Monday, September 10, 2007

The following is from Dr. Felix Adler, founder of the Workingman's School in New York City, and was published in The Moral Education of Children 1892:

I …wish to speak of the value of manual training to the future lawyer and clergyman, and to all those who will perhaps never be called upon to labor with their hands. Precisely because they will not labor with their hands is manual training so important for them--in the interest of an all-round culture-in order that they may not be entirely crippled on one side of their nature. The Greek legend says that the giant Antaeus was invincible so long as his feet were planted on the solid earth. We need to have a care that our civilization shall remain planted on the solid earth. There is danger lest it may be developed too much into the air-that we may become too much separated from those primal sources of strength from which mankind has always drawn its vitality. The English nobility have deliberately adopted hunting as their favorite pastime. They follow as a matter of physical exercise, in order to keep up their physical strength, a pursuit, which the savage man followed from necessity. The introduction of athletics in colleges is a move in the same direction. But it is not sufficient to maintain our physical strength, our brute strength, the strength of limb and muscle. We must also preserve that spiritualized strength which we call skill-the tool-using faculty, the power of impressing on matter the stamp of mind. And the more machinery takes the place of human labor, the more necessary will it be to resort to manual training as a means of keeping up skill, precisely as we have resorted to athletics as a means of keeping up strength.

There is one word more I have to say in closing. Twenty-five years ago, as the recent memories of Gettysburg recall to us, we fought to keep this people a united nation. Then was State arrayed against State. Today class is beginning to be arrayed against class. The danger is not yet imminent, but it is sufficiently great to give us thought. The chief source of the danger, I think, lies in this, that the two classes of society have become so widely separated by difference of interests and pursuits that they no longer fully understand one another, and misunderstanding is the fruitful source of hatred and dissension. This must not continue. The manual laborer must have time and opportunity for intellectual improvement. The intellectual classes, on the other hand, must learn manual labor; and this they can best do in early youth, in the school, before the differentiation of pursuits has yet begun. Our common schools are rightly so named. The justification of their support by the State is not, I think, as is sometimes argued, that the State should give a sufficient education to each voter to enable him at least to read the ballot which he deposits. This is but a poor equipment for citizenship at best. The justification for the existence of our common schools lies rather in the bond of common feeling which they create between the different classes of society. And it is this bond of common feeling woven in childhood that has kept and must keep us a united people. Let manual training, therefore be introduced into the common schools; let the son of the rich man learn, side by side with the son of the poor man, to labor with his hands; let him thus practically learn to respect labor; let him learn to understand what the dignity of manual labor really means, and the two classes of society, united at the root, will never thereafter entirely grow asunder.

A short time ago I spent an afternoon with a poet whose fame is familiar to all. There was present in the company a gentleman of large means, who, in the course of conversation, descanted upon the merits of the protective system, and spoke in glowing term of the growth of the industries of his State and of the immense wealth which is being accumulated in the large cities. The aged poet turned to him, and said: "That is all very well. I like your industries and your factories and your wealth; but tell me, do they turn out men down your way?" That is the question which we are bound to consider. Is this civilization of ours turning out men-manly men and womanly women? Now, it is a cheering and encouraging thought that technical labor, which is the source at our material aggrandizement, may also become, when employed in the education of the young, the means at enlarging their manhood, quickening their intellect, and strengthening their character.

Now, if you've made it all the way to this point, tune in tomorrow for more pictures from the wood shop.

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