Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

without increase of burden to the property of the State; or, if an increase appears from one point of view, it is very slight, and is fully offset by some decrease from a different point of view.

For the more purely educational aspects of the school outlook, reference should be made, as heretofore intimated, to the various reports accompanying that of the Board.

NORMAL SCHOOLS.

The recently established normal schools are now fairly under way, and are justifying themselves both by the quantity and the quality of their work. They have quickly taken step, and they give promise of keeping it, with the older schools, which is perhaps enough to say in their praise. This they have been enabled to do by the generous aid given, wisely, as we think, by the Legislature in the past two years. This support, it is perhaps needless to say, must be kept up in the years to come. It is only by ample pecuniary means that the ten normal schools which we have undertaken to carry on can be maintained in such efficiency as to satisfy the reasonable expectations of those who look to them as the chief agencies for raising the standard of our public education. The schools have all shown capacity and readiness for the work demanded of them; it is for the Legislature to see to it that their usefulness is not curtailed by the mistaken economy of insufficient appropriations. The full numbers of the classes admitted in September, 772 students, clearly show that no mistake was made in establishing these schools, and as clearly indicate that none will be made by giving them generous support.

Some of the visitors of the schools that offer neither boarding accommodations nor dormitories for their students express themselves as convinced that there is an unmistakable public demand for such accommodations, and that this demand will have to be met before long in the interests of certain normal schools not now provided with them.

NORMAL ART SCHOOL.

The Normal Art School, which is kept under the close supervision of the Board on account of its special character and aims, has had a prosperous and useful year. It not only holds its own in every essential respect, but shows healthy growth and expansion from year to year. This is particularly marked this year by the completion and occupation of the annex, which, with its new furniture and equipment, renders the building admirably suited to all its purposes; while the arrangement, in the lower hall, of the exhibition cases that are to serve as the nucleus of a museum of various classified examples of applied art will prove of benefit to superintendents and teachers of drawing throughout the State as well as to pupils of the school.

DRAWING IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS.

The introduction of drawing as a branch of study in the public schools was first authorized in 1858. It was first required in 1870. In 1869, the Legislature, in response to a petition of several eminent citizens of Boston, requested the Board of Education to consider the expediency of making provision by law for "giving free instruction to men, women and children in mechanical drawing, either in existing schools or those to be established for that purpose, in all towns in the Commonwealth having more than five thousand inhabitants." The Board, after extensive investigations, made recommendations to the Legislature, which were at once adopted. Drawing was made a required subject in all the public schools. All cities and towns were authorized, and those with ten thousand inhabitants or more were required, to provide day or evening schools, under the direction of the school committee, for free instruction in "industrial or mechanical drawing," for persons over fifteen years of age. The Board also published a report upon the relation of drawing to the public welfare. Several papers of rare value were contributed to this report by leading authorities. These papers struck a higher note than the formal recommendations of the Board and the subsequent action of the Legislature, for they placed stress on the culture as well as the industrial value of drawing; while both the Board and the

Legislature, so far as they defined their views, limited themselves to the industrial aspects of the subject only. Fortunately, they did not define the character of the drawing to be taught in the public schools. It was simply drawing, and so could be drawing in as high and comprehensive a sense as the intelligence of a community might direct. Walter Smith, head master of the Leeds School of Art in England, was invited in 1871 by the city of Boston to direct the organization of its instruction in drawing. The same year, in accordance with an arrangement with the city, Mr. Smith was appointed an agent of the Board to promote art education in the State. The Normal Art School was opened in 1873.

State exhibits of drawing were held annually from 1872 to 1881, and proved valuable incentives to improving work. These exhibits placed stress on freehand, object, memory, geometrical and perspective drawing. Mere picture-making was discouraged. Drawing was regarded as "a thing of work, having industrial aims and means."

The art side of drawing, however, was not ignored. On the contrary, it was uniformly kept before the public that the value of a useful thing was largely enhanced by making it a beautiful thing. What Walter Smith said in 1871 is worthy of being reproduced:

Within the last five and twenty years we have seen a wonderful change take place in the money value of the manufactures of England. Whilst the cost of producing most of the products of industrial art has decreased by about one half, through the invention of various machines and the discovery of labor-saving processes, the actual value of the manufactured article, taking one branch of manufacture with another, is nearly doubled; and this difference is not to be accounted for by any alteration in the value of money. How, then, is it to be explained? Simply thus: A manufactured article, whether a garment, a piece of porcelain, an article of furniture, or even a golden chalice, may be said to possess three elements of value: first, the raw material; second, the labor of production; third, the art character. The two first, in some cases, are a large proportion of the value of the whole; and, where no art whatever is displayed, it forms the whole value. But in a vast majority of the manufactured products of every country the elements of cost of material and cost of labor are insignificant in comparison with the

third element, viz., art character. It is that which makes the object attractive and pleasing, or repulsive or uninteresting, to the purchaser, and is, consequently, of commercial value. In many objects, where the material is of little or no intrinsic worth, the taste displayed in their design forms the sole value, or the principal value; and it has been the general elevation of that element which has nearly doubled the commercial value of English manufactures. I am not aware of any great improvement of material or of demand, but have seen, with my own eyes, an advance in the artistic element in many branches of British industry from a condition closely bordering upon the barbarism of savage races to the refinement of the greatest art epochs. And it has not been an exceptional case, or a development in one direction owing to peculiar circumstances. If we take pottery, glass, porcelain, terra cotta, metal work in wrought iron, brass, bronze, silverplate, goldsmith's work, jewelry, paper hanging, carpets, parquetry, encaustic tiles, furniture, cabinet making, upholstery, stained glass, mural decoration, wood and stone carving, chasing, enamelling, lace making, embroidery, all show that infusion of taste which has in all cases increased, and in many cases doubled, their value in the market in five and twenty years. Now, just as drawing is the only universal language, so art is an almost universal currency, and, amongst civilized races, is universal; with this remarkable characteristic, that, let the art in a thing be good art, based upon natural laws and treated with consistency and purity of feeling, and it shall consecrate the material which it ennobles, so that lapse of time will add to its value, until antiquity enshrines it.

No State exhibit of drawing was held after 1881 until the present year. Whether drawing in the public schools is now in a satisfactory condition has recently been questioned by persons entitled to respectful consideration.. Indeed, the Board has been formally requested by them to cause an inquiry to be made into that condition. In the absence of specific suggestions as to the points to which such inquiry should be directed, the Board has not deemed it advisable to depart from its customary method of informing the public through its annual reports and accompanying documents. Its agent, Mr. Henry T. Bailey, after visiting public schools in Rome, Berlin, Paris and London, and making a personal study of the drawing instruction therein, is confident that they have more to learn from us than we from them. This opinion is restricted to

public school work, of course. Mr. Bailey says: "Nowhere, except in the United States, has the ideal of an art education. of the entire people for the sake of a larger life taken possession of the leaders."

All this does not mean that drawing is necessarily in a satisfactory condition throughout the State, or that, where it is at its best, it is not susceptible of improvement. It indicates, however, a higher conception of drawing than that which was common thirty years ago. It is legitimate to-day, as in the past, to advocate drawing for the sake of material production. It should not be overlooked, however, that drawing may also strengthen the appreciation of artistic manufacture, and in this way increase the demand for it. Thus the culture value of drawing has after all an industrial value.

To furnish a basis for intelligent consideration of the drawing situation, the secretary of the Board, in his last report, recommended a State exhibition of drawing. The Legislature appropriated $1,500 for the purpose. The exhibition was held from September 26 to October 3, at Copley and Allston halls in Boston. For a detailed account of the exhibition, reference should be made to the special report upon it that accompanies the report of the Board. It was an exhibition whose conditions need to be understood before judgment can be pronounced on its merits. There was much in it entitled to praise. It also indicated the directions in which improvement should be made. The only exhibits immediately controlled by the Board of Education were those of the Normal Art and the other State normal schools. Some of these were frequently mentioned by excellent judges as exceedingly promising.

The effect of the movement to make drawing a culture subject as well as an industrial one was obvious throughout the exhibit. In a field where it is so difficult to find authorities agreeing, interesting questions will doubtless arise as to the respective values of the culture trend and the industrial, and the sort of balance that should be maintained between them.

One conclusion seems to commend itself to all who made themselves familiar with the exhibit, and that is, the importance of planning the next State exhibit, whenever it shall be held, on a scale so generous as to give the towns and cities larger

« ForrigeFortsett »