils we have followed out two lines: the
lecture and the card record. The addresses have been mainly stimulating
and inspirational. It seems to the committee, however, that specific informa-
tion coming from those intimately connected with certain lines of labor should
have a place also in this lecture phase of our work. In a large number of high
and elementary schools addresses of this character have been given by experts
during the year. The committee claim no credit for these, though carried out
under the inspiration of the movement the committee represent. The custom
of having such addresses given before Junior Alumni Associations, Parents'
Associations, and evening school gatherings has become widespread, the
various masters taking the initiative in such cases. The speakers are able to
quote facts with an authority that is convincing to the pupil and leads him to
take a more serious view of his future plans, especially if the address is followed
up by similar talks from the class teacher, emphasizing the points of the
speaker. This is a valuable feature and should be extended to include more
VOCATIONAL GUIDANCE 113
of the elementary grades, especially in the more densely settled portions of the
city, from which most of our unskilled workers come.
A vocational record card, calling for elementary-school data on one side and
for high-school data on the other, has been furnished all the elementary schools
for registration of this year's graduates. The same card will be furnished to
high schools this fall. These cards are to be sent forward by the elementary-
school counselors to high schools in September, to be revised twice during the
high-school course. The value of the card record is not so much in the register-
ing of certain data as in the results of the process of getting these. The effect
upon the mental attitude of pupil, teacher, and parent is excellent, and makes
an admirable beginning in the plan of vocational direction.
The committee are now in a position where they must meet a demand of
both pupils and teachers for vocational enlightenment. Pupils should have
detailed information in the form of inexpensive handbooks regarding the various
callings and how to get into them, wages, permanence of employment, chance of
promotion, etc. Teachers must have a broader outlook upon industrial op-
portunities for boys and girls. Even those teachers who know their pupils
will generally have little acquaintance with industrial conditions. The major-
ity can advise fairly well how to prepare for a profession, while few can tell a
boy how to get into a trade or what the opportunities therein are. In this
respect our teachers will need to be more broadly informed regarding social,
industrial, and economic problems. We have to face a more serious problem
in a crowded American city than in a country where children are supposed to
follow the father's trade.
In meeting the two most pressing needs, viz., the vocational enlightenment
of teachers, parents, and pupils, and the training of vocational counselors, we
shall continue to look for aid to the Vocation Bureau. The Bureau has been
of much assistance during the past year, in fact indispensable, hi matters of
correspondence, securing information, getting out printed matter, and in giv-
ing the committee counsel based upon a superior knowledge of men and con-
ditions in the business world.
The question of vocational direction is merely one phase of the greater
question of vocational education. As a contributory influence we believe seri-
ous aggressive work in this line will lead to several definite results, aside from
the direct benefit to the pupils. It will create a demand for better literature
on the subject of vocations. It will help increase the demand for more and
better trade schools. It will cause teachers to seek to broaden their knowledge
of opportunities for mechanical and mercantile training. Lastly, it will tend
to a more intelligent and generous treatment of employees by business houses,
the personal welfare and prospects of the employee being taken into account
as well as the interests of the house itself.
114 THE ELEVENTH YEARBOOK
What has given rise to the nation-wide interest in the subject of
vocational guidance ? Advising with young people as to their future is
not a new thing. The teacher has long been the child's counselor. Par-
ents have always felt the deepest concern in this vital matter. What is
the reason for a separate and specialized organization's undertaking a
service so intimate and personal? Reflection must convince one that
personal and individual effort, however invaluable, cannot deal adequately
with modern conditions. Tenement homes, a large immigrant popula-
tion as yet unacquainted with the possibilities of the new country, large
school classes, and complex conditions of commerce and industry give
rise to a situation which, besides friendly sentiment, needs facts, organiza-
tion, and even science to understand and cope with.
We are living in the midst of a restless period, impatient with crude-
ness, and too preoccupied to pause over the stumblings and gropings of
its bewildered youth. Into this arena of tense effort, the schools of
our country send out their annual thousands. We somehow trust that
the tide of opportunity may carry them to some vocational destination.
Only the relatively few who reach the higher training institutions can
be said to have their problems at least temporarily solved during the
critical period of adolescence. A multitude are sent out to cope with the
new conditions of self-support. Whose business is it to follow up the
results of this transition from school to work ? Whose business is it to
audit our social accounts and discover how far our costly enterprises in
education, the pain, the thought, the skill, and the sacrifice we put forth
with the growing generation are well or ill invested in the field of occupa-
tion ? The higher training schools are as profoundly concerned in this
problem as are the elementary schools. The well-to-do are no less
affected than the poor. Until society faces the question of the life careers
of its youth, the present vocational anarchy will continue to beset the
It is clear that we have slighted that part of a youth's life which marks
the serious and critical transition from school to work, from the shelter
of social care to the liberties and responsibilities of wage-earning. And
we naturally expect therefore certain definite consequences of this neglect.
To some extent there is a reason for the meagerness of attention to
this matter. Educational policies have not been so perfected as to
afford those concerned with them the freedom and the leisure to regard
much else, however pressing. Indeed it is fair to say that many a strong
VOCATIONAL GUIDANCE 115
word has come from the friends of school children who have been realizing
the pitiful futility of spending all we do for our children with the certain
prospect of nullifying for many whatever benefits have been gained during
To the public as a whole, and not to any group of people, does the
responsibility for making good the child's investment of its training
lie. Vocational guidance presents itself as a community problem.
An important step in this direction was the organization in Boston of
the Vocation Bureau, the first of the kind in the country. The men and
women behind it, leaders in commerce, industry, education, and social
service, appreciated keenly the present misdirection and waste in the
critical transition from school to work. They saw that choice of a
vocation is impossible to young people ignorant of the conditions of
success and efficiency in the modern working world, and understood that
neither school life nor working life could serve to best advantage unless
training, information, and purpose were brought to those in need of
them. Thousands of children leave school for work, not to follow a call-
ing, but to get a job. Unguided, unprepared, and uninformed they find
themselves in a condition of vocational anarchy. The social loss of
all this, as discovered by reports, statistics, and observable consequences,
is appalling. Our children are "pitch-forked into the working world,"
as Charles Booth has said. To lessen this social waste, to furnish neces-
sary information about various occupations and their advantages and
disadvantages and the training necessary for efficiency in them, to
broaden the range of choice, and to deepen the "life-career motive"
in education and in employment, the Vocation Bureau was organized.
The main interest of the Bureau is not the employment of youth, how-
ever favorable and pleasurable the opportunity, but its best social invest-
ment. Underlying all its endeavors is the realization that a longer
period in school and continued training are fundamental to achievement
in every desirable occupation.
In accordance with this plan 117 teachers were appointed to serve
as vocational counselors, and the opportunities open to boys and girls
were fully discussed in a course of lectures and discussions conducted
by the vocational director. Among the subjects presented were:
The Principles of Vocational Guidance.
The Shoe Industry.
The Boy and Girl in the Department Store.
n6 THE ELEVENTH YEARBOOK
The Sources and Methods of Vocational Guidance.
The Machine Industry.
A Group of Trades for Boys.
The Telephone Industry for Girls.
Stenography and Typewriting for Girls.
Bookbinding for Girls.
The Use of Statistics.
To supplement these discussions the Bureau has made a study of
some forty or fifty Boston occupations, and a series of bulletins has been
issued to the school counselors including among other titles:
The Landscape Architect.
The Department Store.
This year's series of talks to school counselors will include:
The Machine Trades.
Mechanical and Civil Engineering.
Textile Mill Working.
The Building Trades.
The Selling Clerk.
The Needle Trades.
Opportunities in the Department Store.
Conditions in Industry for the Young Girl Wage-Earner 14-16 Years Old.
Vocational Opportunities for the Girl Who Completes the High School.
The results of this work have been extremely important and the
usefulness of vocational guidance has become definitely established.
Fundamentally, vocational guidance aims to fit the boy and girl for their
work and, what is equally important, to make their work fit for the boy
and the girl. School life and working life are asked to co-operate in
making the most of youth's possibilities. This is a service in behalf of
efficient democracy; for work and school must join hands in fitting the
future citizen for the highest and best achievements.
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