Sunday, November 22, 2009

workingman's school

From Felix Adler, in describing the Workingman's School, New York, 1880:
We are seeking to apply the principle which ought to be at the foundation of every modern scheme of education: namely, that, as experiment conjoined with observation is necessary to the discovery of truth, so object-creating must supplement object-teaching in that rediscovery of truths which it is the purpose of all education to facilitate. Therefore, work instruction is not a something outside the regular instruction; it is an organic part of the regular instruction. It becomes the means of teaching mathematics, for instance, more thoroughly, causing the pupils to work out mathematical truths with their very hands; it becomes the means of teaching natural history more effectively; it is worked into inseparable connection with the entire scheme of the scholar's mental and moral development. It becomes the means of making the hand a wise and cunning hand, by putting more brain into it. But, on the other hand, it also makes the brain a clear and vigorous, and enlightened brain, by giving it the salutary corrective of the demonstrations of the hand. And so the system of work education considered as an advance in education, generally has a value of its own...
The Workingman's School is now the Fieldston "Ethical Culture School" and one of the most prestigious independent schools in New York and the US. They still have woodworking grades 1-4 and at this point draw no direct parallel in their literature between manual arts and the moral character development issues that led Adler to found the school in the first place. The roots of manual training are being forgotten, but as long as we have hands we will be called to discover what they can hold and what they can make. And we will be inclined to share what we have learned with others. Ethical Culture School is at 33 Central Park West in the google street view below.

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