IN 1611, Thomas Sutton, a gentleman of England, died, and left an estate to charitable purposes, including the foundation of the famous Charterhouse. There was some dispute as to the will, and Francis Bacon took occasion to address the king a letter of advice respecting the proposed disposition of the property, as in case the will was set aside the king would be heir. In that letter occurs a passage which has a singular force here and now, where conditions exist not unlike those indicated by Bacon. ” Concerning the advancement of learning,” he writes, “ I do subscribe to the opinion of one of the wisest and greatest men of your kingdom : That for grammar schools there are already too many, and therefore no providence to add where there is excess. For the great number of schools which are in your Highness’ realm doth cause a want, and doth cause likewise an overflow, both of them inconvenient, and one of them dangerous. For by means thereof they find want, in the country and towns, both of servants for husbandry and apprentices for trade ; and, on the other side, there being more scholars bred than the state can prefer and employ, and the active part of that life not bearing a proportion to the preparative, it must needs fall out that many persons will be bred unfit for other vocations, and unprofitable for that in which they are brought up; which fills the realm full of indigent, idle, and wanton people, which are but materia rerum novarum.”
We are discovering something of the same want and overflow now, especially in our cities. We need not even change Bacon’s terms, though the words themselves have a little different meaning. Now, as then, there are too many grammar schools, or, what is more to the purpose, the grammar schools teach too much grammar. Bacon complains that in his day the schools caused a want of farmers and mechanics, and an overflow of clerkly people. Precisely this complaint must be made at present. The tendency of our highly organized publicschool system is to discourage manual labor, and to multiply enormously the number of those who seek to maintain themselves by the pen or by trade. The course of instruction is almost exclusively intellectual in its scope, the time occupied covers years when the training for mechanical pursuits naturally begins, and the apparent prospect of a higher social pursuit leads to an aversion from the humbler occupation. The result is that the mechanical arts suffer an indignity, and boys who might have been fitted for good workmen become indifferent book-keepers, clerks, and salesmen.
Now a state rests for prosperity not upon its clerks, but upon its workmen ; it is the men who handle tools that contribute to its wealth and may be trusted for its defense, and it is of the first importance that this class should be trained not only in the arts, but in intelligence and character. But the divorce of manual and mental education in our public schools tends to perpetuate the separation out of school. If there is intelligence in the workman and a capacity to improve his art, these are not the distinguished results of the training which the public schools give; that training steadily withdraws the young from mechanical and agricultural pursuits, and crowds them into occupations already overstocked, which depend for their prosperity indeed upon the development of the arts. When a time of depression or disorder comes, great numbers are cast out of employment, with no resources of industry, and the state becomes full of “ indigent, idle, and wanton people.”
Moreover, the public-school system not being found favorable to the mechanic arts, what great educational force remains ? The apprentice system has nearly disappeared. It has declined contemporaneously with the rise and encouragement of a compulsory public-school system, and the two facts aro related more closely than by the accident of time. It is true that we must look for the chief cause of this decline to the introduction of steam power, which has led to the formation of associated industries, and the breaking up of labor into fragments. The rapid changes in society also have made the old relation of master and apprentice unlikely; but neither the introduction of machinery nor the multiplication of grades between the contractor and the workman has lessened the necessity for skilled labor, or rendered the trained workman a superfluous member of a great state. On the contrary, since the natural forces which conspire to sustain the arts have temporarily given way to a new discovery, it becomes more necessary to organize in their defense ; but the chief organization upon which the state relies is found insufficient, if not positively antagonistic.
The economic considerations which would persuade us to introduce into the publicschool system a recognition of manual training are reënforced by the discovery of a yet higher argument in the very nature of education itself. It is not to be wondered at that our school system should have grown into a purely intellectual order. In its beginning there was no assumption of an entire control of the child. So much time was given to school as could be spared from the farm and shop. There still existed a well-recognized tradition of mechanical knowledge, and the school was looked upon as supplying those rudiments which could best be acquired there. Gradually, as cities grew, increasing thus the class of children who had no other employment, school came to be the chief occupation of the young. Then the discharge upon our shores of an illiterate foreign population excited alarm lest ignorance should get in the majority, and we made haste to compel the children of this class into the public schools. The attention of the community becoming more concentrated on this important institution of the state, the existing apparatus for instruction was improved and refined: the school-book industry was developed, and normal schools established for the better education of teachers who were to stand behind these school-books. The pride of the state, the enthusiasm of teachers, the natural quickness of children at leisure, these have all helped to swell the tide of the public-school system, and to carry it on in the direction of its first setting.
Now that all this has been done and the elementary truths of society begin to assert themselves, we shall discover that in neglecting the education of the hand we have not only weakened the power of the state, but have stimulated an unbalanced education of the person. A training which ignores the hand is not the training which either nature or history will approve. That member is something more than a symbol of industry. “ Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might, ” “ Establish Thou the work of our hands,” are not phrases ingeniously contrived to translate into the vernacular the intellectual exercises of clerks and commercial travelers; they point to an elemental condition of human Well-being. Nor is this training of the hand to be obtained by means of gymnastic swinging of dumb-bells. The training of the hand means the power to use a tool; the training of the eye is the power to see perfect work; the training of the mind is the power to conceive and execute that work.
The curing of the defect in society and the restoration of education to a sound and healthful condition are to be sought in a reformation of that system which we justly regard as the very engine of the state’s prosperity. Nor are signs lacking that the public mind is turning in that direction. The introduction of drawing into the curriculum is one sign, and it is curious to observe how the double argument, drawn from economy and from the philosophy of education, has been used in support of this measure. The introduction of sewing for girls is even more significant. Here the argument has been drawn chiefly from the economic side, and the facts which gave the argument its force were unassailable; but no one who appreciates the full meaning of education can help seeing how valuable an element was introduced into the education of girls in Boston when sewing was made a regular part of public-school training.
This study of sewing forces upon one the question of the manual education of boys. The question is precisely the same, only its solution is more complicated. To the girl is given one tool, and the perfect mastery of that carries with it a training in thoroughness, order, concentration, precision, and self-respect; the practice, moreover, is easily associated with a daily need, and the charm of useful production is attendant on the study. But there is no one tool which can be affirmed of the boy, and this is sometimes taken as an excuse for not teaching him the use of any. Yet the variety of tools which a boy may use only suggests practical difficulties; it does not declare these difficulties insurmountable, nor in any way weaken the force of the educational argument. The difficulties indeed are such as yield readily to an intelligent will. Half of the question is answered when one considers that the primary object of manual education in the public schools is not to make boys carpenters, ship-builders, masons, or followers of any other craft, but to instruct them in the meaning of their hands and of the tools which those hands may grasp. Hence the shops which may be attached to public schools will be shops of instruction, not of construction, and the training will be in the grammar of the arts, not in the indefinite number of forms which the arts assume.
The various schools of technology which exist do not meet the general need which we have described. Their business is to train masters and professional mechanics; they do not make mechanics any more than colleges make book-keepers. A graduate of a college may find himself finally in the position of an ordinary clerk, and never rise above it; and so a graduate of the technological school may prove at last only a journeyman ; but neither college nor school exists for these ends. Nor can the want be supplied by benevolent or evening schools. These are but make-shifts. They could become important only as they drew life out of the public schools. No; the remedy lies in such a readjustment of the public-school system in our cities as shall make it include formal, progressive instruction in the manual arts. If it be said that the state or the city has no function to educate children for specific trades, but only to give them a common-school education, as that term is now understood, it can be answered, first, that the present system does almost inevitably educate children for the desk and the counter, with a reversion in many cases of the almshouse or the police-station; and, second, that there is nothing in the present reach of common-school education which need compel us to glorify it as the final and perfect force for developing the human character, In truth, we might better ask humbly why the present system has failed than boast of its success. Nor should we be far wrong if we were to assert that in making common such an education as we have outlined we are likely to produce citizens who in peace would be more valuable, working in shops, and not waiting behind counters, and whose training would make them better soldiers in war. The drill of school-boys with the saw, the plane, the axe, and the file would make them stronger defenders of the state than if they had known only the manual exercise of the school-room, or even had been formed into battalions of miniature soldiers.