Go slow, gentlemen.
Be careful, in the first place, that the manufacturers do not capture this movement as the commercial interests captured that of fifty years ago and made the one test of a successful school its ability to fit all boys "to figure" so that they could select at random and be sure of getting one already trained to do their work.
It will be a calamity if the public schools are required to train every boy to be so handy at a trade that a manufacturer can find a boy trained for his specific and immediate needs. If by raising the compulsory age limit to sixteen we merely use the years from fourteen to sixteen for the manufacturers' benefit, we have missed the aim of the school.
This talk of teaching trade is liable to be harking [page 2] back to wholly outgrown conditions. The reasons there are not old-time apprentices is the fact that modern conditions do not demand them. When no man makes a whole watch there is no reason why we should teach a boy to make a whole watch.
There is great liability of misdirecting the whole movement in the name of the trade school.
Go slow in choosing for a boy his occupation, certainly before he is sixteen.
There may be those who would dare assume the responsibility of determining a child's future for him at fourteen, but I should shrink from such responsibility.
The whole trend of progress is toward greater initiative, earlier initiative, and we attempt to turn the hands on the dial backward if, in the twentieth century, we deny the individual the right of initiative as to life occupation, if we assume the right of the state through the school to dictate arbitrarily his future.
To do this before he is sixteen looks like an effort to thwart his own choice at sixteen.
The demand of the day, the real demand, is to teach the boy from fourteen to sixteen the difference between technique and imagination, to so train him in appreciation of the significance of technique that, choosing for himself whatever occupation he may at sixteen, he has acquired such training of hand, eye, and mind that he will be two years on the way to the mastery of any phase of industrial occupation.
With the little child we are greatly pleased that he has the imagination to construct out of cardboard a wobbly little house. It does not concern us that the lines are not straight or the angles correct, but there comes a time when our interest largely [centers] in the fact that every joint is exact, that the dove-tailing is perfect, that he fully appreciates the importance of the technique.
This society certainly has an opportunity to be of great service to the boy, but it is more important that it does the right thing than that it does something.
It is possible that the speakers have failed to properly relate industrial and culture effects in education. There may be a culture in the technique that is not appreciated here. No city supports an orchestra of high class unless there be many skilled performers. Those who merely enjoy music, but cannot execute, never establish an orchestra, never make a market for a high order of musical talent. Only those who themselves render music and therefore know what it signifies by way of the mastery of the technique create a market for exquisite music. Theirs is the culture that signifies most. It is possible that we have labeled some things as culture that have really slight culture significance. If so, we may turn to training in industrial technique with new interest.