Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Manual arts in France

From Senator A. Corbon, 1879
It is high time to understand the indications furnished by the instinct of children and to give as soon as possible satisfaction to their two-fold need of working with the hands and of knowing the reason of things; that is to say, it is time to bring about a veritable revolution in the manner of rearing youth. If one wishes, to follow resolutely the course of nature and the clear indications furnished by the instinctive dispositions of children, if manual exercises are considered as essential, they should have a serious part in education commensurate with their importance. In the end, it will be found that it is possible to shorten the time of class work in order to give a sufficient amount of time to manual exercises; and that this will be done not only without injury to the intellectual development, but that on the contrary, it will promote it. In the first place, manual exercises are not carried on without awakening he intelligence, and still further, it is doing violence to the active nature of the children to confine them three hours in succession, twice a day, before the school desk. They submit, but with reluctance; they are subject to constraint; they are ill at ease physically and morally. The would certainly learn better in two hours if the third were given to manual exercises. It should also be observed also, in order to obtain more time for the exercise of the workshop, that there is a tendency in primary education, as well as in secondary and higher, to overload the program of study more and more. It seems as if the aim were less to develop the intellectual capacity than to heap up knowledge upon knowledge in the head of the children at the risk of exhausting the intellectual force.
Corbon's statement reflects what had become a widely shared perspective in the early manual arts movement. France and Germany along with the Scandinavian countries and the United States all shared the understanding that to educate the mind required the use of the hands. Today in Manhattan, I plan to visit the Tenement Museum and make a quick trip to Teachers College.

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