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of better remuneration. And they should be men who know
the '• why " as well as the ''how" of every industrial process
that goes on under their oversight, for no knowledge short of
that will enable them to meet all contingencies.

The great industrial exhibitions, which began with that of
London in 1SG1, have opened a new era in technical education.
The Continental, nations, taught by the display then made of the
great staples of English manufacture, especially metals, turned
their attention to the diffusion at home of such technical know-
ledge as would fit their workmen to produce the more elaborate
and costly of these, — those sorts, that is, in which the value is
chiefly in the workmanship expended, and not in the raw ma-
terial, much of the latter being imported from England. The
results were visible in the Paris exhibitions of 1855 and lMiT.
and in the second at London in 1861. Each new comparison of
results brought new humiliation to England, and even in 1861 the
conclusion was reached that before England courted any new com-
parisons of this sort, she must do great things for the education
of her workmen. But 1867 found her still farther in the rear.


and almost every competent judge of the question, who expressed
any opinion, united in that of Prof. Tyndall, " that in virtue of
the better education provided by Continental nations, England
must one day, and that no distant one, find herself outstripped
by those nations, both in the arts of peace and war." This
opinion, which is widely shared by patriotic Englishmen, will
mislead us if we ignore the existence of other elements of Eng-
land's commercial greatness. English competition has destroyed
the muslin manufactures of Decca, and the carpet manufactures
of Turkey, in spite of the superiority of those wares to anything
of the same sort that she herself produces. But as intelligence
and taste are more and more widely diffused in those who use
as well as those who produce, superiority of workmanship be-
comes every day a larger element of industrial power.; and Mr.
Scott Russell is not far wrong in saying : " Should the day come
when our manufacturers are less skilled, less informed, less able
than our rivals, the flood of raw materials to our shores, and the
back-current of manufactures to replace them, may take another
direction and surge on other shores."

See his Systematic Technical Education for the English People; Lon-
don, 1869.

§ 344. The technical education of the workman is especially
required for the production of those articles which require beauty
of form, of color, or of design, for their production, and in
which the joy of the artist is wedded to the toil of the artisan.
Our democratic and industrial age has indeed till recently laid
but little stress upon the beauty of its industrial products. It
has cared more for use and subtance, and less for beauty and
grace. There is no real antithesis between the two; the ele-
gantly shaped earthenware from Greek and Roman kitchens and
sculleries, with which we fill our museums and adorn our mantels,
served their every-day uses of holding salt, oil, or the like, as
well as do the ugly shapeless pieces of delft that now take their
places, and they had cost no more for being beautiful. We have
not had common things about us made in beautiful shapes be-


cause we have not cared to have them, — because our minds have
lain dormant as regards the whole matter. But during the last
forty years there has been an ever accelerating increase in the
appreciation and love of the beautiful, and in the hatred and
contempt of the mechanical pretences at beauty that once con-
tented us. Our Democracy is passing out of the Thersites stage
into that of Pericles, and all the past history of Democracy bids
us expect a grand era of the fine and the industrial aits, which
have always lived the grandest life when in alliance with each
other, and with freedom and popular government. Especially
in our industrial age — whatever may be the future of the fine
arts — the manufactures that approach artistic merit and ex-
cellence may be expected to make great advances upon anything
that the past has seen, and to bring the finest combinations of
form and color within the reach of all who can compass even
the necessaries of life. For this end the artisan must once
more become the artist ; for all true art in every nation has been
born in workshops which were also studios, while it has been
pampered, corrupted and finally destroyed in the palaces of nobles
and kings.

The art education of the working classes becomes, therefore,
every day of greater industrial importance. In England es-
pecially it has made very great advances, since the Great Exhibi-
tion of 1851 brought to light the general inferiority of English
goods — especially glass and earthenware — to those of the Con-
tinent in this respect. Art schools, especially night schools for
workingmen, were at once established in all the large towns, and
instruction in art was begun in public and other schools, and the
number of pupils receiving this instruction has increased with
great rapidity. In 1866 it was over a hundred thousand. The
results were at once visible in the exhibition of 1862 in all
articles that called for designing and decorative art, and in those
that require in the workman a feeling fur form or color, and
England's great progress in this direction was confessed by Con-
tinental observers, while her decline in some others was very


evident. The establishment of the great South Kensington
Art-Museum is the last measure in series which have brought
England up from the lowest place but one to one of the very
highest among the civilized nations that apply art to manu-
factures. In Germany the same branch of industrial education
has been vigorously pursued throughout our century; and their
general artistic training, aided by fine fancy and exquisite taste,
has kept the French people also in advance of their insular
neighbors. America lags far behind all these countries ; with
us artistic knowledge and culture of every sort is the privilege
of the few, instead of being the birthright of all. M'e are
beaten in that which is the peculiarity of our own country, and
perhaps our national vocation — the transformation of such
privileges into such birthrights. Hence a large part of our
work, though equally costly in material and thorough in work-
manship, ranks below the corresponding work of Europe because
of this defect. And what work of another sort is done among
us is either by workmen or after patterns imported from Europe
for the purpose. Nor is this a matter of indifference. A very
considerable amount of aptitude for art lies undeveloped in this
uupicturesque country and among this practical people, and is
chiefly a source of annoyance and torment to the teacher as it
finds vent in all sorts of irregular ways, whereas it might be
made a delight and a benefit. And were our designers and
masters of ornamental art native to the soil, their work would
be far better adapted to American tastes, far more a source of
pleasure and instruction to the people than that which is pro-
duced by foreigners in Europe, or after their naturalization
among us. It would be the outgrowth of the national spirit,
and would react far more powerfully upon the national mind in
producing refinement and elevating thought; just as Iiodgers's
statuettes have done more for us than Thorwaldsen's Apostles
could. A truly national school of art would then become
possible to us, for our schools of design would serve to winnow
out the really artistic minds from among the common people, and


give them a sense of the worth of their vocation in its relation
to the national life.

The perfect adaptation of wares to the national tastes is in itself a
measure of protection to the native manufacturer. An English dry
goods firm sent out instructions to its agent in China, to pick up well-
dressed Chinamen of different classes on the street, and buy their clothes
off their backs, and send these at once to England. From these sam-
ples it could produce goods of the very sort that the Chinese
wanted. In other cases the traditional costumes of European peasants
were procured and imitated by English firms, with great success. But
in a progressive society where a really cultivated, and at the same time
distinctively natural taste exists, and where the change of fashions
prevents a dead uniformity and monotony, such an imitation would be

§ 345. Students of the great building eras of the past, those
that produced the temples of classic Greece and the cathedrals
of mediaeval Europe, will never be equalled until the distinction
between the function of the architect and that of his workmen
is obliterated by raising the latter more nearly to the level of
the former. This is a subject of great importance to a young
country like the United States, which is putting hundreds of
millions into public and private buildings every year, and ex-
pects these to last for centuries. The advance of popular taste,
such as it is, has already shown us that nothing is so costly or
so wasteful as ugly architecture. A mechanical lifeless copy or
half copy of a Doric temple or an Italian palace, or a still uglier,
more barn-like building, may please the people who built it and
be not offensive to their neighbors and contemporaries. But the
human mind wages ceaseless war on ugliness, detecting it in-
stinctively, becoming more sensitive to it with every advance in
culture, and finally abolishing it as an eye-sore and a nuisance.
All work that is not the best of its kind comes into collision
with this subtle, levelling force, which is stronger than mortar
and brick, or stone and cement.

The mere spread of culture and taste among our professional
architects will only half solve the problem. We have had no
real architecture — Mr. Ferguson, the very highest authority,
tells us — because our artisans have not been artists also, as all


the G-reek and mediaeval stone-masons were ; and we shall only
go on wastef'ully — building in one generation what the next
will overthrow — till we get back to that point. This is surely
the largest problem in the technical education of the working
classes ; but, after, all, it is only an extreme case, for the same
principle is applicable in every other department. Artistic
beauty is the crown and the flower of all the reproductive work
of man ; and to make the artisan an artist — to add the joy of
beauty to the strength of toil, is a problem that meets us on
every side of industrial life. Only this will lift the life of the
workman out of its sordid wearisomeness, and make it tolerable
by making it noble.

§ 346. The industrial education of the people should be con-
templated in the common school system, as well as in the special
technical schools. The school-room itself should be an educa-
tion in the feeling for and love of the beautiful. Communities
and artists should discern that there is no higher use for the
best artistic faculty that the community possesses. And while
there should be a general training in drawing for all scholars,
there should be a special winnowing process for the selection,
with a view to the further training, of those who are especially
gifted by nature with the artist's eye and hand.

And the neighborhood knowledge proposed above should,
especially in our cities, take in the great local industries, their
histories, their growth aud their methods, and whatever else is
suited to awaken an intelligent interest in the student'-s mind,
and lead him to look on with observant eyes at the work that is
going on around him.

But technical schools for the special training of actual work-
ingmen must be the chief dependence in this respect. There is
nothing new in the attempt to combine learning and working in
the same life. It was once the rule in the history of educa-
tion, while juvenile education, down to the era of the Reforma-
tion, was the exception. The two pursuits are not in each
other's way ; each may give new zest and interest to the other.
Nor need the workimrman's studies be confined to branches


which will be of direct and practical use in liis work. The ex-
periment of the Working-men's Colleges in England shows that
this class arc fully able to receive and to appreciate what is. in
all essential respects, a liberal education, and that not with the
view of leaving their own class to enter what is socially construed
as a higher, but to remain in it as its educators and leaders —
an ideal depicted by our greatest novelist in her Felix Holt.

The general education of the working classes in all those
branches of learning which will directly conduce to their industrial
efficiency, is the natural complement of that protective policy
which has already been advocated. That the nation should
take any steps in this direction is very consistently denied by a
very few free traders like Prof. Thorold Rogers, but in Eng-
land common sense has always counted for more than logic,
and very large outlays of national funds, as we have seen, have
been made with a view to this end. She has gone far beyond
our own country, although she has not yet overtaken the con-
sistently protectionist peoples on the Continent,- who are, both by
restrictions on trade and by the schools of the state, training their
people to compete with her. We have clung to the former but
neglected the latter, and while there have been great advances
Kiade in the character of our manufactures, we must again pro-
nounce the results to be unsatisfactory and insufficient. We
can do, we must do, greater things than we have ever attempted.
It is beyond the province and the powers of the present writer to dis-
cuss the details of the problem. He knows only what lie has had a.
second hand from friends and from books— especially he would refer for
details to Mr. Scott Russell's Systematic Technical Education of the Eng-
lish People, and Mr. T. Twining's Technical Training, London, 1874.





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Online LibraryRobert Ellis ThompsonSocial science and national economy → online text (page 38 of 38)