August 23, 1888
The question generally asked by the thoughtful teacher, is, how does this manual training effect the regular studies, or would it be at the expense of the same, by taking out the time devoted to it. If this question is in your mind and you have a desire to night to set yourself to thinking and to know more about it and what effect it has on the studies of the pupils, I can tell you. It has been practical with me, for a few years ago it was my duty with several others to go south to try to improve the colored schools of the South, and $60,000 per year was the sum placed at our disposal for the object in view. We found from 16,000 to 18,000 schools in the South, and two-thirds of them were in the hands of incompetent teachers. The period of school days was found only to be from forty-five to sixty days in the year and nothing was accomplished. We found seventy or eighty what were called institutions of higher education, under the name of colleges, universities and academics, where the largest words at the command of the teacher were used to instill education into the youths, and to compare these higher institutions with the high schools in Ohio would be absurd.
It was then Prof. Gilman and I came to the conclusion that not one dollar of the money would be expended in the aid of any one of the schools unless it was for instruction in skilled labor that would fit the boys and girls to earn a livelihood. We came to find forty of the schools able to begin these instructions and after thorough investigation we were able to report how much was done and how done and how it affected other studies; the universal testimony being that it made the pupils better in their book studies, better in everything, besides acquiring industrial habits.
Now some one may say that that is very good for the colored man and nothing would be better for him to make a living and that it would be no example for the rest of the schools and those of the North. On this point I’ve been speaking with your Supt. Balcam who was connected with experiments in Jamestown, N.Y., and he can tell you how much can be accomplished with experienced industrial training. This training has been successfully introduced in New York, Boston, Chicago, Patterson, N.J., and other cities and very few people others than those best informed have any appreciation of what can be done with careful instruction and easily in one-tenth of the time usually required carefully prepared mechanics can be turned out and a number of trades can be so far learned that that pupils can go on with one of them and in ninety days, they are ready to earn money.
The trade school in New York is in a large building where brick laying, carpentering, blacksmithing, plastering and plumbing is taught by competent instructors. The boys go there a few hours in the evenings of November, the winter evenings and in spring, the boys during this time have almost their trade learned and are ready to earn $1.50, $2 per day and as they became more proficient earn $3 as skilled laborers and $5 or $6 as superintendents, this being the result of trade schools under good instruction.
The methods in this school are practical. Take for instance bricklaying; the boys are taught plain work, then they are set to work on arches, various bends in chimneys, circles and window work and on every sort of work that is usual in erecting buildings, and thus it has been demonstrated that this trade and several others can be learned in a short period.
The question then comes up, what difficulty presents itself in introducing manual training in the schools of Sandusky? There should not be any apprehension in the matter of expense, as say $6,000 for a period extending over three years would be all that would be necessary; a separate building would not be necessary as you could start such a school in any room you have at command and it could be easily managed. The next and more difficult problem would be in securing competent teachers. These can be secured through schools in Washington and Chicago, although so general has been the demand for instructors of manual training that the demand is larger than can be supplied. But this should not prevent its introduction, as teachers can fit themselves to be competent and to give instructions and to always go ahead of the class.
In New York City at No. 9 University Place, there is an institute for the education of teachers for manual training in all trades, and especially those adapted to ladies. The tuition fee is only $60 per year and the result is that forty of such teachers have been turned out, and what do you think has become of them? They are under pay as instructors and earn wages at $650 to $800 a year. Some of them earn $1,000 to $1,200 per year and two of them $1,500 per year.
We go in crowds and now there is a mania without opposition, and the tendency for manual training is becoming widespread, as it fits young people so as to get employment. Another thing in its favor is the testimony of Prof. Anderson and teachers of the schools of Cleveland, where instruction in manual training is given, that the boys become better scholars, above the average, and in the matter of discipline they are better behaved, and from Toledo comes the same testimony.
I was started in this form of education from my associations with various styles of men; men in educational institutions, in banks and the offices of railway companies and men in higher places. In these boards and among these men one will always find some man who knows just where the last meeting left off and can tell it in a few words, and always hit the nail on the head. This man in nearly every instance began by plowing a furrow straight or at the carpenter’s bench or in the blacksmith shop, and no book so well fits a man for the world like such mechanical work.
Another question; How do we know that a girl or a boy has his mind on his book, for the girl’s mind may be on the ball room of the night before or the boy’s mind on the base ball ground. Different it is at the carpenter’s bench for here the mind must be on the work, or material will be spoiled, tools ruined, or fingers or hands injured, besides one must finish his work, for half finished is not finished at all.
To the boy of 18 this manual training makes him a thorough master over himself, makes him industrious in his habits and his future career will be certain, then why is it not worth all the time devoted to it?
To the ladies it shows that they can do wonders in cabinet work and wood carving as is shown for this purpose in Cincinnati. It not only embraces these, but teaches them how to set the table, prepare food; teaches them the chemical constituents of the various foods and of the component parts that better sustain life.