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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 83

Carpentry and Joinery

Carpentry and Joinery.

In Carpentry the subjects are:
1.Nature and properties of the various kinds of wood used in carpentry and joinery.
2.Tools, their names, shapes, uses, &c.
3.Mechanieal drawing as applied to carpentry and joinery.
4.A general knowledge of the proportions of stiles, rails, muntings, &c.
5.Mouldings, their forms and names.
7.Circular work.
8.Newel and geometrical stairs,
10.Mechanical principles. The principles required in framing roof trusses, &c.
11.Methods of strengthening beams and girders by "flitching" and "trussing," &c.
12.Joints. Mortice and tenon, &c.

You might perhaps fancy that the introduction of such work as this into our school-rooms would be detrimental to the general education given. There need, however, be no fear of that, experience in this matter shows that the percentage of passes in the three R's is always greater where science is added to the instruction.

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Secondly: with reference to Farm Schools—Agrcultural Science is a very comprehensive term, and might be almost said to mean all the sciences in one. The agricultural interest in this country is at present in a very critical condition. Old methods are passing away, and new ones are taking their places, and there is the usual amount of disturbance in the body agricultural that there is in most bodies, when organic changes are in progress. Scientific knowledge is taking the place of mother wit, steam power and elaborate machinery are to a great extent superseding hand labour; new modes of working and saving time are replacing the old-fashioned comfortable ways. The spirit of modern progress has invaded every department of the farm, is revolutionizing the dairies, re-organising the stock yards. The treatment of the soil, the harvesting of the crops, in fact every detail of farm work is being modified with an anxious eye on the future, instead of resting in unconcerned security on the traditions of the past. But what has caused this? The competition with farmers in other continents, who, with the advantages of farms measured by square miles, a nominal rent, a virgin soil, a more regular climate, rapid and cheap steam communication, etc., etc., are supplying the markets of England with com and beef at rates which to the ordinary British farmer are simply ruinous. Hence it follows that the most conservative of Britons are obliged to abandon their conservatism and move with the age, to adopt and work new ideas. The successful farmer of the future must be a scientific man, who is able to apply his knowledge to the various processes he conducts.

Only people who have practical acquaintance with agricultural matters can fully understand what an advantage even a small amount of scientific knowledge is to a farmer. "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing" is hardly true in this instance, for almost every scrap may be utilised. The management of a manure heap, for example, may seem a very lowly subject for scientific investigation or instruction; but I venture to say that the labourer who has been instructed as to what is a proper method and why it is so, is very superior, even from a profit and loss point of view to the one who possesses no such knowledge. It is a good thing to know the why and the wherefore of things, and for the farmer to investigate the processes of nature, to enter as it were her very laboratory and try to comprehend, even if in ever so dim and imperfect a manner, somewhat of her methods of working; to trace the gradual transformation from mineral to vegetable, from vegetable to animal forms, and to follow these forms to their inevitable resolution into primitive elements again, is like letting sunshine into a darkened room. And, my friends, if you reflect that education in its highest aspect is something more than a mere preparation for the successful discharge of the duties of life, that it is intended to raise the mind through things to the great Maker of all, how can this be better advanced than by a patient and intelligent study of His works? It is idle to argue that the mere smattering of such knowledge which you can impart is useless—do we not know that there is virtue in touching even the hem of that glorious garment in which the Almighty clothes Himself, and which we call nature. Need I say more—it is surely evident from every point of view that it is our duty to give the children entrusted to our training as much of such real instruction as is within our reach and their comprehensions.

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The second volume of the Report of the Royal Commission is entirely devoted to Agriculture, and is drawn up by Mr. Jenkins, the Secretary of the Royal Agricultural Society, a gentleman to whom I am indebted for a good deal of valuable advice and assistance in teaching the subject in my own school.

He states that Germany has an enormous number of schools in which elementary instruction is given in the principles of Agriculture, and that "we have no such institutions in the United Kingdom, unless the Science Classes in which the subject is taught according to the rules of the Science and Art Department be admitted to come under this category."

And now, my friends, I must ask your very great indulgence. As there are no such schools in England, according to Mr. Jenkins, it is impossible for me to invite your attention to their methods of working. So I am reduced to this dilemma; either to bring my paper to a rapid conclusion as best I may, or to give you the results of my own experience in this matter.

At the risk of being considered egotistic, I have chosen the latter alternative, but will confine myself strictly to facts. It is now thirteen years ago that I first saw the desirability of giving theoretical instruction in agriculture to my young farmers; that was some years before the subject was added to the schedule of subjects taught under the Science and Art Department.

I, at first, gave the instruction myself, but subsequently one of the boys of my original class, who is now ray assistant master, following up his study of the subject as a young man, passed the necessary examinations under the Department, and thus qualified himself as a grant earning instructor in agriculture. He now gives the instruction, and as my Committee always make him a present of the grant earned by his class (averaging £8 per annum), he finds the subject one of the most profitable he teaches.

In my judgment, no farm school should be without at least one teacher qualified to give theoretical instruction in agriculture, and as so many of the students in training for schoolmasters now qualify themselves in this subject, there is really no difficulty in procuring a qualified teacher if you require one.

With regard to the means of teaching I shall also quote the experience of Church Farm.

First.—Every farm school should adopt as school reading books for boys above the third standard a series of science primers, all of which should bear on the subject of agriculture. There are many such to be obtained; we use the shilling series published by Macmillan, each written by a man of eminence in science. It is wonderful how interesting and simple a little agricultural chemistry, physiology, botany, and so on can be made when the work is done by the band of a master, as it is in these cases. I would, however, most strongly impress upon everyone the utter uselessness of teaching these things merely from the book, the instruction can only be of value when it can be abundantly illustrated by the daily work of the page 30 boys on the farm. There is, I fear, no disguising the fact that a good deal of this barren science is taught with the natural result that it has brought a certain amount of cheap ridicule upon the whole movement. We are all familiar with the scullery maid who knew that white of egg was "halbumen," but whose knowledge of her duties was, to say the least of it, inadequate.

Second.—The establishment of a school museum is another method of advancing this instruction. It should consist of specimens of the natural products of the district—the various kinds of soil, the indigenous weeds, grasses and wild flowers; the moths, butterflies, beetles and other insects (especially those that affect the farm crops), the reptiles, birds and few wild animals which are still to be found. Also specimens of seeds of the various cereal, root and other crops. We have the beginnings of such a collection at Church Farm, and 1 may mention that already we possess 365 distinct species of moths alone. The specimens should always be available for illustrating lessons in school.

Third.—This I am directly indebted to Mr. Jenkins for. It is that each of the elder boys should be supplied with a book to keep as a diary, in which he should record each evening his impressions of the day's doings. An experiment which I made in this direction was only partially successful, but the idea is quite good enough to try again. Properly worked it would be a great means of quickening the power of observation, one of the most valuable qualities a farmer can possess.

Fourth.—A simple method of keeping a profit and loss account should be taught to every boy. This point is acknowledged to be one of the weakest in the management of an ordinary farmer, and is frequently a cause of disaster. 1 make most of my elder boys familiar with the method adopted at Church Farm.

Fifth.—As a last suggestion I would advocate the regular purchase of one of the numerous good periodicals now issued on subjects connected with farming. We take "Farm and Home," at a cost of 1d. a week, and the amount of really useful information each number contains is astonishing. We also get the splendid illustrated catalogues of the great seed merchants, and allow the boys access to them in their spare time.

Now I beg that you will not look upon the foregoing as a scheme which I recommend for universal adoption. It is more as a record of what has been done and is still doing at Church Farm. The appendix to Mr. Jenkins' report contains abundance of matter well worth the attention of all interested in this subject, and if by the perusal of this and the record of our doings anyone is stimulated to examine this question and do something in it, the object of this paper will have been attained. Before I close, however, I should just like to read you as I did in the early part of the paper, the kind of thing required of boys who are examined in agriculture. This is the enumeration of the subjects they are supposed to be acquainted with:—
1.Soils. Their origin, formation, and variations in character. Chemical constitutions of soils. Organic and inorganic matters. Active and dormant matters in soils. Conversion of dormant matter into an active condition. "Rest" or fallow.
2.Plant life. Favourable and unfavourable conditions. Germination. Organic and inorganic constituents. Selection and rotation of crops.page 31
3.Manures. Farmyard manure; its production, fermentation, composition and value. Its general management and mode of application. Guano and other excrementito us us manures. Other general manures. Artificial and manufactured manures.
4.Tillage operations. Mechanical and chemical changes. Influence of atmospheric agencies in assisting tillage operations. Essential differences in the cultivation of light and heavy soils.
5.Food. Constituents of various kinds of food. Condiments and stimulants. Maintenance of animal heat. Formation of flesh, fat, and bone. Economical use of food.
This is a specimen of the kind of questions set.—
  • What is meant when we speak of the organic and inorganic constituents of plants?
  • Explain why frost and changes in temperature pulverize soils.
  • Give two examples of rotations of crops.
  • Explain the origin of alluvial and of peaty soils.
  • Why is a period of "rest" or fallow conducive to the fertility of soils?
  • Name the conditions requisite for the successful germination of seeds. How are they insured in agriculture?
  • Explain the meaning of the phrase "habit of growth."
  • What ingredients (constituents) would you expect to find in substances recommended as fertilizers?
  • Why may we assume all animal or vegetable refuse to possess manurial value?
  • Write a description of a fertile soil under the following heads:—
    (1.)Its chemical composition.
    (2.)Its texture, including that of subsoil.
    (3.)Its surroundings.
  • What is the usual course pursued in order to "clean" a piece of "foul" or weedy land ?
  • Why is thorough tillage or "cultivation" necessary to the successful growth of crops?

In conclusion, I very heartily recommend to your earnest consideration the teaching of such subjects as I have spoken of in the institutions over which you preside. The difficulties you will meet, will, at first, no doubt be considerable, but the reward will be proportionate to them.