The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 50
The Interest in Books
The Interest in Books.
"Our exhibition to-day is not limited to a display of drawings, shop-work and manual skill; we have had reci- page 30 tations in algebra, geometry, natural philosophy, chemistry, Latin, history, and English composition. In thus arranging our program I have recognized the fact that nearly all persons admit the entire practicability and reasonable success of all the manual features of our school. The theory and use of tools is as readily taught as arithmetic or Latin. But the question has remained in many minds, particularly among teachers: "Do the pupils of a manual training school prosecute ordinary school-work with an interest and success equal to that observed in other schools?" They ask: "Does not the interest which these boys manifestly take in their tool-work in fact and of necessity diminish their interest in and love for their books?" This is a natural inquiry, and some of our shrewdest visitors of late have spent considerable time in our recitation-rooms searching for an answer to this question. Those of you who have listened to recitations in this school may be prepared with an answer. The testimony of our teachers, some of whom had had several years' experience in other schools, is very pertinent here. Mr. Krall says that these boys do better work with him than do boys of the same grade without the stimulus of the manual training. Mr. Booth says that the shop-work helps rather than hinders their interest in books. The other teachers concur.
My own conclusion based upon the observation of the influence of manual education for at least eight years (for we had manual training with the students of our Polytechnic School several years before this school was in existence),—my conclusion is that not only does our work-shop not detract from the interest boys take in books, but it stimulates and increases it, either directly or indirectly. In mathematics, physics, mechanics and chemistry, the help is direct and positive. Note for instance the mental arithmetic involved in the execution of a pattern from a working drawing. No one can learn from a book the true force of technical terms or definitions, nor the properties of materials. The obscurities page 31 of the text-book (often doubly obscure from the lack of proper training on the part of the author), vanish before the steady gaze of a boy whose hands and eyes have assisted in the building of mental images. No classes in physics or chemistry were ever so ready as ours to help illustrate their text-books.
Then on the literary side, the habit of clear-headedness and exactness in regard to the minor details of a subject, which is absolutely essential in a shop, stretches with its wholesome influence into their study of words and the structure of language. As Felix Adler says, the doing of one thing well is the beginning of doing all things well. I am a thorough disbeliever in the doctrine that it is educationally useful to commit to memory words which are not understood. The memory has its abundant uses and should be cultivated, but when it usurps the place of the understanding, when it insidiously beguiles the mind into the habit of accepting the images of words for the images of the things the words ought to recall, then the memory becomes a positive hindrance to intellectual development. The influence of manual training, when associated, as it is here, with mental culture, is intellectually and morally wholesome."