This section is from the book "Amateur Work Magazine Vol6". Also available from Amazon: Amateur Work.
John Casson Wait
Abstracts of Founder's Day Address at the Thos. S. Clarkson School of Technology, Potsdam, N. Y.
The foundation of a technical training consists of nature's laws and phenomena, and as nature's laws are fixed and inexorable, a student possessed of a knowledge of what has been, knows what will be, and it is this that forms the groundwork of the twentieth century system of education. But this is not all; it should go further; it should elevate the new genera-to a higher plane than mere investigation; it should cultivate powers, a higher ideal and a struggle for genius, the divine, the creative.
An education implies first, a student or scholar to be educated, second, a process or method by which the education is to be acquired, and third, an ulterior purpose or ultimate utilization of the education to some good aim and end.
When the high school or seminary training is finished, several questions present themselves to a young person, among which are three, viz.: 1. What shall I door become? 2. Shall I attend school or become an apprentice? 3. Shall I enter the general or technical courses of instruction ? The first question must be answered by the tastes, qualifications and opportunities possessed by the person. The second question is usually determined by the pecuniary limitation of the person. The third question depends upon the advantages to be secured or benefits to be derived, and is a subject for discussion under our topic.
It is not a new subject, but there may be Borne new things in it, in the light of another's experience. I do not advocate an extended general course in college as a condition precedent to technical training.
I am no advocate of sixteen years of education before a man or woman becomes self-supporting. He or she is depending too long upon charity or is assuming a debt which he may never repay. It dwarfs the spirit of independence and self reliance which the twentieth century needs so much. A young man who accepts his parents' or relatives' support to the age of twenty-four or twenty-six years has forfeited one of the heavenly attributes of human character, that of manly self-reliance. I would not expect great things of such a young man. If not blessed with influential relatives or friends he must gain his experience and acquire a clientele. His married life is postponed and his ideal life shortened by a decade.
In the general courses the studies that you pursue are determined, in the larger universities, by the student's own election. The tendency is towards this plan. By it the student may take his collegiate course and at the same time pursue courses required in the professional classes. This will lead to the three years' collegiate course and is a step in the right direction, if the work of the student be directed or supervised. If he be required to elect this profession or business and to take subjects prescribed or acknowledged to be advan. ageous in the vocation adopted, then it is, to my mind, most desirable. If he elect the elementary subjects in the various departments, acquire what is popularly known as generaj culture and secure the requisite number of points or half courses, he can graduate with a degree, though that may mean positively nothing as an indication of what the student knows.
There is the choice of schools to consider; the large and the small, those in cities, in the country, the general and the technical. But outside of these there are also for consideration the systems that prevail. Some of the schools believe in pursuing several subjects at once, while others pursue one or two subjects only at at a time. The various systems have many advocates. Each maintains that its system is the system. There is the choice between the elective and the prescribed courses of study, the experimental and the theoretical systems of teaching sciences.
In my opinion, it is these institutions which combine the theoretical and the practical, which limit to a moderate degree the number of courses, which prescribe courses for lower classmen, and upper classmen, and leave the election to upper classmen, that truly derive the benefits of both systems.
Cultivate exquisite care and practise heroic effort. As our country grows older and competition becomes greater, the requirements of an education increase. Students who expect and hope to excel in the competition that prevails in our great cities, must have something better or something different from that possessed by others.
Refinement should be applied to all that you do and undertake. Your mental training should be refined on the same plan. That is what makes the artist; it is what distinguishes the actor and soldier from the business man or laborer, and it is what makes the successful technician or engineer in the present day.
Technical training, as offered by our industrial schools, tends to develop abnormally particular lines of the intellect and greatly enlarges the scope of one's observations and power in certain directions. Such a development has been compared to the abnormal development of the five senses. Yet the world has need of such men. He may not be wanted frequently, but c-casionly his services are required when they command great prices.
The prevailing idea is that a complete education should be acquired at school. The average graduate from college or technical school hails his degree as the final goal of his educational ambitions. Few study or expect to study after graduation except, perhaps, in short crams for a civil service or professional examination.
Such is not the object. The school's aim is to qualify you to study. If you do not continue with your studies you are soon going backward and at a rate which will appall you when you come into competition with some recent graduate fresh from his studies.
A far-seeing man will, before spending very much time or money for a thing, enquire what specific uses he will make of it, and he will select the object of his purchase with a view to its qualities and its adaptations. A young man who enters college or a technical school, should have some idea of what his tastes and capacities are and should be directed in the lines where his abilities would be best applied and cultivated. I am not one to advise that every man should be a perfect man; neither do I advocate that a whimsical and indolent youth should be permitted to escape essential training in mathematics and the sciences by his declaration that he does not like them and he does like music, art and other subjects which gain flattery and applause. Yet for one's life work it is a grave misfortune for one to school himself or herself in a business for which they have not a real liking and to which they cannot bring enthusiasm. Elect something to your liking and something in which there are opportunities and for which there is a demand.
The utilization of technical training in the industrial pursuits and development is everywhere apparent in this country. To no other one element are the country and the people more indebted for their wealth and prosperity. The physical comforts at home, of business and of travel are due to the marvelous provision of the technician.
The economic value of this training is illustrated by the trade, domestic as well as foreign. No country can have claims to world power until it develops the industrial talents of its people and the natural resources of the land. The balance of power remains where the scientific, industrial and mechanical arts are best treated. .