Sunday, January 18, 2009

The purpose of manual training in primary school, 1905 and 2009

The following is from Henry C. Pearson, Principal of Horace Mann Elementary School, Teachers' College, Columbia University, 1905
It is obvious that whatever place is given to manual training in the primary curriculum will depend upon the view one takes of the aim of education. Unquestionably the present tendency is to view education from the social point of view. The individual is to be developed, not for his own good, but for the good of society. The great problem of the twentieth century is the reconciliation of individualism and socialism. We are led to adopt the social view of education, because we cannot think of an individual merely as an individual, merely as living unto himself. Therefore, we may define the aim of education to be to enable the child to so adjust himself to his environment, that he may become an efficient member of society. I have not the time in this connection to explain fully the content of the term efficiency; but one of its most striking aspects, as the etymology of the word implies, is the ability to accomplish something. It does not mean mere book learning, but implies the possession of a kind of knowledge that readily passes over into action. With this as the general aim of education the practical problem for the teacher is how to bring it about. He has as the raw material the fundamental instincts and interests of the child, and he has in the school the means of realizing this aim through them. Now this school life must be real and vital to the child. It must be for him genuine social experience, of such a kind that he will gradually come to understand the civilization of which he is a part. In such a view of education manual training has its place. Through its activities manual training, more than any other subject, may help the child to understand the material aspects of present civilization, and will be of incalculable value in giving to the child that point of view that will make all of his knowledge efficient. This is then, in my mind, the chief function of manual expression in the primary curriculum- it is a potent means of interpreting to the child his environment. This does not deny to manual training the advantages that its advocates claimed for a number of years, viz., mental training, respect for honest toil, honest expression of the child's endeavor, skill in handicraft, etc. Manual training may be of value to the pupil in all of these respects, and yet perform its chief function that has been mentioned above.

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