February 15, 1884

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


The friends of industrial education believe that the time has come when the American public school will supply a more practical education than is now furnished. I beg of you to remember that if I speak with enthusiasm it is not due to the enthusiasm of a new convert. The germinal principal which is at the bottom of it was given to me when a boy. Almost 50 years ago at college, Dr. McGough, in an address, said there was a vast difference between a wise man and a learned man. As an illustration he cited the learning of Dr. Samuel Park, of England, who was a peevish, ill-tempered, and arrogant man. He did nothing worth remembering. He is a specimen of a learned man, but not a wise man. The Indian chief, Tecumseh, could not write, but he knew how to found a home in the wilds. He was a native of Demosthenes, and the English were not mistaken when they made him a Brigadier General. Said he, “Tecumseh was a wise man, if not a learned man.


Does the American public school fit a man for the battles of life? We test public men and public actions by the results. The people of America have risen to such a position that they can be depended upon in the time of peril. The American public school and colleges are the causes, and I would not disparage or belittle them.


They are of human origin, and naturally there must be defects. It has been the pride of its supporters that the American school is constantly improving. There has been great advancement made. It is not my wish to take anything away from the school, but to add to it this new department, manual training.


The many thousands who are pouring into our schools make it necessary for a new department, the spending of an hour or two each day in the study of the skilled labor of the country. If you were to ask a young man in college to-day whom he envied the most in this country to-day, it would not be the man of one talent but the man of many.


Chauncey M. Depew says he thanks his kind old Dutch father up in Peekskill, who made him work when a young man, for if he had not, Chauncey would be keeping a store up in Peekskill today.


William Mather, of England, says the effect of the school system in the United States is to give the pupils a good general education for literary pursuits but it tends to unfit them for manual labor. Is he right? Think of it.




Carl Schurz says we may regard as signs of the time the many young men who are raised on farms and come to the city in order to get  rich; young men shunning manual labor and obtaining wealth by speculation, This is a distempt which is spreading.


Rev. Dr. Haygood, of Georgia, says he counts it as one of the most hopeful signs of the time that hand training is coming to be recognized as one of the elements of a good education.


He who has learned to despise hard labor, gets into the habits of vice and idleness, which lead down to paths of crime and wickedness, I have found that self-made have always gained their first lessons in life by manual labor.


What may we expect as a result of work? Fine bodies; good health. How many boys go from the life of college to an invalid? I have no fault to find with gymnasium or field sports; but it is work, skilled work, which gives the best result.


After all, what is education? What is its end? It is character. One of the subjects which has interested me lately is that of the suppression of crime. If you wish to reform a criminal, you must put him to work. There is a large number of men in convicts’ cells who can read and write, but few who are skilled in trades.


We undervalue skilled laborers. Put all our boys and girls in schools where skilled labor is respected, and they will not look down on the laboring man as many of them now do.