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All this young life would flow naturally from our schools into the great sea of industry. Everyone would fit his place. The boy or girl of 14 who now leaves our school from the eighth grade or the fourth to enter on the endless quest for meaningless jobs would be succeeded by the boy or girl of 14 fitted to choose life's work intelligently and to enter upon it with efficiency. One educational expert has gone so far as to declare that with vocational schools established to meet the needs of those not destined to business or professional careers, every pupil ought, as the result of his training, to be in a position at 14 years of age to make an intelligent choice of the occupation he desires to follow.
In accepting this challenge of the business world our educators have, in my judgment, assumed an unwarranted responsibility for this condition. Those who assert that only the inadequacy of our school curriculum and the improper development of the child's mind stand in the way of a solution of this perennial tangle of industrial incompetence and inefficient job hunting, overlook two considerations of vital importance, one industrial and the other psychological. The industrial consideration is simply the fact that for the boy or girl under 16 years of age there is no place in industry. I speak broadly, of course, for there are exceptions; but in general it is clear that the time spent in industry or in the pursuit of industry before reaching that age is a loss to industry itself and almost always a loss to the child.
A study of the annual contribution of our city schools to the business interests of the community will show that a considerable percentage is thrown into the discard within the first month; that another large percentage goes drifting from job to job, sometimes advancing, quite as frequently receding, the industries complaining that the children the schools turn out are no good; and that the children lose courage, enthusiasm, and youthful idealism in the various meaningless jobs to which they are assigned. That many drift into casual and thence into permanent idleness is to be expected. The only wonder is that any ultimately rise to positions of efficiency and responsibility.
The skilled trades have no place even for a beginner apprentice under 16 years, and many allow no apprentices to qualify as journeymen under 19 or 20. This puts out of the field the choicer occupations, and leaves the majority of children to seek jobs as errand boys, delivery boys, messenger boys, cash girls, sweepers, cleaners, tenement homeworkers, street merchants, and the like. The building trades; the iron, steel, and woodworking industries; the printers' trade; the trade of the plumber, gas fitter, electrical worker, or glass worker-all these are closed to young children because they lack physical strength or maturity of judgment.
Our schools are not fair to themselves, therefore, in assuming that they or the child are wholly at fault. If the schools need a better curriculum, so does the industrial establishment. If the child needs a more definite and purposeful mind, much more does industry. One of the most vital services vocational guidance can render is to analyze our industries and train our youth to distinguish between a "vocation" and a "job." It is futile to give special training to a child for the purpose of fastening him to a machine on which he shall do purely mechanical labor for life. Business says: "Here are the jobs; what kind of children have you to offer?" We must reverse the inquiry and say to business: "Here are our children; what kind of industry have you to offer?"
Without professing to know much about the educational side of this problem, I am willing to admit all the criticisms our foremost educators launch against the present school curriculum and methods. Nothing can be more essential to the training of a child than a conception of his industrial obligations and opportunities. I should make this general. Instead of having one specialized industrial expert to diagnose and prescribe for our public school children, I should like to have the entire curriculum shot through and through with the meaning, the history, the possibilities of vocation. A glance at the curriculum of any well-ordered school will discover that almost every subject is suceptible of an industrial or vocational interpretation. Such as are devoid of this possibility are of doubtful value in the curriculum and should be dropped, unless someone can advance a valid defense for their retention. One of the most valuable results of the modern tendency to vocationalize our schools will be that both the curriculum and the teaching staff will become so imbued with vocational inspiration that they will advance into the realm where the child lives and speak to him in the language wherein he was born. The child thus finding himself at home in school will long to remain to the last possible moment, instead of, as at present, tugging at the leash, eager to leave at the first possible moment. This will be a tremendous contribution to the elimination of the young child from our industries.
To turn to our other consideration, we maintain furthermore that no child of 14 years under any possible system of educational training is equipped to make an intelligent choice of the occupation he desires to pursue. Any attempt to fit boys and girls to become wage earners at 14 years of age is based on the theory that society is bankrupt; that we need the product of their labor. But we are not bankrupt; the reserve wealth of our nation and of the world was never so great as to-day.
Undoubtedly, intelligent vocational guidance in our public schools will do much to turn the minds of youth into channels of occupation
most attractive and most promising. This has been true of our conventional schools for many years. The old style school is a vocational school to such as plan or are destined by the plan of others for the professions. The child who is to be a doctor, lawyer, clergyman, or teacher finds in the curriculum of the typical high school the very course essential to lay the foundation for his future profession. Every year he spends in the primary and secondary grades is directly contributing to preparation for his life occupation. But he does not have to decide at 14 or 15 or 16 years of age which of these professions he will follow. The decision may be deferred until years have given opportunity for a survey of the field, until the beginnings of experience have helped him to make the choice intelligently. The tendency in this direction is increasing. To-day the young man who desires to enter one of these higher professions is required to make more preparation, to lay a broader foundation than his father or his grandfather. And if the physician desires to become a specialist, he is not even permitted under the rules of the profession to take up his specialized study or practice until he has laid its foundation in a study of the profession as a whole.
The tendency of specialization is just the reverse in industry. For the professions we require a broad general curriculum on which the specialized profession shall be superimposed. For industry we assume it may be substituted.
How can a child of 14 years know whether he is destined for the professions or the manual arts? How many of us in this movement chose our life's occupation at 14 years or would have been capable of doing it under any form of training? I can not boast of my training, but at 14 years I was planning to be a railroad brakeman. At 15 I had determined to be a horse doctor. At 16 the current of my life was changed through the fortunate circumstance of having a brother so determined to go to college that he cooperated with my parents to get the whole family there. It may have been a mistake, but it deferred the choice until after the adolescent period. At a meeting of prominent educators in New York last week I asked the 35 men present how many had chosen their present occupation before they were 20. Only 2 had done so.
The child destined for occupation in what we call "the industrial world" has no such demand laid upon him. He is not required to lay a foundation in general culture; neither is he required to become familiar with the various branches of the occupation in which he is to engage. He is not expected to know how to make a shoe in order to become a shoemaker, or to know how to fit and join in order to become a carpenter, or to know how to corral, segregate, and dispose of dirt in order to become a street cleaner. Instead of superimposing his specialization upon his general training, we seek to substitute
specialization for general training. This not only belittles the industry under consideration, but cribs, cabins, and confines those destined to engage in it. What is that ignoble thing about industry that makes it careless of its craftsmen? It should demand as thorough preparation as professional life, except in such forms of labor as are almost entirely mechanical, and these should never be open to children, but only to those who have had their day of idealism and inspiration. We reveal that we have not yet risen to the point of looking upon our industrial occupations as sacred callings ministering to the necessities of our race, but as the unfortunate fate of those who through poverty, inexperience, or lack of personal initiative are unable to get on top and draw profits from the labor of others.
So long as we view industries in this light we shall continue to consign our children to them; we shall continue to reward the manual laborer with wages too slight to maintain him and his family in decency; we shall continue to place upon our public and private charitable agencies the tragic burden of bent and broken old age, suffering the privation of grinding poverty as the only visible reward for a life of long service in the ranks of labor.
Our whole tendency in this splendidly inspiring educational awakening should be toward recognizing that we have entered upon the credit side of our ledger; that we are having to do henceforth with the problems of human possibility rather than of human poverty; that society has reached a point where it can feed, clothe, and house itself without crushing life, either physical, mental, or spiritual, from any of its children; that we can perform the work required and at the same time guarantee reasonable hours of labor to our adult workers and the opportunity to grow and play and learn to all our children.
What this will mean to the ultimate lifting of labor from its present bent position can hardly be overstated. But to enter deliberately upon an educational policy which classifies little children into those destined for the professions and other pleasant callings on the one hand, and those destined as manual laborers on the other is to attempt a cleavage in society which is a direct contradiction of all our theories of democracy. Prof. Hanus said recently:
Education is a preparation for complete living. * Complete living includes usefulness and happiness. Usefulness is the activity that promotes the interests of mankind. Happiness means the enjoyment of work and leisure. Education should therefore equip a boy for a vocation and also equip him for an enjoyment of the refined pleasure of life.
Such an education will break down the present class distinctions which already cleave society and wreck so many lives. If, as I suppose, we all believe in real democracy, we must reach a point at which
we can stop talking about the "friend of the workingman," the "housing of the working people," etc. Who has a right to be housed except the worker? Why should the worker require a "next friend" at court as his guarantor or sponsor? Who has better right to stand close to the throne? Are not his own hands his credentials? But he can maintain his right only by having been given the opportunity in childhood to store his mind with useful and beautiful knowledge as well as his hands with technical skill.
If we educate our workers to make them appreciate their work, to recognize the unity of industry, we shall have real leaders among them. We now have "captains of industry." The phrase is well taken. In many of the industrial crises the protesting workmen are actually like sheep without a shepherd.
Through a proper system of vocational guidance in our schools industry will cease to be poverty-stricken on the side of leadership. It will cease to depend on leadership from outside. From the ranks will rise statesmen able and glad to defend the people's sacred rights. Let us accept the goal proposed by Mr. Prosser, secretary of the National Society for the Promotion of Industrial Education, that every minor child shall be regarded as a ward of the State. Let us insist that the industries offering valuable training to children shall become an adjunct of the schools. Let us insist that the child's future usefulness, not the present balance sheet, shall be the measure of the success of this guidance into vocations, and let us resist every scheme to make the labor of young children a makeshift to maintain themselves or their family.
B. THE LARGER EDUCATIONAL BEARINGS OF VOCATIONAL GUIDANCE.
GEORGE HERBERT MEAD,
Professor of Philosophy, the University of Chicago, Chicago, Ill.
The school is an institution fashioned as other institutions. It has its roots in the past. It has held its own in the midst of contentions and against hostile forces by being what it is. It has been conscious of its value for society because of its past and has found its courage and relf-respect in its accomplishments. Especially the public schools of a democracy such as ours have had need of a strong hold upon its traditions. Our democracy has been suspicious of the standards of a learning and a literary art that belong to an upper class, and of the standard of an efficiency that arose out of a bureaucratic government.
Our school system has had its own practical traditions; and where it has added to its earlier meager curriculum, the addition has been frequently without any controlling principle. We have been very