The question as to the advisability of young men and boys in manufacturing establishments, such as that of the Crane Co., spending their time and money in taking up studies in technical schools, is one on which the president of this company had intended expressing his views at some future period; but as a number of Crane Co. employees have made a request for his advice on this subject, he has decided to publish his views now.
It seems to be a popular belief that technical education is indispensible in the production of good mechanics, foremen, etc., and I wish to say most emphatically that I do not agree with this theory in the slightest degree. I never received such education myself, nor have I ever had such men about me in my shops with the exception of a few in the drafting-room, and even in that case there is no advantage except in the carrying out of orders and in making drawings.
So far as manufacturing is concerned, I am most decidedly of the opinion that time spent in technical schools trying to produce mechanics is absolutely wasted. I maintain that what is necessary for men to have in order to be successful in manufacturing is a thorough knowledge of the art, and of the kind of machines best adapted for certain purposes, and how much the machines are capable of producing.
In addition to this, probably the most valuable qualification in such a man is tact in the handling and selecting of his men, and in this feature of the work kindness, consideration, appreciation, and fair treatment are the great essentials. He should also have a large amount of enthusiasm and activity in covering the ground thoroughly, and should know that all machines and men are turning out a day's work, that no unnecessary waste is allowed, and that the quality of the goods is strictly maintained.
I have never been able to see where technical education cuts the slightest figure in any of these things; but, on the contrary, I am quite strongly of the opinion that technical education is a positive drawback in such a business as ours.
The great trouble with technical schools appears to be that they make a boy feel that he is getting a knowledge of things there which are essential to his success, and that he is, therefore, superior to the boy who is brought up in the shop; and if he goes into a shop, he does so with his head swelled to such an extent that he is unable to grasp the sound practical things that are essential to success. If he is to succeed, he practically has to be knocked around until all those false notions are got rid of before he can begin to learn things that are of real material value.
The boy who is going to make progress in his mechanical education must be thoroughly wide-awake while working in the shop, to observe all the mechanical features by which he is surrounded and get a thorough understanding of them, studying over them and spending all his leisure time in seeking more information. In that way he can acquire a fund of knowledge which, if he advances into a higher position, will be valuable to him; but if he does not show any interest or energy in this direction, he, of course, will turn out to be but little different from the machine on which he has been working.
In my opinion, all that our workers need in the way of schooling is the following:
It is a good idea for them to know enough about drawing to be able to read drawings and make a reasonably good drawing.
They should have a reasonable knowledge of common arithmetic, and be able to do ordinary work in arithmetic correctly.
They should have a reasonably good understanding of English.
They should be able to write a plain hand.
Men or boys who are deficient in any of these respects may acquire such knowledge at the public night schools.
The solving of difficult problems by such methods as the differential calculus, etc., may be a very interesting and entertaining pastime, but as far as serving and other purpose is concerned, it is simply a waste of time to the general workman, for in a factory there are no problems of this nature that need to be worked out.
It is the exercise of pactical, sound common sense that makes manufacturing today a success.
Many people are deceived in regard to this matter of technical education by the fact that some of the graduates from these schools get into good positions. There is no doubt that this is true, but only to a very limited extent, and I maintain that where one of these boys obtains a good position, a dozen young men who have not had this education also get into good positions, and fill them equally as or better than the technically educated man. It seems to me that this is conclusive evidence that there is no special advantage in this education, and I very much doubt if any of such technically educated young men can be found in factories that have to meet with red-hot competition in business. I have heard of concerns that tried many of these boys and had to throw them all out.
Some years ago a man spoke to me about a relative or friend of his who had been through one of these schools, and, upon leaving, obtained a good position in a machine shop, where he was doing well, and he regarded this as quite a triumph for that class of schools.
In reply to this, I said to him that in my estimation if the same young man had gone into the shop in which he was then working, at the time he started in the school, he would have become very much more of a success, and, to my mind, there is not the slightest doubt as to the correctness of this position. In other words, I regard practically all of these schools as being gigantic humbugs.
I wish it to be clearly understood that in condemning technical education I have reference simply to such education in connection with the making of general mechanics. My criticism is not intended to apply to such lines as electricity, mining engineering, chemistry, etc.
A great deal has been said about the value of these technical schools in Germany, but notwithstanding all such statements as to the wonderful results that have been accomplished there by reason of this education, I maintain that these schools are a humbug in that country just as they are here; furthermore, that we have made decidedly greater advancement in a mechanical way than Germany, and that I have never heard of any firm in the United States seeking for help among the Germans who have attended the technical schools over three, for which so much is claimed.
In evidence that the contrary is the case, I would mention that a member of my family, when visiting a large electrical manufacturing concern in Nuremberg, Germany, found not only that it was full of American machinery, but that it was being run by Americans, which strikes me as rather a knockout for the great claims that are made in regard to the advancement of the Germans in work of this nature.-Valve World.