For many years we, the teachers of the United States assembled in village, city, State, and national conventions, have recited our creed and chanted it in all keys.
We believe that man is a trinity, three in one—head, heart, and hand, one soul made manifest; we believe that this union is vital and indissoluble, since "what God hath joined together" may not be rent asunder; we believe that this three-fold man, being "put to school" on earth to grow, may devise and bring to successful issue no scheme of education that is out of harmony with the plan of the Creator.
Congratulating ourselves upon our ready and distinct utterance of this lofty thought, we have calmly returned to our man-devised book-schools for the acquisition of knowledge, in order to forward some plan for the accumulation of more knowledge.
Deeds, not words, are now necessary
But "wisdom lingered"! Here and there voices were raised that would not be silenced: "You sang your beautiful song; what are you going to do about it?" In the words of John Stuart Mill, "It is now time to assert in deeds, since the power of words is well-nigh exhausted."
Investigators, studying this union of head and hand from the physiological side, hurled truths at us that startled us from our lethargy.
Every stimulus poured into nerve cells through the avenues of the senses tends to pass out in motor action, which causes muscular movement. In every idea are vitally united the impression and the tendency to expression in action. The nervous system consists of the fibres which carry currents inward, the organs of central redirection, and the fibres which carry them outward—sensation, direction, action. Since control means mental direction of this involuntary discharge of energy (directed muscular movement), control of the muscles means development of will as well as of skill. To prevent or cut off the natural outflow of nervous energy results in fatigue and diseased nerves. Unrestrained and uncontrolled expenditure of nervous energy results in lawlessness and weakened will.
Men of science said: "These are facts about man. What account have you made of them in your elaborate system for educating him?"
Students of sociological and economic problems called out to us as the teachers of men:
Labor must be respected
These great problems concerning the relation of labor and capital (the brotherhood of man) will never be solved until there is greater respect for labor; greater appreciation of the value of the products of labor; until there is more joy to the worker in his labor, which should be the expression through his hand, of the thought of his head, and the feeling of his heart; until labor is seen in its true light, as service; until the man with money as well as the man without learns through experience to respect and appreciate labor and its products. "We absorb only so much as we can interpret in terms of our own active experience."
What contributions are our schools making to the bettering of social and industrial conditions?
Philosopher and poet—thinker and seer—send their message:
"That life is wisest spent Where the strong, working hand Makes strong the working brain."
To create, to make something, is the instinct of divinity in humanity, the power that crowns man as divine.
"It is his impulse to create Should gladden thee."
The will to do
The practical business man thunders his protest at us against the inefficiency of the man with only the knowledge-stored brain. He says: We must have men that can will to do, and then do something, not merely men that can think of things "'twere good to do." Our public schools must train men and women to go out and take their place with the workers of the world, to do something well and effectively.
Systematic hand-training the work of to-day
At last we are awake, and throughout the country we are trying to heed these calls, and to revive our own weakened thought by action, singing our creed in deeds. Upon the foundations laid by Friedrich Froebel and his students in the kindergarten, we are trying to build up a course in systematic hand-training, through the primary, to intermediate and grammar grades, and thence to manual training in the high schools. What to do and how to do it has now become the practical problem of the day. Everywhere the wide-awake primary teacher is sharing her thought and experience with her co-workers.
For little children, the what must utilize material suitable for little fingers, and tools must be large. The finished product should belong to the maker, or be made by him as a service rendered to others; the result should also be worthy of keeping or giving, from the view-points of both beauty and utility.
Another important factor is the adaptation to present public-schoolroom conditions, and to present public-school treasury conditions.
Weaving the best hand work for primary schools
More thoughtful study has led to the abandonment of the old-time sewing and fine handwork in kindergarten and primary school. In its place we find the weaving of useful and beautiful articles, out of various available materials, and with simple, primitive tools—allowing always for much and varied use of the great tools, the fingers.
It is interesting to note that teachers in all parts of the country, working independently of each other, have come to practically the same conclusions, viz., that under present conditions, weaving seems the best basis for a systematic course in industrial work that shall train head and heart as well as hand. It is also of great interest to remember that the signboards along the pathway of race development, by means of work, exchange of labor and its products, all point to this idea as the entering gateway. Weaving is the first industry of all primitive peoples.
This manual the result of study and experience
Being practically agreed as to what shall be the first industrial work in the primary school, the next great question is the how. With large numbers of little children in her own schoolroom, the author of this manual has long sought a satisfactory answer. Believing that the results of her study and experience will be helpful to others in suggesting possibilities, and in stimulating thought, as well as in practical teaching and time-saving, she sends forth this little book with the earnest hope that it may in these ways be of real service.
Alice W. Cooley, Critic Teacher and Instructor, University of North Dakota. August 1st, 1902.
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