Thursday, February 25, 2010

William James, Hand and Eye

The following is from William James testimonial in Hand and Eye as to the value of educational Sloyd:
"When we turn to modern pedagogics, we see how enormously the field of reactive conduct has been extended by the introduction of all those methods of concrete object teaching which are the glory of our contemporary schools. Verbal reactions, useful as they are, are insufficient. The pupil's words may be right, but the conceptions corresponding to them are often direfully wrong. In a modern school, therefore, they form only a small part of what the pupil is required to do. He must keep notebooks, make drawings, plans and maps, take measurements, enter the laboratory and perform experiments, consult authorities, and write essays. He must do in his fashion what is often laughed at by outsiders when it appears in the prospectuses under the title of "original work," but what is really the only possible training for the doing of original work hereafter. 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 rea1 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 into 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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