( Originally Published Late 1800's )
No discussion of practical education can take place at the present time without an emphatic declaration in favor of training for industrial pursuits. No doubt mind training forms the natural basis for true education, but it is equally true that an educated person should derive some assistance from his studies when he comes to earn his livelihood. There is great utility, as we have seen, in that course of training which develops and expands the mind ; but if education stops with this, and the man receives no training for any industrial pursuit, he must fight at a great disadvantage in the battle of life. To be completely and practically educated one should not only have the mental training for which we have raised so strong a plea, but he should know how to do some one thing thoroughly well. There is much weight in that argument so often advanced by Horace Greeley-that it is always best for a young man to learn a trade to serve as a basis for his life work. Our boys and girls, when they come from school, have no occupation, and, as far as their school training goes, they are fit for none. They know a great deal, their minds are active, but they can do nothing. As another has phrased it, "they have learning, but no capacity." In the lives of most of our young people the industrial pursuits are quite ignored. The education of the mind is provided for, but the education of the hand is wholly neglected. This is partly the fault of the school, but almost entirely the fault of the home. In school, studies which might have a practical bearing upon life are devoted too exclusively to mental gymnastics. In the home, the boy and girl are not taught the value of industry and are not brought up to act for themselves and earn for themselves in the pursuit of some industrial occupation. The education which is needed to enable one to earn an honest living by hand-labor is not and cannot be learned in school. It must be obtained elsewhere or not at all. Our schools cannot be changed into "hives of manual industry," and it is folly to claim it. Much as industrial training is needed and valuable as it is in the practical work of life, it is preposterous to suppose that trades and crafts and technical art can be taught in the public schools. The most that ought to be expected is the introduction of a few of these practical studies like drawing, which have a common bearing upon all trades and all occupations, Prof. Henry Hudson spoke wisely when he said :
" The right place, the only right place for learning the trade of a farmer or a mechanic is on the farm, or in the shop. For instance, Mr. Edward Burnett's 'Deerfoot Farm' in Smith-borough, Massachusetts, is, I undertake to say, a better school for learning agriculture than any agricultural college is likely to be. There is no practicable, nay, no possible way of acquiring the use of tools but by actually handling them and working with them. And this rule holds equally true in all the walks of life, holds as true of the lawyer, the physician, the merchant as of the shoemaker, the bricklayer, the machinist, the blacksmith."
The same writer goes on to say that people generally have wrong notions in this matter of industrial education. Their ideas are utterly preposterous. Parents suppose that it is the business of the school to give their children all the education needful for gaining a living. They think their boys and girls ought to come from the school-teacher's hand, fully armed and equipped for engaging, intelligently and successfully, in all sorts of work. And people corn-plain of the schools because this is not done, They say that their children have learned only how to use books, and are no better prepared to make or procure food and clothes, than if they had spent so much time in stark idleness or in sleep. But the fault for this state of things is with the parent and not the school. People think that they can bring up their children without throwing about them the garment of self-restraint and self-control ; that they can bring them up without character and industry, and that the school must supply these necessary adjuncts of good and honorable living. Such demands upon a school are utterly unworthy of a reasonable being. The school never can and never ought to do the work of the home. The most it can do is to educate the mind and heart, and the education for hand-work must be looked for elsewhere.
If a comparison of utilities among the members of the body were possible, we might say with truth that the hand is the most useful instrument with which man is endowed. It is a most remarkable example of sinewy power and muscular delicacy of touch, and when it is taught to obey an educated will, many of its acts impress us with profound admiration. All the material results of twenty centuries of civilization, ac-cumulated for this and succeeding ages to enjoy, are the fruit of hand-labor alone, or hand-labor united with brain-labor. It is the hand at last which must write and paint, and chisel the marble, and execute the wonderful harmonies of the musician. Indeed there is nothing done to bless the world where hand-labor does not claim some share of the work and merit some part of bestowed praise. To gain an honest living by hand-work, is the best thing that any man can do.
Now it is a fact that the great mass of mankind must of necessity spend their lives at some form of hand-labor. Only a few can, from the very necessities of the case, become great scholars, authors, poets, statesmen, etc. The main business in life for the most of us is to gain an honest support for ourselves and those dependent upon us for daily bread. To do this, we must join the vast throng of workers who toil with hand and brain for that profit and treasure which will purchase the necessities and luxuries of life. And to fit ourselves for this honorable calling, we need special training in manual industry and the profession or vocation that we are to pursue. The successful man needs industrial education. How is it to be obtained ?
I have already indicated that this department of our education must be pursued outside of our regular school training. We are to be instructed in the technical arts of our work in schools established expressly for that purpose, or, better yet, in actual work in our vocation under the direction of competent and experienced men, for such wages as our inexperience and bungling ways shall command. Even after our school training, which only equips the mind to guard the hand against error and loss, we are to be content to begin at the bottom of the ladder in our vocation and work up, by diligence, to an honorable place of distinction and good pay.
Each year a hundred thousand graduates leave the schools for active life. Through the ambition of parents to have their sons and daughters shine intellectually or socially, or through false advice of friends, a large percentage-of these young people have foolishly adopted some of the "higher aims" of life. They squeeze into already overcrowded professions in the false hope of saving themselves from dreaded hand-labor, which they have somehow come to believe is beneath the dignity of an educated gentlemen. It is a grand sight to see a large class of hopeful boys and girls graduate from a. course of study at school; but would to God, that the mass of them could see their way back to the farms, the mills, the stores and the useful occupations of life rather than for them to stretch their necks upward to the positions they are not fitted to fill. A man can live a life as honored and useful upon the farm as in the forum. A man can win success at 2 blacksmith's forge just as truly as he can, pounding arguments into the heads of stupid jury-men. The mind of the whole community needs a radical change in this matter of industrial pursuits, and an industrial training. Our children should be thoroughly taught to do something useful. They should all learn some trade, some art, or craft that would furnish them the means of livelihood, if at any time they were thrown out of employment. It would be vastly better for our society, if our school and college graduates were doing the work of the country instead of the ignorant nuisances from over the sea.
To bring about this result is one of the perplexing questions of the hour, but it will never be fully accomplished until industrial schools shall be planted in our cities and towns, where the boys and girls may acquire rapidly the knowledge and skill required to make them successful in various industrial labors. The time is fully come when we should cease educating the young as figure-heads to the learned professions and fit them for the useful and practical work of life, which for the great majority means simple, honorable hand-labor in one of the industrial callings.