Sunday, May 20, 2007

'Springfield Present and Prospective (1905), Educational Institutions,' Excerpt III

Congratulations to all of the 2007 graduates in Western Massachusetts. Okay, fun's over...Get to work!

The second chapter of the book 'Springfield Present and Prospective' (Pond & Campbell 1905), 'Educational Institutions,' reaches its conclusion today with the transcription of this segment, 'Technical Education.' The chapter is co-authored, the previous excerpts written by William Orr, this segment penned by Charles F. Warner. Notable is the mention of Eugene C. Gardner, along with his son, George, as the architects of Technical high school. Gardner also contributed to 'Springfield Present and Prospective,' writing the first chapter, 'The Visible Charm, As It Was, Is, and May Be,' available here at EWM in its entirety by visiting the book's title/contents page.

Enjoy this week's installation of EWM's historical book Sunday transcription series.

Continued from: 'Educational Institutions, Certain Other Schools, Excerpt II.'

Educational Institutions

Technical Education

Springfield stands foremost among the cities of the country in the prominence given in her educational system to those school exercises which give training and information that may be quickly turned to practical account. She was among the first to introduce manual training. This was to be expected. The first city in Massachusetts to elect a superintendent of schools, a city that has always been characterized by the keenest interest on the part of her citizens in the education of her youth, generously supporting the schools and taking pride in keeping them well up to the times in equipment and efficiency, was sure to be the first city to appreciate the industrial needs of the age and to make an effort to meet them.

Nineteen years ago manual training was introduced into the schools of this city. It is a credit to the wisdom of the school committee then in power and to the intelligence and public spirit of the citizens that a beginning was made in this important form of educational work eight years before the law requiring it was written in the statutes. Nor is this fact the only evidence in the city's belief in the policy of making the schools thoroughly practical. In 1898, after twelve years of experimenting, Springfield entered upon a distinct and comprehensive system of manual and technical training. An independent high school was then organized, of which the distinctive feature was that every student enrolled must take a four-year's course in the mechanic arts, together with a full course in the usual academic studies. In the same year an evening trades school was opened, which, at small expense to the city, offers free instruction and practice in fundamental trades.

Meanwhile, the manual training, sewing, and cooking lessons of the grammar grades took their place side by side with other school exercises in regular school hours, and were greatly improved. At the present time there are well-equipped manual training-rooms and school kitchens in nearly all of the grammar schools. Instruction in bench work with wood is given to all the boys of the seventh, eight, and ninth grades, and for the boys of the ninth grade these lessons come once a week. Probably no city in the country has so thorough a system of elementary manual training as that now in force in Springfield. The high grade of mechanical work done in the Technical high school is largely due to the excellent preparation which most of its students receive under the manual training teachers of the grammar schools.

But the crowning evidence of Springfield's educational enterprise and of her sympathy with modern tendencies in education is seen in the liberal provision made for the development of the new Technical high school. The building now being erected on Elliot street, designed by the local well-known architects, E. C. and G. C. Gardner, will be, when completed, the largest and probably the best equipped high school building of this type in New England. It is 238 feet long by 214 feet deep, and is designed to accommodate nine hundred pupils. There are twenty-two classrooms in the main building, varying somewhat in size, the largest accommodating eighty pupils and the smallest twenty-four. Besides the regular classrooms in the main building, there are eight rooms on the top floor to be devoted to physics and chemistry. Four large rooms on this floor are also available for work in domestic science and the industrial arts. In the basement there is a gymnasium 76 feet long by 57 feet wide, including corridors, with two large rooms for lockers and baths and four other rooms to be given over to athletic purposes. A capacious lunchroom and other accessory rooms are also located in the basement. The running-track of the gymnasium opens into the main corridor on the first floor directly opposite the front entrance to the building. Above this, on the second floor, is located the assembly hall, which has a gallery entered from the third floor.

The mechanical wing, situated in the rear of the main building, is of peculiar design and construction and well suited to its special uses. In the basement of this wing is the forge shop, 67 feet square, covered by a monitor roof of special design which admits light and provides for ventilation. On one side of the forge shop are located the boiler and engine rooms, and on the other the foundry and wood-turning shops. The basement also contains two rooms for the plumbing classes and necessary locker rooms. On the first floor of the mechanical wing are three rooms designed for machine-shop work and three for joinery and pattern-making. All these rooms are well lighted by large and numerous windows, and some of them receive light through the low roof which covers the main part of the mechanical wing. The rear of this wing is carried up two stories higher than the main part, and on the first of these additional stories are three rooms, one for electrical work, another for wood-finishing, another for free-hand drawing. The top floor of this elevated portion is to be entirely given over to the department of mechanical drawing, and is divided into two large drawing-rooms, a lecture-room, and several accessory rooms.

The building is designed to be of moderate cost and yet provide everything essential to a thoroughly-equipped technical high school. It will cost, exclusive of the lot, but including the necessary equipment, not less than $265,000. Ordinary red brick is the principal material used for its construction, but the main building is finished in a special grade of red brick, with Indiana limestone trimmings. The central portion around the main entrance is entirely of Indiana limestone. The entire building is of fireproof construction of the modern reinforced concrete type. This form of construction not only furnishes complete protection against fire, but insures durability, freedom from sound transmission and from dust and other unsanitary conditions. The corridor floors are of granolithic or terrazzo material, and the stairs have concrete treads. The heating and ventilation system depends on the forced circulation of hot water with direct radiation and an abundant supply of fresh air at a moderate temperature under the control of pressure and exhaust fans. A 125-horse-power engine with a direct-connected electrical generator furnishes the power for the heating and ventilation system, for the machine work of the mechanical departments, and for a considerable portion of the artificial lighting. Great care has been taken to give the building a throughly modern and efficient equipment.

The new building will furnish facilities not only for more effective training along lines which are followed at present, but it will afford an opportunity for the development of many other lines of technical training which are much to be desired. On general principles there is no reason why the advantages of a technical high school should be offered exclusively to boys, as has hitherto been the practice in Springfield. The general policy of the school is to connect the education of youth during the high-school period with the practical life of the times, without sacrificing a strong academic course in all the essentials. Girls need this practical training during the secondary school period as well as boys. In view of the direct influence upon the home life, the teaching of home economics and domestic arts to girls in a practical way is of the greatest importance. Many of the industrial arts also offer to young women greater opportunities every year. In several cities where schools of this type have been carried on, girls were admitted from the first. In this respect Springfield is behind other cities; but with the opening of the new building for the Technical high school it need not long remain in that position.

The value of technical education to the individual and its importance to the community are sure to be realized more and more as the opportunities for acquiring it are extended. This extension is an assured fact in Springfield; and in providing liberally for practical training the city is keeping well abreast of the times in her educational policy. The most notable fact in the educational world of the present day is the rapid expansion of technical schools. For many years such schools have formed a large part of great national systems of education in continental Europe, where they have been most important factors in determining industrial and commercial progress. In America they are of more recent origin, since they are, for the most part, the result rather than, as in Europe, the cause of material development. They have come in our country as the natural consequence of great discoveries in applied science which have given men a new and greatly enlarged control over natural forces, revealed unexpected stores of wealth in our vast natural resources, enormously multiplied our manufactured products and correspondingly increased our capacity to supply the world's markets. They have come in answer to a demand for men of scientific education and special training to study the problems and direct the enterprises of the day or to take the humbler but no less important places in the modern industrial world. They have come because a practical age needs practical schools.

The first answer to this demand in this country came in the establishment of technical schools of college grade to train men for the engineering professions. These schools have been supported partly from private endowments and partly from funds appropriated by states in which they are located; and they have also received assistance from the general government through the sale of public lands. But it was not enough that the colleges alone should shape their courses to the needs of a scientific and industrial age. The public schools under municipal control, always quick to follow the lead of the higher educational institutions, are responding to the demand for practical studies and a training designed to connect school life more closely with the life of the times. To the popular mind the new education means better training for the vocations. To the leaders in educational thought it means much more than this. It means a new force appealing to the interest of pupils, and a certain completeness in the pupil's development through the influence of motor activities. It means an increased educational value in the work of the schools.

But however justified in theory, the idea has take firm hold of the public schools under the general name of manual training. In Massachusetts it finds recognition in a law requiring all cities and towns of twenty thousand inhabitants or more to maintain manual training as part of its elementary and high school system. In every state of the union the pressure of public opinion has been felt in favor of vitalizing the work of the schools by the introduction of studies and exercises that have close relation with the industrial and home life of the times. All classes and grades of schools, those supported by the endowment and tuition fees, as well as those maintained at municipal expense, are feeling the influence of this great movement for a more practical training than that which obtained in the schools and colleges of the country during the first three-quarters of the century just passed. It is doubtful if there has been for many years any improvement in educational thought and practice of greater present value or of better promise for the future than the emphasis now being given to the practical side of education through the various forms of manual and technical training.

But the present development of the practical element in the schools of Springfield has not been brought about at the expense of general culture, nor is it likely to lead to that result. The too early and perhaps over-emphasized specializing of some foreign schools will not be copied anywhere in America. It is certainly not the province of technical high schools to develop special skill by practice along narrow lines. The aim is breadth of training combined with effectiveness. All the older studies of proved value are retained and their value increased by giving them vital relations with practical life.

Charles F. Warner
Next week: 'Art and Literature'

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