Hand Education – Should the Hand as Well as the Brain be Educated


Should the Hand as Well as the Brain be Educated?

Mr. George. Chaney Gives His Experience

and Observation on the Subject Industrial Schools in Boston.

Almost any day there can be seen walking up Peachtree street a gentleman of slender build, with a scholar’s stoop in his shoulder, and a purely Intellectual face full of earnestness. Pleasant in manner, affable and courteous to the humblest person he meets and evidently a man of the best breeding and culture, he attracts general attention.

Perhaps no man, of all the useful men that were drawn south by the cotton exposition and the late boom in southern affairs, has came south upon a mission that promises more for the south or more  fully equipped for the carrying out of his purpose. This is Mr. George Leonard Chaney, a, Unitarian minister, of Boston, the president of the Industrial Education league, and a representative of the best sentiment and culture of Boston. Mr. Chaney is interested in investigating the problem of education in the south and in impressing our educators with the fact that to affect the best results they must combine the practical with the theoretic the useful with the classical, and the industrial with the ornamental. He has worked in a quiet way and has not sought public attention but he has sowed good seed, and, attracted by the editorials in THE CONSTITUTION on the subject of practical education was induced to give to a representative of this paper a short history of practical education in Boston, which we print in substance below. Said Mr. Chaney:

“Some years ago a number of gentlemen in Boston who were interested in the training of the boys of Boston came to the conclusion that reason that there were so many vagrants and criminals was because boys were educated without having a knowledge of any trade by which they could make at living. We saw that the professions were being over  crowded and that they offered little inducement that there were more clerks than were needed, and that girls were being called in rapidly to take the places of even those men who had places as clerks.  At the same time we knew that there was an active and growing demand for practical workmen, and that a man who was educated as a carpenter, an engineer, a machinist or a plumber could always command high wages and plenty of work. We therefore set about organizing a movement in favor of hand education. We wanted to engraft on our schools a department for educating a boy’s hand just as they were educating his brain, and we determined to do it.”

“How did you go at it?”

“It was very hard to do. We went before the school board and urged them to add to the public schools two industrial schools. That was our first step. They declined to do it. Listening to the arguments that I made and acknowledging that they were sound, they held, however, that the appropriations for schools was already exhausted and that they could do no more. They told us privately, however, that if we would organize an industrial school and demonstrate its efficiently that they might then give it a trial. Sewing was already taught in an indifferent way in the girls’ schools. We began by securing scientific instruction in these schools, in cutting, mending and sewing.  The Winthrop school with over 1,100 girls added a department of sewing, cutting and fitting, and now every girl who graduates from that school is capable of making with her own hands in the best style and without assistance every garment that will be needed in her family when she shall have married. It was discovered to our surprise and gratification that the girls who took the sewing, cutting and fitting course had just as high marks in eke other departments as the girls who did not take it, thus showing that we had educated their hands without any sacrifice of their mental education. The experiment commended itself so thoroughly that we considered that settled. We then turned our attention to boy’s.”

“How did you proceed with them?”

“Our first question was to get some tool or instrument that would be of as general use to boys as the needle is to girls. After much investigation we decided that it was important for all boys to be taught the rudiments at least of carpentering. We felt that this would give steadiness to the hands.  Accuracy and discipline and would send him from school with the basis at least of a useful trade in which he could always get employment. The school board, however, declined to listen to us for want of funds, and we felt that we must first make the experiment ourselves. We therefore secured a house and picked up about thirty little street Arabs—boys that we selected at random out of the gutter. We provided each one with knives and tools and secured a competent teacher. Considerable fun was made of the experiment, and it was called the whittling school. That was precisely what it was, and we accepted the term saying that it was something at least to teach boys how to whittle properly. To the plane, auger, adz and saw we added the gig saw for making scroll work and ornaments. We taught the boys to do joining work as neatly as a cabinet maker, and everything that would be needed in framing and building a house. They were delighted with their work and went into it with enthusiasm. We soon gave an exhibition to show their proficiency, and everybody was pleased. The boys said they had done six times as much at home. A department of this sort was added to the Dwight   school this last winter, which has 1,100 boys and is one of the most popular and successful departments in the Boston educational system. It will be found here that the boys who educate their hands stand just as high in their classes as those who do not, so that it is a clear gain.”

“Has practical education spread in Boston?”

“It is spreading everywhere. Besides these departments that I have given you the subject of practical education has been so much discussed that special schools are being established for educating boys. For instance, in New York they have a school for plumbers now what can be more important than that. A plumber has more to do, perhaps, with the health of the people in a city than almost any other man. If the traps, sewer pipes and closets of a house are arranged on scientific principles by an intelligent and educated expert there is little danger of malaria, but if the house is fitted up by an uneducated plumber, even though he may understand the technique of his work the greatest damage may result. I have no doubt that every graduate of the school of plumbers can secure instant and permanent work at much better wages than a clerk will get or than most young men earn In the professions.  lf he is fairly educated a plumber will soon find it easy to build up a business of his own that will make him independent. We have, besides such hand training as we have been describing the institute of technology and other practical schools. Boston is on the right line.”

“It is just what we need at the south.”

“Yes, sir, it is needed very much at the south. In dealing with the colored race It is most important that they should be taught useful trades. The professions are not as generally open to them as they are to the whites. There is less demand for colored lawyers, colored teachers, colored salesmen, and colored physicians, than for whites. It is therefore very important that when they graduate they should have a trade that would render them independent of the professions. I have had frequent consultation with the gentlemen in charge of the colored colleges here and find them enthusiastic on the subject They believe that it is their duty to maintain the system of general education to which they are already committed, but they desire to add to it the teaching of a special trade. Professor Ware, of the Atlanta University, is determined to raise the money this summer and add a department of practical education for both sexes in his university next session. I am satisfied that I can raise the money for this purpose in Boston, certainly enough to equip the university with tools and the outfit necessary. At the Clarke University I find that they have our book, which we prepared as a textbook for hand training, illustrated with diagrams, and that they use it as a textbook there. The students of that college have already built one house themselves and are now at work on another. They will graduate expert carpenters. I understand also that the girls are taught to cook and sew.”

“What about the white schools”

“I don’t know so much about them, but they must yield to the new system inevitably. There is too much need of educated, practical workers in the south to leave parents satisfied to have their sons and daughters trained as mere scholars any longer. If any teacher were to start a department of sewing, cooking and housekeeping for girls in addition to general education, I apprehend that she would be overwhelmed with applications from parents. I believe there are hundreds of men who would prefer to send their sons to a school where they would be taught the rudiments of a trade. We had difficulty at first in Boston. Every man seemed to want his son educated to a profession. Even mechanics themselves looked to some apparently higher pursuit for their sons. But now the feeling has changed and our very richest men are the most ardent patrons of hand education. We have rich people who take their sons to the seaside for the summer and buy complete carpenter’s outfits out of their private purses so that their sons will not lose a single month in what they consider the most important part of their education. It will come of itself after a while. I am only anxious to see it come at once, the sooner the better.”

“What is the effect of this practical education on young men and women?”

“We have hardly tried it long enough to say. But you can understand that it must make them much more self-reliant, independent and self-respecting to know that they can with their own hands work out a living for themselves and those dependent on them. There was a very striking thing that seems to illustrate the whole philosophy of this question of practical education that I will repeat. A party of us were walking through a prison in which the convicts were taught the useful trades. We passed one fellow who was very expert at his bench. We asked him, ‘Were you as good a workman before you came to prison?’ “No, sir,” he replied, “If I had been I would have never been here.” It seems to me that the advocates of hand education might very well rest their case on the result of this little incident.”

The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) – Fri, Jun 2, 1882 – Page 5

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