Monday, November 12, 2007

The following quote, an extremely clear discussion of the educational value of manual training in schools is from the preface of Woodwork, The English Sloyd by S. Barter, 1892:
Manual Instruction, especially when wood is the material used, may be nothing more than the development of mechanical skill in the use of tools; and, as such, it is understood by many of its advocates. But this is not what 'Educators' conceive Manual Training to be. The Manual Training of the school must be a training which places intellectual and moral results before mechanical skill. If I may venture on a definition, I should say that Manual Training is a special training of the senses of sight, touch, and muscular perception by means of various occupations and it is a training of these faculties not so much for their own sake, though that is important, as it is for the training of the mind. While the eye is being trained to accuracy and the hand to dexterity and manipulative skill, the mind is being trained to observation, attention, comparison, reflection, and judgment. In other words, Manual Training is a development of the manual and visual activities of the child, having for its purpose to quicken and develop the mental powers of observation, attention, and accuracy; to cultivate the moral faculties of order and neatness, perseverance and self-reliance; to awaken and train the artistic faculties, and direct the child's instincts towards the beautiful and true; to satisfy and cultivate the child's instinct for activity, and excite pleasure in the acquisition of skill; to provide opportunity for the development and practice of the inventive and constructive faculties; and to afford scope for the imagination.

Thus the main aim of Manual Training is Educational, to perfect our system of education, and so to raise the standard of practical intelligence throughout the community. At the same time some other advantages follow, which, if secondary, are important. For instance, the special training of hand and eye cannot fail to develop and stimulate those faculties upon whose activity success in life depends. The cultivated taste, the trained eye, and the skilled hand cannot fail to bring forth fruit in the home and in the workshop, and, in fact, in whatever position in life the child may be placed. Then, again, Manual Training confers a marked benefit on the school. It attracts and delights the children, because here they find food for the imperious need of activity inherent in child nature. Manual Training lightens and brightens the work of the school, and introduces an element of attractiveness which must relieve school-life of some of the weariness and languor incidental to purely mental effort.

One word more: the essence of Manual Training lies in the practice, and not in the production; in the doing, not in the thing done; and any exercise is valuable only in proportion to the demand it makes upon the mind for intelligent, thoughtful work.


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