Educational Aspects of Trade Schools
Members of the League, and Ladies and Gentlemen,
What I have to say this afternoon is of a rather general character, and a good deal of it looks toward the future. I think however it is worth wile that something of a general character should be said in this matter of industrial education -- trade schools -- from the point of view of labor, for there is no question that labor must define its attitude toward industrial education. It is coming, -- it is coming as surely as improvement in machinery has come and will continue to come; it is coming, because it means greater economy, because it means greater success in the work, -- and what means greater economy and success is bound to appear and bound to maintain itself.
It is necessary, first, that labor should take an attitude with reference to a change of this sort which is appearing and likely to advance rapidly. You probably well know that in industrial education America stands distinctly behind other countries. In Germany especially, in France, and to some extent in England and other countries industrial education has been undertaken and carried on, and that it has been recognized that this education is of the greatest advantage to the industries of these countries. Whatever its import may be for the labor union, for organized labor, there is no question of its value to industry as such. We are behind in this respect as we have been behind Germany, for example, in the application of science in many ways to industry. We are behind, but when we commence to catch up we will catch up rapidly, just as in the introduction of better methods of manufacturing in the years between '76 and '90 the changes that took place were immense. Men who came to this country in 1876 in the interest of the steel industry from England were of the opinion at the time that it would be impossible for the United States to attempt competition in the steel industry on account of the out of date methods we employed. In a very short time after our manufacturers became aware of the need for change in machinery, they showed themselves not only able to make the change, but they evinced a ruthlessness in throwing away that which they had and putting in new machinery, which put them at the head of the industry.
There will be a similar movement in industrial education. It has proved its advantage to industry and the captains of industry will insist upon having it. So that we stand before a movement which has begun and will continue; and it is something of course that very intimately affects labor itself. Labor then must take an attitude with reference to industrial education. What I have to say bears more particularly upon the educational side of the question, and from that point of view I can do nothing but welcome its advent. If any of you are familiar with the educational movement, you know that what we are seeking is a way of introducing in some fashion into the schools the vital element of life. We have suffered from a discipline which applies simply to the schoolroom and is not the discipline of life; and the educator, especially the reform -- the modern -- educator, has been looking for some way of tapping the real life interest from the outside and carrying it into the schoolroom. You know that manual training, constructive industries of various sorts, have been introduced into the schools, not simply for the results of the immediate training itself but also because the exercise of that constructive activity is supposed to bring the child into a closer relationship with life on the outside. But none of the efforts which have been made in connection with constructive industry -- a great many of which we have in the Chicago schools -- has succeeded as educators wish them to succeed. We have not as yet attained the results which we get on the farm or in the shop.
I presume that any educator will admit that from the educational point of view the training a boy gets on the farm, assuming he is in the hands of intelligent parents, is an ideal type of education, because the boy knows what he is doing; he know the relation of what he is doing to the end in view; because he feels the connection of that which he is doing with the life of the family. It is an ideal type of training. We know the same thing is true in the shop, so far as it goes, though I am not saying that it is adequate education. The boy in the shop learns with a rapidity out of all proportion to the rapidity with which the child learns in the school. Go into the University, and compare the work done by the student in the so-called Arts Department with that done by the same student in the Law School or the Medical School, and you will find an enormous difference. The student never knows what it is to work until he feels the relation of what he is doing to what he will be doing hereafter, until he realizes that what he is doing today belongs to the life of the whole community. The same thing is true in the schools -- the people's colleges -- as in the university. From the educational point of view, the introduction of industrial education, of work in trade schools, is something which we must heartily welcome. The question then is not whether we will have industrial training: -- we are going to have it anyway. The question is how this is to be brought about and how regulated. The question is whether it is to come simply in the interests of manufacturers themselves, in the interests of industry, or whether it is to be looked at from the broader point of view, whether there is to be a policy in reference to it which will recognize the full import of it.
Industrial education means something more than efficiency in shops, something more than technically trained men. It means greater efficiency in the whole community, because if rightly brought in, we are going to have better educated men and women in the community. It is a question of greater efficiency throughout the whole community.
I can understand what opposition must at once arise in the minds of trade unionists to industrial education. The very fact that our captains of industry themselves want it -- that the men who are opposed to trade unions are eager for it, points to the belief that they will be able to draw from the graduates of industrial schools people who would take the place of union laborers, and indicates that there is another question here. I have heard an account of a school conducted in Cincinnati in certain steel works there. Boys 3were selected from among those in the high school; out of five hundred, some seventy-five were selected. They were given one week in the shop, and then a week in the so-called University of Cincinnati where they were put at the studies bearing upon the shop-work. In this way it took them twice as long to do the work in the school as if they had simply entered the school and not done the work in the shops; but at the end of the time their standing was to the standing of those who had taken the regular course as 90 to 60. These boys had done very much better work than the boys who were simply taking the study course. I was told that the questions they brought into instruction almost puzzled the instructors themselves. They went beyond the theoretical points and brought in new points of view, and gave a grip to the work it had not had before.
Now, as I have said, there are means of instruction of the greatest advantage to the community pedagogically, but if the community does not introduce them the manufacturers themselves will establish their own schools. There are many manufacturers already in the country who are establishing trade-
(20)-schools. They will not only be schools for men to replace union men, they will also be schools which will give a narrow training and there is no necessity of this training being narrow. These boys to whom I refer were trained of course specifically with reference to work which they were going to do, that of trained mechanics in the shops, -- in science, physics, chemistry, and especially mathematics. It would have been possible for this training to have been of a broader character; they could have taken up the history of this industry, the history of the machines they were making use of; these could have been given in connection with this work not only the specific training necessary for their technique, there could also have been given a liberal education; and if the work had been properly given, they would have been just as interested in this liberal education, in this interpretation, as in the mathematics and science essential to the technique.
The community then must take possession of this industrial training, this work in the trade schools, and use it for the good of the schools. It follows then that organized labor should demand that industrial education be welcomed, but that it should be made a part of our public school system, part of that system which we can reach by votes, part of that system which belongs to the body politic of which we are members.; that it should not be possible that this method of education which is of so much value to the community should be left in the hands of manufacturers who are only immediately interested in the training of skilled men. For these manufacturers -- or , I do not mean to say manufacturers -- our method of industry, at the present time has cut us off from trained men. We have introduced machines into our manufactories, and these machines have to be tended; they are specialized machines and they have to be tended by special men, and the man who tends one of these machines becomes a part of the machine, and when the machine is thrown away the man is thrown away, for has has fitted himself into the machine until he has become nothing but a cog. The only morale that such a shop knows is that of speed, -- speeding up. The man is fitted into the machine so that he becomes a part of the machine, and is constantly pushed on to do more work along this specialized line. The result is that when the manufacturer, or manager, wishes to get hold of a foreman or mechanics, he cannot find one among his own workmen because these workmen have been so fitted to do specialized pieces of work that they are unwilling, even for higher wages , to take the responsibility of directing the work of others. That is the result of this type of work. A manufacturer in this city told me it was necessary for his concern to go out to the country shops where men had to have charge of the complete product in order to find men who could be made into foremen. Our system of industry has cut itself off from the sort of training that gives to them the mechanics they need, and they find they must educate these men in some other may, and what they will do is to introduce schools, unless the public conducts these schools. But these schools must be conducted by the public because it is of immense moment to the public and because the motive industrial training gives is something that is needful in the public school system.
There is another point to which I want to refer. You are undoubtedly familiar with the fact that in this country, in Berlin, Germany, and in London, investigations have been made to find out how many school children go without breakfasts and dinners. The mere gathering together of the children in the schools has made it necessary that the community should take some sort of position in regard to the standard of living of the children who come there. You cannot gather children together and insist upon their having well-lighted rooms, proper desks, etc., and then deal with children who are so hungry they cannot do the work. The mere logic of the situation forces you on, and you are obliged to say, these children must have a better standard of living than they have had in the past. The school just so far as it goes is a way of setting standards. The school of course is not simply the common school, the high school, it is part of a great system, taking in the university, and is an institution that standardizes (sic) our lives for us. To introduce industry into schools means that just so far the community is putting itself into the position where it will have to introduce standards for industry. It is of enormous importance that these industries should be introduced at a point where the community is obliged to say they must be hygienic. That is that they must be carried on intelligently, for that of course id the attitude of the school, of the university, that work is to be carried on intelligently. It is of very great importance that the community should take over into its hands the standardizing of industries in the school, and just so far as we introduce trade industries in the schools we are putting the community into the place where it will sooner or later have to pass upon the standards of life of those working in the industries.
These are the general considerations, and of course, they look toward the future. It will be a long time before our public schools will be able to make use of industries, but it is bound to come, and it is of the utmost importance that organized labor should take an intelligent attitude toward it. We can look the whole ground over. We can ask, what is the policy we ought to pursue? I devoutly hope that the intelligent men in the Labor movement will get together and think this thing over, talk it over, and formulate an intelligent program that will determine the attitude of organized labor toward industrial education and trade schools. (Applause)