Monday, February 15, 2010

the start of something good.

The following from the Report of the Commissioner of Education 1887-1888 describes the very start of manual training in the US.
While In 1872 a society known by the name of Industrial School Association established in Boston what was called a whittling school, carried on in the chapel of a Boston church of evenings. In 1876-77 this society united its school to the industrial school that had for two seasons been holding its sessions in the Lincoln Building, the supporters of the two schools organizing as one body under the name of the Industrial Education Society. The city gave them the use of the "ward room on Church street," where from 7 to 9 on Tuesday and Friday evenings the school, giving instruction in wood working, was held. Firm benches were obtained, provided with a vise and carving tools for each of the thirty-two boys, ranging in age from twelve to sixteen. About half the pupils were still attending school.

"The object of the school was at the date of its inception, not to educate cabinet-makers or artisans of any special name, but to give the boys an acquaintance with certain manipulations which would be equally useful in many different trades. Instruction, not construction, was the purpose of this school. ...Does not this incident show the natural sequence of such a course of hand culture as we have been describing upon the education in drawing now prevalent in our public schools? We cannot but believe that it would be easy to establish in connection with all our grammar schools for boys an annex for elementary instruction in the half dozen universal tools; i. e., the hammer, saw, plane, chisel, file, and square. Three or four hours a week for one year only of the grammar school course would be enough to give the boys that intimacy with tools and that encouragement to the inborn inclination to handicraft, and that guidance in its use, for want of which so many young men now drift into overcrowded and uncongenial occupations or lapse into idleness or vice."
It might seem preposterous to some that work with tools would still be interesting to kids and useful in their education. After all, we have laptops and iPods and every manner of electronic entertainment device. But there is something that arises in each of us when we gain confidence and competence in the use of tools, making things of useful beauty.

1 comment:

  1. I am, humorously, reminded of the modern school fact, a hammer, saw, chisel, and file--oh, nails too--would be considered "weapons" and holding one of these items would be grounds for immediate expulsion from school, with possible arrest, thanks to "zero tolerance" policies in most school systems. Even the lowly pocket knife, which has whittled and carved many a beautiful object, is seen as a weapon today, probably along with the wood that's the subject of the knife.

    Come to think of it, is Shop still taught in most middle schools and high schools in America, outside of Vocational Schools?

    Sorry, couldn't resist the laughter engendered by this post. Times have changed! Maybe we do need to train school systems, students, and others about the non-lethal use of these articles, formerly known as tools.