Enough has been said about the arts and crafts movement since its inception, to run the entire gamut of human opinion. But there is one phase of its influence about which very little has been said, and that is the vitalizing influence it has had upon manual training in our public schools. And if it had done nothing but exert this influence, that alone would be sufficient reason for its existence. At the present time the principles of the arts and crafts are being spread thruout the land thru the medium of manual training more rapidly and surely than would ever be possible by the supporters of the arts and crafts movement alone.
To realize fully the influence that the arts and crafts movement has had upon manual training, we must know a little of the type of work done in manual training before it felt the influence of the arts and crafts. The first manual training problems shown in this country were at the Centennial in 1876; they were sent here from Russia, and consisted largely of the common joints used in carpentry, and consequently were totally devoid of any artistic element whatever. The adoption of this system into our schools was the beginning of real manual training in this country. The problems were merely exercises and were of no utilitarian value whatever; they were the essence of monotony, and speedily killed any interest that the student might have had in manual training. Next came the Swedish sloyd; this was a decided step in advance because it took into account the interests of the students, by using models that were of use in the home. But still the problems were devoid of any art interest. Dr. W. T. Harris, the well-known educator, said of the Swedish sloyd, "Sweden is the leader in the manual training movement, but her educators have not yet seen the importance of developing correct taste among their workers, as a condition of industrial success; clumsy shapes and incongruous ornaments are the characteristics of Swedish goods." This statement by one of the leading educators of that time shows clearly that they felt the need of the combination of design, more artistic appreciation, and the higher ideals that the arts and crafts movement later furnished to them.
It is thru the direct influence of the arts and crafts that educators now realize the educative value there is in design thru the necessary logical thinking required to produce a design that has embodied in it the requirements and limitations of use, process, and material. Where the shops and the design class have no vital connection, a student can design things that are impossible of execution, and they are accepted providing they look well on paper. But where the arts and crafts principle is in force, where the designer and the teacher have a working knowledge of the processes and material involved, and the things designed are made in the shops, there we get a directness and simplicity of design that is entirely different from the incongruous objects that are produced in the classes where the teacher is strong on art (so called), but whose knowledge of structure and materials is weak, or in the classes of the teacher whose knowledge of design is limited to the ornament that he copies and applies promiscuously.
Thru design we appeal to the interests of the student; this develops the much desired active and creative attitude in the student, instead of the dormant receptive attitude. Thru it we get a definite reaction that is a pleasure to the student and an inspiration to the teacher.
Since the adoption of manual training into the schools of this country, we have been informed upon its educational values, later of its ethical and industrial values, but the arts and crafts movement has showed to us its art and its social values. It has given to manual training artistic appreciation and higher ideals, and the unification of structure and decoration that we find in the progressive manual training shop of today. John Quincy Adams said "The purpose of art is to idealize work," and that is what we find in the manual training shops that keep the principles of the arts and crafts in view.