The following excerpt is from the Superintendent’s Report to the School Committee, which was printed in the School Committee Report for 1905 and reprinted in Beverly City Documents for 1905.
The training of the hand to skill in manual work has always been regarded as an essential for every child. In former times, this manual skill was usually obtained at home on the farm or in the shop, or by a system of apprenticeship in learning a trade. The mother taught the girls to sweep and keep the house, to sew and to cook, and often to spin and to weave. The terms of school were short and the educational requirements of the times were simple because the social and business life was simple. Except the few that aspired to enter the learned professions, pupils left school young and learned a trade or the art of the housewife. The extreme complication and variety of industrial life to-day; the knowledge of mechanics, electricity, and chemistry now necessary in many common occupations; the intense competition and the organization of employees into labor unions that enforce certain restrictions in the employment of labor have all tended to greatly increase the demands made upon the schools, to increase the number of weeks of school each year, and to hold the pupil in school to a more advanced grade, and thus decrease the time for outside manual work. The change in the home life and Asocial life and the opportunity for girls to work in shops and stores, and the general relaxation of parental discipline has tended to prevent the systematic training of young women in the domestic arts.
Since boys and girls have in a large degree ceased to receive systematic practice in manual work at home or out of school, there has been a very persistent and increasing demand for a portion of the school time to be devoted to this subject. This demand comes first from the breadwinners that wish the children to learn something practical, something that will fit them to earn a living. Second, it comes from employers of young people. The employers complain that book learning alone is too theoretical. They want employees that can do things. Third, the demand comes from commercial houses that compete for the markets of the world with foreign manufacturers. They complain that American workmen are superficial, lack originality and taste, and do not appreciate the finer points of the finished product. Fourth, the demand comes from the heads of manufacturing establishments for all kinds of foremen and superintendents that have the general. Education and the detailed knowledge of all parts of the industry together with the experimental knowledge gained only through use of the hands. This demand is very insistent and has led in its larger aspects to the, founding of trade schools such as the Lowell Textile School. It is the main cause for the unprecedented growth of such schools as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. There are many other phases of this modern demand for industrial training, but space forbids their enumeration. I will only mention that the most recent and perhaps after all the most insistent and convincing demand for hand training comes from the educationist. He says that we truly learn only so much as we practice; what we learn about but cannot do is of trifling value. Only as we attempt to do a thing do we really learn how to do it. Learning and doing act and re-act. As we attempt to apply we see more clearly; as we see more clearly we apply more effectively and skillfully.
Professor Tyler has pointed out a remarkable physiological reason for manual training. He says that the vital organs, the heart and lungs, are not stimulated to increased activity by mental exertion alone. It is necessary to exercise the muscles in order to relieve congestion and restore the perceptive faculties to their normal powers. In this way manual work actually increases the power of the mind to acquire knowledge by keeping the mental machinery in proper condition.
The manual work undertaken in Beverly thus far has been very simple hand training, and has been without material expense to the city. It occupies one period of fifty minutes a week in grades five, six, seven and eight, besides occasional simple lessons in connection with drawing during the drawing time. Sewing is taught to the girls partly for its intrinsic value and partly for its value in training the hands. Nothing is done as yet in the High School except simple work in the drawing classes. Cooking has not been attempted in either High School or Elementary School. In fact, thus filer, only those simple things that could be done without much expense have been attempted. Were far behind most of our neighbors in the matter of manual training. In fact, there are few cities of any educational importance in the United States that are not seriously grappling with this problem of manual training.
The following editorial from the Boston Transcript presents a larger aspect of the problem, which Beverly has not yet seriously considered. It would seem, however, that as the future welfare of Beverly will be dependent in a very large degree upon her skilled mechanics, serious consideration must be given to the matter, especially in connection with planning High School accommodations for the future.
MANUAL TRAINING HIGH SCHOOLS
With the educational authorities of the country, Dr. T. M. Balliet, formerly superintendent of schools in Springfield and now dean of the School of Pedagogy in the University of New York, stands in the first rank. Among the conspicuous features of his distinguished administration in the first-named city was the prominence given to the Manual Training High School, which is undoubtedly, one of the best of this class in the country. It did not receive his favor and support because it was popular, though that was and is undoubtedly true, of it, but because he recognized it as a vital factor in the scheme of secondary education under existing conditions. Now, from his new and in some respects loftier and broader point of view, he expands and emphasizes his previous convictions on this subject. He tells us that three general types of modern high school have developed from the old secondary schools that were purely literary in character and purpose, these types being lithe literary, the commercial and the technical or manual training. This is in accordance with the changes that have occurred in our national industrial life. Now we are a nation of manufacturers and traders, and the foreign army that we have to fear is not an army, which carries guns, but an army, especially a German army which carries tools, and is commanded by captains of industry who have been educated in the great Prussian technical schools. No artificial protection of our markets will permanently avail to guard our industries against the invasion of that army. We must train our coming forces in the tactics of the lathe, the forge and the engine if we would maintain our commercial and industrial standing and integrity. Berlin alone has twenty-eight trade schools of various kinds attended by over twenty-five thousand students, and the Germans are as thorough in their educational as in their military methods.
But it is no part of his scheme that the manual training high schools should degenerate into mere trade schools. They should be employed for training directors of industry and that large number of men who come between the engineer and the mechanic. While acquiring these special values he would not have the culture which we associate with these institutions neglected, and there is no reason manual training that boys who are educated in these schools accomplish very nearly as much in academic subjects as boys in classical schools. They are prepared for college in everything except Greek; they are prepared for engineering schools and lay the foundation for learning certain industrial trades requiring a high degree of skill.
The question may naturally arise as to the ability of the student to attain this dual achievement in the same time that is de-voted to classical training alone, and Dr. Balliet undertakes to explain it. The work of the bench and the lathe comes as a welcome relief from constant bookwork, and time is saved from gymnasium exercise of which boys in the manual training school do not need so much as those whose work is purely sedentary. Then, there is more interest and enthusiasm, and even book work receives a more real and practical interpretation from the manual training. It is an old saying that when we would enlist men for service we must appeal to men already busy, and the habits of industry and application, which are acquired by manual training; react wholesomely upon purely academic study. The importance of this subject can hardly be over-estimated.