The criticism that is being made nowadays of our school system is that it has no vital connection with our economic or social system, and that it has not kept pace with the development of commerce and industry; also that it has no ethical or social value to the great majority of people. The development of manual training by the making of objects of real value, constructively sound and artistically good, develops the ethical value, and increases very largely the value of our school system to society.
The entire reorganization of society and industry upon the principles set forth by the founders of the arts and crafts movement is impossible. The education and elevation of the great public to an appreciation of even that which is possible cannot be done by a few scattered enthusiastic disciples of Ruskin and Morris. This education and elevation is a function of the school system, and that it was started and its propaganda disseminated entirely outside of the school system shows that the criticisms of our schools that are current today are worthy of serious attention by progressive educators.
Even the foremost and the most progressive of our educators can learn something from a study of the social and industrial phases of the arts and crafts movement. The men who are so earnestly advocating vocational education in an endeavor to bring the school system into articulation with our social, economic, and industrial system can learn that art, drawing, design, and industry cannot be separated but must be developed together. The average educator when considering the vocations from his somewhat narrow point of view engendered by his experiences with manual training rather than the vocations, thinks of the machine-shop first, and of forging, foundry, and pattern making, as adjuncts of the machine-shop ; he thinks of joinery and carpentry, and thinks there is no need for art or design here. But he should visit one of our large stores where the products of many vocations are presented for sale, and he will find it impossible to pick out one piece of work that does not have embodied in it design or a need of design. The vocational schools for girls are realizing this need much faster than those for boys, as in most of the textile, dressmaking, and millinery courses we find a parallel course in applied design and the history of costume. By correlating design with the vocational, educators can meet the criticism that is already abroad, that the suggested vocational courses have no cultural element in them. In one new school that the writer visited a few weeks ago, in the class that was cataloged as the millinery class, the girls were learning millinery, practical design, history of art, and French history. Such a course as this is more truly cultural than any of the traditional academic courses could possibly be and it seems to be a truly practical realization of the teachings of Ruskin and Morris by the agency that should do it, namely the public school system.
William Morris protested against the minute division of labor and the inconsistent design arising from such division, and the exploitation of labor arising from making things merely to sell. We have the same conditions today, and his large vision and high ideals are being lost sight of by arts and crafts workers themselves; but they are almost unconsciously being adopted by the progressive manual training teacher who knows construction and design, and has been trained to analyze a problem or a course of study and reduce it to its educative, ethical, cultural, and social values.
Today the great need of the arts and crafts movement is an educated and appreciative public, and that is the return that manual training will make for the enrichment of the work that has been derived from the arts and crafts movement. Manual training is educating and training a generation of future buyers, who will demand sound construction and consistent ornament in the things they buy and the houses they live in. The combination of the two movements will result in the development of both and the enlightenment of the public and benefit to the state.