Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The educational value of manual training

 In the late 1800s and early 1900's two St. Louis educators battled head to head. William Torrey Harris was a pompous intellectual who became head of the US Department of Education, and Calvin Woodward was the professor of mathematics at Washington University who became known as one of the two co-fathers of the manual arts training in schools. In an interesting exchange, 1899, William Torrey Harris wrote a report in condemnation of manual arts training, and Calvin Woodward posed his response, both of which are included in: The Educational Value of Manual Training: Consisting of an Examination of the Arguments Presented in the Report of the National Council Committee on Pedagogics, at Nashville, July, 1889

The exchange between these two important figures in American education is vastly illuminating. While Harris would have banished manual arts as useless and insisted that youth of all classes would benefit most from purely intellectual engagement, Woodward wrote:
My conclusion is that knowledge, intelligence, skill, power and culture are always helpful in the acquisition of more knowledge, more intelligence, more skill, more power, and more culture. The more accomplished one is, the easier new things are to him, whether in the realm of pure intellect or in the field where mind and hand are cultivated together.
Evidently Harris, having been raised in a purely intellectual fashion, saw nothing but drudgery and degradation in the craftsman's labor. His idea was that hand-work was an expression of mindlessness. Such stupidity ought to have no place in schooling, but readers should be aware that there are still such idiots in positions of power in American education.

Today I am reading through the loop for my Tiny Boxes book, finding minor things that need to be fixed. Editing is not my strong point, but as it has been pointed out to me, there is no one better suited to seeing what needs to be fixed than the author, even if that ties me to the computer for a few days to come. I hope the book becomes a best seller.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the likelihood of learning likewise.

No comments:

Post a Comment