The American boy, on the average, spends about four years in school, and those before he is twelve years old.
In Massachusetts eighty per cent of the boys fifteen years of age have dropped out of school entirely. In spite ,of the magnificent system of public schools in America only about one-third of one per cent of all the boys and young men between fifteen and twenty-four years of age receive any form of instruction in the sciences and arts which bear directly upon their occupations. More than fifty per cent of America's skilled mechanics are born and trained in foreign countries.
There is a wide difference between the instruction given in our public schools and the demands that are made upon a boy or man when he engages in active industry. The need of fitting more young men to better meet the demands of commerce, manufacture and civilization's progress is greater than ever. On the other hand, the actual work of fitting and training men is proceeding relatively much more slowly. The very definite reasons why the Association should meet the above needs are significant. The opportunity for service is stupendous along educational lines. Practical instruction in the elements of applied science which broaden the industrial intelligence are increasingly demanded by:
(i) The employed boys from twelve to eighteen years of age. (2) Those wishing to enter a trade. (3) The men already in the trades. (4) The industries themselves.
The Association in this great work must meet the demands of all men, employers and employees. Competition and the board of directors and stockholders require each employer to look at everything from the standpoint of increased and better output with cheaper production. The employer, therefore, will judge the Association by what it does for his men and by that which helps to solve the problems in his particular business. The workingmen think that they are not having a fair chance in life. They are seeking to improve their conditions of living. They will judge the Association by what it can do to make them capable of earning more money.
It is important that a man be so helped and trained that he can rise from one employment to another in which greater ability is demanded. It is equally important for him to increase his proficiency in the occupation in which he is already employed. So far attention has chiefly been paid to offering technical education of a scholastic or professional nature for the few. The present demand is for vocational training, that broader, more practical training, to make the many more intelligently skilful in their own particular line of work; for a closer co-ordination of educational work with industry, in the interests of both the men and the industry. The output is sure to increase in consequence, both in quality and quantity. Higher wages and also larger dividends will be the result. The Association must keep abreast of the times in the demand for more industrial training.
The agitation for more definite industrial instruction in public schools has finally resulted in the recent organization in New York City of the "National Society for the Promotion of Industrial Education" and the remarkable sessions in Boston of the Social and Industrial Congress. Apparently this is thought to be a new idea in some quarters. As a matter of fact, however, the Young Men's Christian Association is a pioneer in industrial education, and today is a leader. Now, in order to be of largest service to men, it remains for the Association to hold the position it already occupies, and from this vantage ground to advance further into the industrial field. "Study the field" is the watchword for success. A leaflet has already been issued showing from Association experience how an educational director or general secretary may investigate the local conditions of his community. It would certainly be putting the cart before the horse to arrange an educational program of classes, clubs and talks without a careful survey of the situation.
This problem of industrial education is not one of the continuation school alone, but of the public school system as well. There are plenty of splendid technical and engineering schools for the men already toward the top of the ladder. What we need is elementary instruction for the training of a broader intelligence among the workingmen and boys already engaged in the industrial processes.
The rapid development of machine industry has put a premium upon automatonism rather than upon individualistic work. All-round ability is disappearing.
To contend against this trend, questionable in nature, we must add to the knowledge and ability of machine tenders that training which will develop more vision, greater imagination, hence wider usefulness. We want to help men to become better producers and better wageearners in such a manner that a higher and nobler standard of life will follow.