Saturday, April 18, 2009

Atlantic Monthly, William James 1899

From Atlantic Monthly 1899, William James:
"The most colossal improvement which recent years have seen in secondary education lies in the introduction of the manual training schools; not because they will give us a people more handy and practical for domestic life, and better skilled in trades, but because they will give us citizens with an entirely different intellectual fibre. Laboratory work and shop work engender a habit of observation, a knowledge of the difference between accuracy and vagueness, and an insight into Nature's complexity and into the inadequacy of all abstract verbal accounts of real phenomena, which, once wrought into the mind, remains there as lifelong possessions. They confer precision; because if you are doing a thing, you must do it definitely right or definitely wrong. They give honesty; for when you express yourself by making things, and not by using words, it becomes impossible to dissimulate your vagueness or ignorance by ambiguity. They beget a habit of self-reliance; they keep the interest and attention always cheerfully engaged, and reduce the teacher's disciplinary functions to a minimum. Of the various systems of manual training, so far as woodwork is concerned, the Swedish Sloyd system, if I may have an opinion on such matters, seems to me by far the best, psychologically considered. Manual training methods, fortunately, are being slowly, but surely, introduced in to all our large cities; but there is still an immense distance to traverse before they shall have gained the extension which they are destined ultimately to possess."

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