Standards of Education in Industrial Life, June 8, 1911

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By Miss Jane Addams.

The part assigned to me in this industrial program is that of the preparation of those who are about to enter industry. It would surely seem reasonable that the preparation of those who are to be workers, should have at least as much care and solicitude as is exercised to preserve their health and strength during their working life and to care for them in old age when their working life is over.

I should like to begin with a statement similar to the one made so thrillingly by Mr. Brandeis; that we have not regarded the child workers so much as the product of their work. Children are put into industry very much as we put in raw material, and the product we look for is not better men and women, but manufactured goods.

This state of things has come about largely because we, as educators [page 2] and humanitarians, have not stood our ground, but have permitted ourselves to be pushed aside by the captains of industry. We have failed to insist upon the value of the young people who every year enter the industries. The public schools yearly expend, directly, and indirectly in the preparation of teachers, vast sums upon their education, but, as soon as the children are fourteen, they are turned out to fill such places as they can find in the industrial community and most of the money spent on their education is wasted.

Why have the American people, so enthusiastically interested in education, proud of our public schools as we are of no other institution, permitted this to happen year after year without protest? Have we been overwhelmed by the notion of national prosperity? Have we been so caught by the desire to see our towns rich and prosperous that we have forgotten our most valuable possessions, forgotten what the whole thing is about?

The efforts we have made for child labor so far have been against premature work, but if we prohibit premature labor it is that the whole life, including the work, may be better. Some experiments have been made in Cincinnati, to prepare boys and girls for industry during the last two years of school. Something is being done by vocational bureaus, probably the most successful is here in Boston, where the interest of the child is studied in relation to the industry he is to enter. These are hints and signs of what we might do if only we regarded the child as the primary, and the industry as the secondary consideration.

The splendid minority report of the Commission of England that looked into poverty from a view point that had never been used in England before, recommended that some sort of supervision be kept over every boy and girl from the time they left the ward schools until they were twenty-one; that an effort be made to discover how many hours they might advantageously work, how much exercise ought to be given them outside of their work to correct the faults which were superinduced by the peculiar tasks required; how much education might be given in night schools, and in other ways. This sounds very drastic to Americans, and it sounded very drastic to Parliament when it was presented. But how reasonable it is when the chief product, the chief treasure we have, are the young people themselves, those for whom the legislation is desired. Why do the majority of men and women labor from day to day, but that they may keep their homes and rear and nourish their children? When we get to that basic motive which keeps the world going, we wonder that we are so careless of this precious crop of boys and girls who every year, as fast as they are fourteen, or in some favored states sixteen years old, are turned over to industry which does with them as it pleases.

It has been said that our public schools in their earliest years were captured by the ideals of the professional men; that it was assumed [page 3] that every boy was going to be a clergyman or a physician and that therefore they were taught Latin and all the other things which our colleges used to train professional men. Then, later the schools were captured by the business men; the children were taught to be obedient and prompt and accurate in doing sums, that they might be valuable in an office; now, if we do not take heed, our schools will be captured by the manufacturers, who will insist upon an industrial training that the children may be prepared to enter those industries which every town holds open to them.

Against all these things educators must take a stand. They must say that the value of education is to be tested by the results upon the child himself, and that industry must in some way or another be so modified that when this educated young person enters it, he shall not be crippled nor dwarfed; that he shall be respected and protected until he is old enough to protect himself by his own vote. In the light of what has been laid before us this evening, these things seem so simple and so reasonable that we sometimes wonder why we are talking about them. Shall we not say, we the men and women who make up this Conference, who every day see bewildered boys and girls having finished their courses in the public school and looking for any kind of job -- boys taking from ten to fifteen jobs during the first year after they leave school, and trying all of them with a sense of disappointment; girls going aimlessly from one factory to another -- shall we not say that sort of thing must be stopped? If the people forming this Conference who daily see these children dropping into casual and unsuitable employment and at last joining the ranks not only of the unemployed, but of the unemployable, should speak out strongly and clearly, our united testimony ought to be sufficient to suppress that sort of thing forever and to make it henceforth impossible.

Personally I always feel that those who are close to the suffering, to the wretchedness, which comes from the mal-organization of society, those who constantly see the waste of the people, ought to testify without ceasing. The testimony should come with overwhelming power from the people who see the young destroyed and their wonderful abilities wasted. After all, it is easy to get things in America when we make an appeal in the name of youth. We are accustomed to think of large sums of money spent for education. Let us claim some enthusiasm and some money for these children, that they may enter industry better prepared and more ready to withstand its strain; and let us see that industry be so modified that it shall no longer destroy our young people whom we place in its care and for its use.

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