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Technical Education


THIS is in some respects a valuable work, and therefore it is the more to be regretted that its title is in a double sense misleading. A very little reflection would have taught the author that “manual,” as from manus, the hand, means anything which hands are capable of effecting. He, however, defines “manual training” as limited to teaching and learning the use of tools and working materials; these, according to his system, being limited in turn to wood and metal work, such as turning, carpentry, and smithing. The immense range of work of which children are capable is not included, therefore, in “Manual Training.” Again, we find in the book that the education in question not only does not include that of girls, but actually takes no note of young children of either sex. “Starting with boys in their teens,” Prof. Woodward shows, what has always been well known, that such boys can be taught the rudiments of certain “trades.” But as the very great majority of children leave school early in their teens to go into active life, what parents or the public chiefly wish to know is, what manual training can be imparted to all children while they are yet at school? Extensive experiment has perfectly shown that they can be taught to draw, model, and execute much useful art work even from six years of age, and what is of more importance is that, as one hour of sleep before midnight is worth two after it, so those who learn to draw in early childhood acquire a certain dexterity and skill such as is rarely, if ever, attained after thirteen years of age. “The proper mental maturity,” says Prof. Woodward, “rarely comes before the fourteenth year. I think of the class as about fifteen years old.” “The minimum rate of admission” (to my school) “is fourteen years”—meaning, we suppose, that no younger pupils are received. If this means anything, it is that, according to the author, manual training in education should not begin till “the proper mental maturity” is attained. But what we expect from education is that pupils shall be trained before their minds are matured.

Manual Training in Education.

By C. M. Woodward With Illustrations. (London: Walter Scott, 1890.)

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Technical Education. Nature 43, 220–221 (1891).

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