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MANUAL TRAINING: WHAT IS IT? WHAT IS ITS EDUCATIONAL VALUE? WHAT ARE THE OBJECTIONS TO INTRODUCING IT IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS? HOW CAN IT BEST BE INTRO
A. C. ELLIS, ADJUNCT PROFESSOR OF EDUCATION.*
From education in the manual and domestic arts it is plain that two things are to be gained:
1. A certain manual skill and fund of knowledge useful in after life.
2. General physical and intellectual training.
Until recent years, the first of these results, i. e., the acquiring of manual skill and fund of useful knowledge, was the end chiefly aimed at, and as a consequence of this we have our vast system of technical schools for engineers, architects, mechanics, farmers, miners, etc.
These have all grown up in the last century. About a hundred years ago, in connection with the work in the mines at Freiburg, and later in other enterprises in Europe, it occurred to some one that a bright student might be given special instruction in the work and learn all of its methods without having to go through the dull and lengthy monotony of apprenticeship. The experiment was tried, it succeeded, and this was the first technical school. The idea spread over Europe and soon came to America. These technical schools emphasize, as I have said, the special technical value of the knowledge and skill acquired by their students, and have for their purpose the furnishing of thoroughly trained specialists in all the mechanical and industrial arts and sciences. The graduates are to understand thoroughly the setting up and handling of machinery, the laying-out of railroads, the building of bridges, the care of stock, the direction of farming or mining operations, etc.
It was out of this technical school work that the still more recent generally educative manual training work was developed.
*Read before the Texas State Teachers' Association, in Austin, December 31, 1892.
As the methods of teaching improved in the technical schools, it soon became evident that the student pursuing these studies got from them not only technical skill and knowledge, but a large amount of general intellectual development. However, in the technical school the primary purpose is to give the student such detailed knowledge and such facility in manipulation as will be needed for practical use immediately on leaving the institution, and in order to do this it is necessary to go into details and to repeat the operations and establish such a long routine of habit that the generally educative phase of the work must be made secondary or sacrificed to the turning out of experts in special lines.
But the wide possibility of these studies and exercise for purely educational purposes, because of the great interest which the students show in them, and the energy with which they pursue them, has led to the attempt at selecting certain parts of the work, developing special methods of teaching these, and adopting them as a part of our public school course: that is, to teaching these primarily as a means of general education and mental training, and only secondarily with the view of giving technical skill and a fund of knowledge useful in after life. Of course, just any kind of industrial work is not generally educative, and a careful selection from the work of the technical school must be made, and a special method of teaching must be employed, if the work is to be put into the public school course. First, we must exclude all those occupations that demand faulty bodily positions, or menace health, or consist largely of automatic, listless repetition of similar simple movements, such as spinning, weaving, etc. Furthermore any particular act is to be repeated by the pupil not until perfection and speed in manipulation are gained, but only so long as it is educative, i.e., is giving the brain new stimuli and forming new images in mind, or working over old ones into higher combinations. The continued repetition of actions that are half automatic is stupefying and not educative. Making the child a machine or a beast of burden is not educating him.
That our State with its boundless and undeveloped natural resources, and its vast product of raw material needs technical training and must have technical schools to train our men and women, or forever be a great commercial and industrial drudge, this I take is self-evident. The support given our University and
our Agricultural and Mechanical College shows that the State is beginning to recognize this need.
But our State has not yet recognized in any way the need for this generally educative manual training as a part of our general educational system. It has not yet been seen that this work may be made something more than mere technical training for a specific occupation, that it is a part of all true education, and that the boy or girl who passes through school without it goes out into life deprived of a valuable part of his intellectual, moral, and physical training, as well as handicapped in the battle of life by the lack of a fund of useful knowledge about the most necessary affairs of life.
Most people who have not carefully considered this matter think these claims for manual and domestic training as a part of general mental training are extravagant. Let us look now at just a few facts bearing upon the educational value of manual training. In other words, let us psychologize manual training. That properly conducted manual training work trains the pupil to careful observation, discrimination and habits of accuracy, exercises the memory, imagination, reason and will, as does other laboratory work, is evident to anyone who has seen this work well taught. It is to the advantages peculiar to this work that I wish here to call attention. 1. Is not physical activity the most fundamental instinct of the child? Yet outside of the kindergarten our whole education is based upon an unnatural' repression of this activity, instead of utilizing it for educational ends. Industrial training takes hold of the natural love and instinct of the child for this kind of activity and organizes and uses these for his education.
2. A young person loves to see actual visible results of his labor and the well-made and useful article carried home by the student gives a real inspiration to do something more and something better. While there are some visible material results to be seen by the children in the several fields of school work, in no other work is this so much so as in manual and domestic training, and in the actual experience in the schools, it is seen that in no other class are children so eager to learn thoroughly and produce a result fit to be shown to their parents.
That this work does appeal to the interest of the child and arouse his or her best effort is plainly seen as soon as one enters
such a class. In fact, it is the only part of our school work in which the students can be disciplined by requiring them to quit the class. This is the actual practice in Austin and works perfectly.
3. Manual and domestic training is especially valuable because the hands, the eyes, the body, and the intellect, the will are all called in to co-operate. In this work we find a means of training the whole man or the whole woman in harmony-not some intellectual hysteric with no ontrol over her body, nor some one-sided and impractical speculator and dreamer, but a person that can think and do-in short, the whole brain is sent to school, and not a few little centers for the tongue and visual and auditory images.
4. The impressions made on the brain through this manual exercise furnish a needed basis for higher mental development. All of the child's thinking must be done in terms of images left in his mind by his past experience. These impressions are the raw material of thought out of which his active mind builds his world, whether it be rational or fanciful. Physiological Psychology has shown us that the human mind can frame no sensuous image of anything till the proper nerve cells in the brain have first been stimulated through the external sense organ. The wisest congenital blind person that ever lived can not think one thought in terms of light or visual images. He substitutes touch images and gets along somewhat with regard to shapes, but on light and color he is absolutely imbecile—or rather absolutely empty. So of hearing, taste, touch, and the other senses, the stimuli must arouse the outer sense organ and go on into the brain and stimulate the proper nerve cells, or no image can arise in the mind. The passing of this stimulus through these brain cells once seems to leave a trace there of such a nature that these cells can act a second time without the aid of external stimuli, and can produce these images again and associate them in all sorts of ways in memory, imagination, or reason, and thus build up the higher products of mind. But nothing save the outward stimulus of the sense organ can arouse the nerve cells the first time, and give this raw material for thought. The breadth and accuracy of the results of the loftiest operations of the most exalted mind are limited by the number and correctness of the original sense impressions. The congenitally deaf man can do no correct thinking about music.
The color blind man must ever have a mistaken and limited notion of color. Recent study of Psychology has shown that the touch and the muscular and joint sensations produced in mind by brain stimuli gotten from physical movement of the hands play an astonishingly large role in our mental growth.
No man who has failed to watch the training of a feeble-minded or idiotic child in one of our modern institutions can possibly appreciate how much our own intellectual development, even our God-like imagination and reason, are dependent primarily upon the stimuli given the brain through the physical movements of our bodies. Among these unfortunate feeble-minded children we always find a stiffened or a flabby and uncontrolled hand, and often in addition to this, an immobile body. These poor unfortunates, some of whom can neither articulate words nor recognize the faces of their parents, may now be brought to a considerable degree of intelligence, and it is all done primarily through their muscular movements. At first the whole body is rubbed and bent and moved and massaged for months, then the hands and fingers are worked and the expressionless face is manipulated. This physical movement stimulates and soon awakens the dormant brain, their eyes brighten, they notice things, and by patiently putting them through significant movements, accompanied with speech, these children are actually taught to know things and people and to care for themselves. It is perfectly plain here how entirely dependent upon the physical exercise is this rise in intellectual life. Now what is so plainly true in these cases is true, only to a less degree, with us all. Our Creator has so arranged it than man gained a large part of his intelectual and moral education in connection with the practical duties of life; that is, where intellectual activity usually accompanied physical exertion. It is time we recognize the natural constitution of man and put our educational efforts more in line with the plans of nature. In manual and domestic training this is done.
Another point in which manual and domestic training has an advantage over the ordinary method of education is that the pupil at first works from a model and must test and estimate for himself his own work. If his work be slipshod, he is bound to see it for himself and correct his own error. Later he prepares his own designs and works after his own plans, and this stimulates