Saturday, February 08, 2014

"we don't want any lazy-bones," 1888

carving samples from Leipsic
Schools all over the world are being standardized and homogenized, and that was not the case in 1889. Richard Lewis Klemm, an American reporter, toured Europe in the 1880's and supplied this book, European Schools: Or, What I Saw in the Schools of Germany, France, Austria, and Switzerland, 1888. It is available free for a range of reading devices here.

Instead of standardizing American education, each teacher should be learning something from the past, and be allowed to experiment and learn from it. But that's not likely to happen. The following is a translation of text printed on a placard at the Leipsic Manual Training School and should be shared with those boys who are today trapped in schooling.
"Listen to what we have to say, boys. It concerns every true boy. Every one of you who wants to become a true man likes to watch diligent workmen and wishes to do like them — that is to say, use the hammer and hatchet, the tweezers and gimlet, the plane and saw, the file and rasp, the bolt and solder, the blow-pipe, the modeling-tool and carving-knife, etc. Every boy who is a real boy tries to use these tools. He will find opportunities to do so in our manual training-school.

"We don't want to make artisans of you, for your leisure hours would not suffice for that; but we want to make you more skillful and clever than boys usually are. How many can drive a nail without hitting their fingers? How many can make kites that balance and fly well? How many, when the skates get shaky on the ice, can help themselves and need not run to the locksmith? Yes, many of you can not even point a pencil well, or put a wrapper around a school-book without making it look clumsy.

"Your parents mean to benefit you when they present you with a tool box at Christmas. How many of such boxes are shoved into the corner, where the tools rust and the box is covered with dust? You must have some one who teaches you how to use tools. Or you get a scroll-saw, and, after breaking a number of saw-blades, you succeed in sawing out of cigar-box boards a few clumsy patterns. Then you go to a joiner to have them glued and adjusted. He is the one who does the real work. Yet you give these things away as your work. It isn't right, boys! It can't be right!

"We must talk plainly, boys. Most of you do not know how to use tools. That needs to be learned. Most of you spend too much time in reading, and spoiling their precious eye-sight. When you are called to do a manual job for your mothers, you are at a loss how to go at it. Oh, what would have become of you had you been in Robinson Crusoe's place? You would have perished miserably. Come, boys, think of it!

Things should be different. When school is over and home tasks are done, a true boy spends an hour happily on the playground and in summer takes a bath in the river. In winter he may learn to work with his hands at the work-bench and the vise. After many hours of brain-work he uses his strength in planing and sawing, hammering and chiseling. He learns to see and admire lines of beauty in drawing, and working out his drawings in models. He furnishes models in clay and carves wood. He makes physical experiments, and works neat Christmas presents for his dear ones at home.

"And when, outside, the winter storms rage and the snow-flakes fall, our pupils come together in a warm room and work like good fellows to produce something, and laugh, chat, and sing in company, while book worms sit in corners like hermits. Our pupils have had such pleasures for several years. Come and join us.

But, remember, we don't want any 'lazy-bones.' If any of you like to shirk work, and after a few weeks, when the work gets harder, thinks he has a toothache, or perchance some other ache, don't let him come. We don't want him. We want diligent boys. All who like to work are welcome. Ask your parents. They will allow you to come for an hour or two where they know you are well looked after.

"Life is full of work, boys, now more than ever. Prepare for it. A true man learns to help himself, and we will show you how. So come, and be welcomed by The Masters of the Training-School."
One thing you'll note about education in Europe would be how so many schools placed strong emphasis on hands-on learning and particularly drawing, which was found useful in the study of geography and science as well as the manual arts, engineering and math.

Make, fix, create and teach others to do so.


  1. What a great quotation.


  2. I'm currently doing a 3 year apprenticeship in Germany as a carpenter, and a very large part of the course is technical drawing. I wondered why this is as a journeyman carpenter will be unlikely to prepare drawings until they take their masters qualification, but reading what you say here, it makes sense and it seems this aspect of teaching observation through drawing is still used here.
    We still have grades in the same way as well.

  3. Andy, I have heard that Germany still has a strong apprenticeship program. Now unfortunately too many nations follow what the US does. But with kids feeling estranged from their own learning, things aren't really working out so well. Folks keep fighting about things here when they could just look back and see that maybe we've over looked something about how we learn and how we can restore enthusiasm for learning.