« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
By THOMAS LOWDEN.
Among the many questions before the public of South Africa, not the least important is that of Education. Recently I was glad to notice, that the Rand Daily Mail had, in a series of leaders, directed attention to the question of practical education, under the title of “Our Future Artisans.”
In the Colonies it is just as much of vital importance, and perhaps more so, that our youths should be as properly prepared, if inclined to take up trades, as the Home youths. It seems to me that South African born and reared youths, and over-sea born, but reared here, should take the bulk of positions as highly-skilled and highly-paid artisans and mechanics, and high places in offices or the Civil Service, and not have to take, as is too often the case, what is left after valuable posts have been filled by highly-paid imported men. Undoubtedly good colonists are needed, but not at the future expense of our boys. Further, in a country like this, where the mineral wealth has only been scratched, where agriculture is practically only emerging from its infancy, and where manufactures are yet to be born, the education must be such that the youths, our future pioneers, the kings of isolated places, may be self-reliant and self-contained. That our boys have been, and are, still somewhat handicapped, most will agree with me, and that being so, it is necessary to study the cause and the means of prevention. On enquiring why so many imported men from all parts of the world occupy the good positions, we are told the lack of training facilities for our Colonial youths has kept them in the second place. When should we begin the training of “Our Future Artisans," Argiculturists, etc. ? Undoubtedly the training should begin the moment a child starts its school life, and should be of such a character that the transfer from the classroom to the business life should simply be a change of environment, and a change of master. That business life is simply an expanding of school life, and the application of the principles, information, moral tone, perception and application, reliability, and habit of work acquired at school, and that there is nothing to unlearn.
Educationalists must face this question. Perhaps no profession outside those of religion, law, and medicine, sticks tighter to Tradition, is more classic and conservative than the Teaching Profession. Because, in the Middle Ages, what little information was to be obtained, what little was known of Theology, Philosophy, Science, and Mathematics, was wrapped up in books written in Latin and Greek, and it was necessary for scholars to get at that information first hand, to be expert in Latin and Greek, is no good reason why so much of our students' time should be spent over dead languages. Nor are any of the arguments put forward by those in favour of classic education of commonsense or utilitarian value. The needs of the community are sacrificed to custom. Ninety per cent. of our students will never require Latin and Greek in their manhood.
Save for religion, law, literature, and medicine, as in the old days, only the students destined for those vocations should be compelled to take the classic side. That our boys think for themselves in this matter, is shewn by a question put to me by a youth during a machine-construction drawing lesson. He is attached to one of our colleges, and his inclination, supported by his father, is towards the Engineering Profession. Evidently he was turning over the utilitarian value of his different studies, when he asked : What is the use of Latin to me?” The only practical answer I could give to suit him was, That it will help you to pass your School Higher.” In the course of the lesson attention had been drawn to the connection between Physics and Engineering. The boy saw the advantage of the time, as far as he was concerned, spent in studying physics, and the disadvantage or waste of time spent on subjects not bearing on his profession. Perhaps it is not so much “system” or code that is at fault, for, after all, it is the teacher that makes codes and systems successful. If our teachers could and would show the relation between school-work and business, there would be fewer complaints about idle, inattentive children. Nor should we overlook the too often stultifying actions of Inspectors, who from their lofty pinnacle, have the opportunity of taking a broad survey of education, and so should be able to advise teachers what is best educationally for the district, yet by their methods of Inspection, make a dull system of education duller. One can hardly credit 20th century Inspectors caring only for the 3 R’s. Yet that is too often so. Had the fourth R-Drawing—been included, it would not seem so bad. This anxiety over the 3 R's, and the cramming system to get a glib facility in them, too often give rise to a distaste for those subjects, with a result that the pupil, once freed from school control, throws studies to the winds, gives up reading, and is extremely loth to put pen to paper. It is lamentable to note the poor attendance at the various evening classes. Further, how few read books in our libraries outside the fiction class, and it is surprising to find that the bulk of those who go in for improving literature are of foreign extraction and education.
After the war, in the Transvaal Colony, there was a great opportunity of giving to that country an educational system equal to, or superior to, anything in the world, because there was the past and present experience of the world's systems to profit by. Yet we find custom and tradition too strongly adhered to, and old methods are perpetuated. Theory without practice is still the order of the day.
If there be one subject more than another which needs stripping of sentiment and the pandering to faddists, it is the subject of Drawing.
Nowadays there seems to be a tendency to attempı to teach Art before the Alphabet of Art, namely, Drawing, is mastered, and little or no attempt is made to fit it into a child's school's life. Scale Drawing and Geometrical Drawing are elbowed out by Brushwork and Brushwork design. This latter class of work is undoubtedly recreative and somewhat pretty, and would no doubt be admirable in a Pottery District, but, alas ! decorative china manufacture is not one of our productive works. I might even go so far as to say that class of drawing is suitable for a private school for young ladies, where the veneer of a so-called finish is more highly thought of than a sound education. Meanwhile, in our primary schools, where it is run for show purposes, the practical drawing is neglected. As ninety per cent. of our pupils will have to be workers—keen, alert, self-reliant, ready with pen and pencil, something more is needed than to make them dreamers of the beauty of flowers, or of the delightful shades of a butterfly's wing. Although I doubt, with the crude shades of colours used for brush and crayon work, they might be distorted dreams. Let us first teach in our primary schools Drawing as the Alphabet of Art. Anyone who tried to teach Reading before the Alphabet was mastered would be looked upon as a lunatic and a crank.
Some people are to be found who look upon artists as cranks. Be that as it may, the so-called Drawing in the lower standards is no preparation for higher Manual Training in the upper standards, or the practical needs of after-school life. At present the application of brushwork is limited to the washing in of maps, or the colouring of an architectural drawing, or the washing in of a mechanical drawing in an engineer's office, to show different materials. Adults need facility in using a firm point, such as a pen or pencil, in sketching. If they want to illustrate an idea, or give an outline for construction, the brush is the last thing anyone would think of using.
I was much struck with the sketching powers of the pupils of a certain school. Sketching was encouraged in every way possible. For instance, in an arithmetic lesson, where the sharper pupils would be finished the set work before the slower ones, so that there should be no idling on the part of the sharp ones, the quicker ones were allowed to practise sketching on spare paper provided. This was turned to account in the essay and composition tasks of the upper standards, by the pupils being required to illustrate by pen or pencil sketches, the written matter. The results of that happy combination were delightfully good.
Manual Training takes into consideration the co-ordination and correlation of drawing and dexterity by various occupations. To secure a proper gradation, Drawing, combined with manual exercises, should be compulsory in every class of primary and secondary schools.
One of the greatest reasons for advocating compulsory Manual Training is that the great dividing line between civilised and uncivilised man is the use of tools—the axe, saw, plane, hammer, square, chisel and file ; and the modern machine shop is but an aggregation of these tools driven by steam. T. Carlvle wrote: “ Man without tools is nothing, with tools he is all.” Doubtless the old style of education produced men of learning, but the new style of education—" Learning by Doing ”—will produce men of action and resource, because not so much time has been spent in acquiring knowledge of the past, but rather more has been spent in teaching pupils to use knowledge acquired in producing fresh knowledge in the future. I believe the book " Robinson Crusoe owes its popularity in that it treats so much of tools and work.
The early education of young children in primary and preparatory grades of secondary schools and in private schools commences on good lines—the kindergarten, that of action, seeing and doing. But, unfortunately, in too many cases this good start is not followed up, till perhaps the pupil reaches the upper classes, when a “ feeble dash " is made to make up, by giving the boys a course of woodwork. If the pupil is to receive an all-round development, the manual occupations of the kindergarten must be continued in some form or other to the highest standard. There must be no break. Of the many names used for this form of education, “ Applied Drawing " seems quite the most sensible.
Many years ago in Liverpool, when educationalists were beginning to consider the experiments of teachers in Sweden, Finland, Russia, Germany, and the United States, it was decided to try Woodwork for boys, and so as not to offend the susceptibilities of Trades Unionists, it was decided to call the subject Applied Drawing." There is more in that title than appears at first sight; and if the various branches of the subject are taught in that spirit as well as in the letter, there will be no doubt as to the success of the training. The application of Drawing—the Alphabet of Arttaught in this way is a valuable form of expression, expressing the results of sight and observation, and by so doing is a means of culture. Ruskin says: “I am nearly convinced that when we see keenly enough, there is very little difficulty in expressing what we see."
Artisans and mechanics, with the allied professions, need Mechanical Drawing and Free Sketching. The question arises how can this be obtained along with manual dexterity. Courses of cardboard work and modelling in plastic material have been arranged for the first three or four standards. Beginning with Standard I. by drawing to measurement on cardboard with rule, set-square. and compasses the simpler geometrical figures, and proceeding gradually to making nets for trays, boxes, and geometrical solids, the construction drawings for more complicated models, such as a photo frame, as the child moves to higher standards, facility in the use of drawing tools and a readiness and accuracy of measurement is acquired. Dexterity and love of work is obtained by cutting out these working drawings, binding and fixing them as the model requires. Freehand is cultivated by drawing plans for geometrical tiles. On the plan drawn the tile is built up bit by bit in plastic material-clay or plasticine. The smoothing off of the surface, the cutting and trim ming of the edges to shape and size, add to the dexterity of the pupil. On these tiles and similar ones, sketched outlines of leaves, flowers, etc., may be made from nature, and afterwards models in relief of the subject. Teachers can easily demonstrate on rough