Thursday, December 18, 2008

The one-time role of Manual Training in American Education

The following is a 1905 report published in the UK on the use of manual training in the American school system:
"Any survey of American Secondary Education would be incomplete without a reference to the manual training which forms an integral part of the systems in the majority of Secondary Schools in the United States. The connection between mind and hand is recognized there to an extent which preconceived prejudices have hitherto rendered impossible in England. But instead of manual training being confined to those who are to pursue an industrial or engineering career, or to those who are relegated to 'shops' merely as a derniƩre ressource, because they are incapable of the abstractions of book learning, in the United States it is regarded in many of the best developed Schools as an integral part of a liberal education. ... It is graded on carefully thought-out systems, from the cardboard 'modeling' of the kindergarten to the skilled engineering processes in the Colleges and Universities." The writer goes on to express his appreciation of the value of manual training "as scientifically carried out in the Schools of the United States, leading as it does to the happiest results in promoting that versatility and alertness which is so characteristic of American workers. It is almost impossible to exaggerate it." --Rev. Dr. Gray
You can see that things have changed. The report goes on as follows:
In Dr. Dewey's School at Chicago University The various kinds of work: carpentry, cookery, sewing, and weaving-—are selected as involving different kinds of skill and demanding different types of intellectual aptitude on the part of the child, and because they represent some of the most important activities of the everyday outside world, the question of living under shelter, of daily food and clothing, of the home, of personal movement, and exchange of goods, He secures also the training of sense organs—of touch, of sight, and the ability to co-ordinate eye and hand. He gets healthy exercise, for the child demands a much larger amount of physical activity than the formal programm of the ordinary School permits. There is also a continual appeal to memory, to judgment in adapting ends to means, a training in habits of order, industry, and neatness in the care of tools and utensils, and in doing things in a systematic instead of a haphazard way." Dr. Dewey aims at educating the child through "the interest in conversation or communication; in inquiry or finding out things; in making things or construction; and in artistic expression."
There are some advantages to the educational system we have now. By having large class sizes with students emotionally and physically inactive, we have increased the student to teacher ratio and eliminated expense. But we have completely ignored the sound theories of all our most prominent educators.

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