The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
The Value of Art Training and Manual Work. (Condensed Report.)

by Mrs. Steinthal
Volume 8, no. 7, 1897, pg. 414

[Emeline Petrie Steinthal, 1855-1921, was a sculptor, painter, and co-founder of the P.N.E.U. with Charlotte Mason. She was married to Francis Steinthal. They had four children.]

[The article indicated that work was shown, but the images were not included with the article.]

MRS. STEINTHAL: Sir Kenneth Barrington, ladies and gentlemen, I have to read a paper today on "The Value of Art Training and Manual Work." I will, with your permission, reverse the order, and speak first of manual work, and secondly of art training.

During the Conference we hope to bring before you certain subjects which we consider to be of importance in training our children's minds, in the guiding of their character, and in the development of their faculties, so that you can better formulate your next course of lectures, and more fully realise the aims of the P.N.E.U.

The first of my subject, namely, manual training, is a subject of considerable importance. It is a term which is not without its drawbacks. It conveys to the mind that it is to impart power and skill to the hand; but it is not altogether so. Power and skill of hand are much, but not everything. The eye has to take in information, of which the mind forms a mental picture, and, guided by practical experience, it selects what is needed. The mind seeks to express in the concrete the picture it has formed. It is, in fact, training in thought by other means than verbal language. Its aims are those which are, or should be, the aims of all general education, the acquisition of knowledge and development of power. It has therefore a right to a place in education. Handwork is not introduced into home and school teaching as technical instruction in its strict sense. Technical instruction is that which prepares the student for particular callings.

The P.N.E.U. consider that manual training should form part of a sound general education. Most of the opposition to this idea has proceeded from a mistaken notion that it is not an indispensable element in training. Manual dexterity, it is said, is included in the art workshop, and must not be allowed to encroach on the ordinary school curriculum. Part of the brain is occupied with the movement of the limbs. Physiology tells us that the active period of development of this section closes at the age of fifteen. The conclusion is inevitable, that unless our young children are provided with some means of training the physical movements, some part of the brain must be permanently enfeebled. We must therefore provide a training for it, especially for those parts connected with movements of the hand. Many boys are totally unfitted for this training when they leave school; leaving as they do at an age when this part of development has practically ceased, and a very large portion of the employment's which demand intelligence are practically closed to them. We therefore lay down a principle, that the introduction of eye training in all homes is one of the most important of a true and rational system of education.

In all cases where this training has been followed, the children have responded in a marked degree. A friend tried the experiment with Sloyd, and a certain number of children were selected in a school who were to give one third of their school hours to do it. At the end of the time of trail, these took better places in class subjects than those children who spent all their time in school on ordinary subjects, and did not take Sloyd at all.

The system renders education attractive and joyous to the children which would otherwise be dull. The School Code has been modified already, and I think this will eventually lead to succeeding generations becoming not only more cultured, but more capable of leading fuller and higher lives.

Most of us remember a time when we wanted to be making something with our hands. This instinct was stunted by ignorance and inexperience on the part of governesses, and insufficient training.

If only mothers and nurses knew more about cultivating the instinct of children, their time would be spent more happily and profitably. Boys and girls in schools are generally delighted to have some manual work going on; and I heard of a little girl the other day who asked to be allowed to come back early to school to finish a clay model she was making. Boys are quite ready to work overtime to complete their hand work.

The work of the children has no commercial value, and we do not teach it with this object. The two subjects which we consider carry out our ideas of training best are cardboard Sloyd and wood Sloyd--(specimens shown.) We use that kind of hand work which will best stimulate the best kind of head work.

Cardboard Sloyd comes first; it leads up to some more advanced work. I have brought to-day some specimens made by boys from 8 to 11. This is being done in several schools in England. The course of work has been excellently arranged by Mr. Heaton (published by C.Newman & Co., Newman St.) The first examples are extremely simple--the children have their cardboard, they have their tools (here followed a description of box-making) and their work is not passed by the teacher until it is absolutely perfect.

The result of the teaching of cardboard Sloyd is that it inculcates concentration. It calls for the continuation of energy, and not for outbursts of it. If you are giving children a lesson in history or geography you may see a rapt gaze which may mean anything; but when you teach them Sloyd you have in their work a distinct evidence of whether they are taking it in or not. It also teaches habits of neatness and cleanliness, especially to the boys. If people only knew as much about cardboard Sloyd as they do about wood Sloyd, it would be taught quite as much.

The cardboard Sloyd was begun in Birmingham in 1884 in Industrial Schools. The teachers were so pleased with the success of the plan that it rapidly spread. Boys of 11, after being trained in cardboard Sloyd, take wood Sloyd. (Example of the work of children 10 to 14 years of age--boys.)

I must ask your attention to the principles that underlie the teaching of wood Sloyd. We take many ideas from other nations, we are very open-minded, and we have taken this from Sweden, where it has been fought out so as to lead from a simple article up to very difficult work.

    1. The exercises must follow in a progressive order.
    2. The exercises should admit of the greatest possible variety; it takes a careful observer and a true teacher to discover that a model may be at the same time too easy for the mind and too difficult for the hand.
    3. The exercises should result in making a useful article, to sustain interest in the work.
    4. Sloyd cultivates the aesthetic sense. Every model must be so constructed that it may be drawn by the pupils themselves. The knife is considered the best tool by educationalists.

I must now speak about art training. In the beginning we want to start a continuous course of hand training side by with brain work, and we have come to the conclusion that there is nothing so good as clay modelling and brush drawing for the little ones. I know of children who began it at four years old; but it is better to begin at six, as a general rule.

The reason for clay modelling is that the child can see everything all round--it is not flat; it sees the object all round and tries to imitate it. Is clay modelling educational? I think so, because it lays the foundation for accuracy, which is what we need in character.

Every child must work from its own model, not as in one case I know of, where enormous apples and pears were modelled for the children to copy from, to save the trouble of separate ones for each child. This may be a lesson in reducing size, but it is not a lesson in accuracy, and the children do not get fond of what they do--it is not their own individual apple or pear. Four or five years ago you would see numbers of apples done by children in the same school all exactly alike; there is no educational value in that.

I have a course which I have made out for children of modelling lessons leading from the round to the cylinder, and then to the square form. We never model anything that is thin; it should always be something firm and solid.

Brush work is very important, and I should like you to understand that brush drawing (or brush painting, perhaps, better expresses what we mean) should be looked upon as we should look upon exercises in scales as a preparation in music. Why not do the same in art as in music, teach them how to turn their wrists, and so on, and so on, so that when they come afterwards to drawing from nature they have a freer hand, and have a foundation for a sound art education?

The scheme of P.N.E.U. will be published in about two months, and I should like you to get it and let your children work it out.

In order to bring a little art training in, at first we do teach them to design, and the result of that is that (drawing shown) our children can turn it to account in almost all their work. At the age of 11 1/2 , a child carved a table (shown); she designed everything in it herself little by little, and she now works every Friday afternoon by herself for three hours; if we can produce such a result from a National School Child, what ought our children not to accomplish?

Determine to further the progress of art and manual training by introducing it into all our Branches and homes, so that our children grow up with a reverence for all work and workers, and a keen appreciation and love for all that is beautiful and lovely in this wonderful world of ours.

THE CHAIRMAN: Ladies and gentlemen, I am sure that I am expressing the feelings of all present, in offering the lecturer, in your name, our best thanks for an intensely interesting lecture, exemplified by most interesting examples of what children from four to fourteen can do. The remarks made by Mrs. Steinthal that she did not attach any commercial value to the work done, is, I think, very interesting, because I remember that in my village at home we have always been trying to educate the children to make things that they can sell.

I quite appreciate what the lecturer said about keeping the hand and brain in touch, and in order to do this, to try and procure models calculated to train them equally. It is very, very practical; we can every one of us utilise these ideas, and happily the School Boards of the present day are exceedingly grateful for hints from outsiders, provided they do not domineer too much.

We thank you most heartily, Mrs. Steinthal, for your most interesting lecture, and I can only express my great personal pleasure in having been here to listen to it.

MRS. STEINTHAL replied in a few chosen words, adding: "Speaking of commercial value, the head of a very large industrial school came to ask me about this work in their schools. They have been working with the idea that the work done must be of commercial value, and the principal work of the children has been the making of mats, because in this work the quality of the work shows less! Of course you will all see at once that the children would become a sort of jerry-builders. I hope the commercial value idea is going to be done away with, as it must ultimately be better for the children and for their work for it to be done without the idea.

A general conversation ensued, and the meeting broke up for a few moments.

Proofread by LNL, July 2020