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TRADES TEACHING IN JUVENILE REFORM
ABSTRACT OF PAPER BY T. J. CHARLTON,
SUPERINTENDENT, PLAINFIELD, IND.
Trades teaching is as practicable in the poorest and smallest institutions as in the largest in the land. Indeed, I am coming to believe that such institutions have the advantage of the more richly endowed institutions, just as the children of the poor from necessity are more apt to learn trades than those of the rich. The usefulness of an institution, so far as relates to the training of those placed. under its care, is limited largely by the intelligent zeal of those in control. Let me refer to a page in my own experience.
In the Indiana Reform School, eighteen years ago, the chief industry was chair-caning. It had been the boast of the school previously that 120,000 chairs had been caned in one year. I saw that released boys were positively injured by that kind of instruction. called the attention of the governor and board of control to the need of a change in our industrial training. We visited a polytechnic institution, and studied carefully the work of its industrial departments. The president said it was impossible to teach such handwork as we saw being done in his institution to students who were not educated at least as far as college Freshmen. We returned discouraged, and for a time chair-caning was continued. But I had noticed that the tradesmen who were doing the world's work were men of elementary education, as were the men I had seen going to their work from 6 to 7 A.M. in the cities, each with his dinner pail, who were earning a living for their families at home. We resolved to at least try an experiment. We closed our great caning shop; and, as
we had our institution largely to build, we decided to do it by boy labor.
During the summer of 1880 we erected our boys' dining-room and kitchen. I employed two expert bricklayers as instructors. Before the work had progressed far, one boy was found capable of doing first-class outside work. But, before it was completed, eight boys. could do excellent work as bricklayers, and some could even raise corners. Still others learned much as carpenters. We had purchased all the bricks, but we decided then to make all we should use. Since that time we have used several millions of bricks, all of which were made and burned in our own yards by the boys. Instead of six or seven buildings we now have thirty-five.
To-day we have in process of erection a six-room school building. All the appropriation we have for it is the sum of $4,000, barely enough to purchase stone, lumber, and milled work. Yet you would see there twenty-two boys laying brick, others carrying the hod. One hundred yards distant a brick-yard is in full operation, making 20,000 bricks a day. In it boys mix and shovel the clay; others off-bear; others mould; others set the bricks in a kiln; and only one officer manages the yard. When a building is erected, our boys plaster it. At present we have in our school eleven boys who can earn firstclass wages as plasterers. Still more could do so at carpenter work. These are all graduates from our sloyd shop.
In the organization of the blacksmithing department I encountered many difficulties. While on a visit to the Michigan Reform School I visited the State Agricultural College near by. There I saw the first school blacksmith shop. It consisted of eight forgés. I made a sketch of it, and resolved to double it in size. We erected a shop requiring 175,000 bricks, and equipped it with sixteen forges. Under our system of half-day labor it gives instruction to two classes, 16 each; ¿.e., 32 boys each day. In procuring instructors, I encountered a difficulty in securing men who could comprehend what a school shop should be. The ordinary blacksmith would rather do all the work himself than be bothered with boys. Such men were told to teach the trade to boys or leave. Finally, we succeeded in securing the right men. The first year two men were employed, each having eight boys in his class. In course of time this shop reached my ideal, and for the past four years it has been all I could wish. I owe to the Rochester Industrial School the first part of the course of
study. Then followed a course of our own devising, ending in horseshoeing. This department has been a great success. In no department did we ever receive any special appropriation.
We have now two bands, one advanced, and the other primary. The first band consisted of officers only, and was organized by one of the officers. This was gradually changed to a boy band. The first or advanced band is recruited from the second band. The instructor gives but half of each day to these bands, and the remainder of his time is given to other work.
Of course, we teach bread-baking, tailoring, shoemaking, carpentering, cooking, gas-making, steam-fitting, driving teams, gardening, farming, printing, painting. It is the duty of the superintendent to see that every department be so managed as to teach trades in their entirety. We give the instructor leave of absence, to test if the boys are taught aright. I make it a rule never to put a substitute officer in any department which may be temporarily without its head. If the discipline of a school is what it should be, the trusted boys of that work will manage the department, and take great pride in doing so. Our gas-works are always in charge of boys, and yet it is quite a large plant. Our steam plant can do at any time without the engineer, for at all times there are boys competent to manage it. We have been without a bread-baker for several months at a time. We can easily dispense with his services to do other work for months at a time. When a cook leaves for a short period, boys manage almost as well, and to the much greater advantage of the boys themselves. We have boy tailors who could do all the work for a year. The same holds true as to the shoe shop. I have had no florist, other than boys, for a year at a time. The printing department and steam laundry have each been managed for months without an officer. In some large reformatories boys are not trusted to ever drive the teams. Hired men do this. Now this is all wrong. Our boys should learn how to manage teams. One result of bountiful appropriations is that too many men and women are employed to actually do work that boys should do. When I entered reform-school work, the "choicest berth" in the school for a boy was considered to be that of waiter boy at the superintendent's table. The boy then holding this place. had performed those duties from the first month he had entered the school. Had he been a colored boy, this might have been the
proper training to educate him as a waiter; but he was a very intelligent, ambitious white boy, and never for a moment contemplated be coming a waiter for a living. I secured him a home with the Governor of the State; but, though he was past seventeen years of age, and strong, he could do nothing but wait on table. I saw the weak place in the treatment of that boy, and have never allowed a repetition of it. At present the waiter at my table is always a colored boy; but the present one can earn first-class wages as a plasterer or bricklayer, as well as at waiting on table.
A short time since we decided to plaster a large shop, to give the boys some practice. I said to my waiter, "Don't you think you should give up this work for a few weeks, so as to keep in practice as a plasterer?" He readily assented. He readily assented. So I procured a substitute, and let him take his trowel until the building was completed, when he resumed his place as my waiter.
A superintendent should not allow the desire of any employee, nor even his own comfort or that of his family, to deprive a boy of the best advantages. If a boy is without a trade, and he is particularly wanted in a certain place, that fact must not in the least be allowed to influence the superintendent in giving the boy every trade advantage. Let the interest of the boy be paramount. In manufacturing establishments all over the land the chief aim is the manufactured product. It is the one great object sought. But in a boys' reformatory the great output is the boy. He is the one for whom the school is established and is now maintained. I once visited the oldest reformatory in the United States. There was a marked absence of trades teaching. The official to whom this was due justified himself by saying that he did not believe that a reform-school boy should have any advantages over other boys who had never gone astray. He quoted his farmer brother, who had two sons who arose early and worked all day, and who were entitled to trade advantages more than any boy in a reform school. This official had lost sight of the needs of the State. He never comprehended that the first duty of the State was 'to rescue its delinquent boys from a life of vice and idleness, and make of them members of the great industrial army.
In studying the present status of trades teaching, I am more and more impressed with the fact that industrial education is the hope of the country. The industrial high schools are doing a good work,
but industrial reformatories are doing far more. The high schools study manual training merely for the educational value. Reformatory schools study it not for that only, but that it may be made the threshold to the trades. I hold that we have no right to teach a boy a part of a trade, and then stop. He should be taught all of a trade. A few years ago the type-setting machine was established. It does the work of seven or eight men, and has materially lessened the importance of the printing trade. In Indianapolis alone it has thrown eighty-five printers out of work.
I remember when saddler shops were in every neighborhood, and the saddler trade a good one. Now there is but one in my State, and that is in the State's prison. Shoemakers were in every school district; but now they have given way to the large factories, and only a few cobblers remain. I live along a large creek. Every four or five miles along that stream there is a vacant old water mill where once the local grinding was done. Larger mills now do the work. The same as to weaving. In pioneer days the shuttle and the loom were in nearly every house. These were followed by the local woollen mills, but these have given place to great mills with improved machinery. I venture the assertion that in my State, where there were over 200 woollen mills, now there
are not over 20 that are in operation. I like the example of our great Robert Collyer. He was a blacksmith in England. While he was a pastor at his great church in Chicago, the students of a New England college offered him quite a large sum of money if he would make for them, with his own hands, a horseshoe. He went to the nearest blacksmith shop, selected a bar of iron, and soon made a shoe that was a model of workmanship. Several years ago I made a trip through Canada; and, while going down. the St. Lawrence, we saw a bridge on which the most distinguished statesman of Canada had worked as a common stone-mason. What we would have prominent in a nation's life must be put in its schools. This is why manual training is so rapidly spreading in the United States. Three years ago I helped to organize the first manual training association of the United States. It now holds regular annual sessions, and is a great assemblage. It is yet in its infancy, but manual training is fast spreading. The world is indebted for manual training to Russia and to Sweden. The Swedish "sloyd" system is rapidly growing in favor in the United States. In our