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Exhibition in Paris furnishes the means of accurately testing the comparative merits of English and French education.
The simple inconvenience of transport tends to render England worse represented than France.
Still on other grounds I would express a general concurrence in the views of Dr. Playfair. The facilities for scientific education are far greater on the Continent than in England; and where such differences exist, England is sure to fall behind as regards those industries into which the scientific element enters.
In fact, I have long entertained the opinion that, in virtue of the better education provided by continental nations, England must one day — and that no distant one — find herself outstripped by those nations both in the arts of peace and war. As sure as knowledge is power, this must be the result.
From Edward Frankland, Esq., F. R. S. – I quite agree with Dr. Playfair in referring this want of progress in the manufactures of this country chiefly to the almost utter lack of a good preparatory education for those destined to take part in industrial pursuits. This great defect in the school and college education of England affects the masters and managers of our factories even more deeply than the workmen themselves. The former have but rarely had any opportunities of making themselves acquainted with the fundamental laws and principles of physics and chemistry; they therefore find themselves engaged in pursuits for which their previous education has afforded them no preparation, and hence their inability to originate inventions and improvements. It is true that such men not unfrequently imagine themselves inventors, and the yearly files of patent specifications abound with instances of their so-called inventions. The great loss of time and money attending these futile patents would be rendered impossible by a very moderate, if accurate, knowledge of chemical and physical science.
In the polytechnic schools of Germany and Switzerland the future manufacturer or manager is made familiar with those laws and applications of the great natural forces which must always form the basis of every intelligent and progressive industry. It seems that at length this superiority in previous training is more than counterbalancing the undoubted advantages which this country possesses in raw material.
From James E. McConnell, Esq., C. E.— I agree with Dr. Playfair in his views, generally, and am satisfied as to the comparatively small progress we have shown since 1862, and the great advance which continental nations have made during that period.
In the class of which I was juror for England (No. 63) I made a very careful examination and comparison of our locomotive engines, carriages and railway machinery, apparatus and material as shown by this country, with the same articles exhibited by France, Germany and Belgium. I am firmly convinced that our former superiority either in material or workmanship no longer exists; in fact, there are engines shown there, made in France and Germany, equal to those of the best English makers. It requires no skill to predict that, unless we adopt a system of technical education for our workmen in this country, we shall soon not even hold our own in cheapness of cost, as well as in excellence of quality, of our mechanical productions.
I found that on the Continent there are now a number of workmen's schools established, in which a clever mechanic can qualify himself for any scientific position in his business. In England our mechanics' institutions are more like reading clubs. Classes are neglected, and, in consequence, when a good workman is selected for a foreman's place, he is generally found wanting in technical knowledge. We have treated our workmen too much like machines; but this must be remedied, if we are to maintain our ground.
Having, for about twenty-five years, superintended large numbers of English workmen, I can speak on this point practically.
From Captain Frederick Beaumont, R. E. – I trust I may not be deemed presumptuous in stating what I believe to be a very great want in England, viz, such an institution as the well-known “ Arts et Métiers” of Paris. I know of no national institution where the public of our own country may study practical mechanics and the arts appertaining thereto. Such a one would, in my opinion, be valuable not only to working men and their superiors, but to engineers. It should be an evidence of the most advanced mechanical knowledge of the country; and while teaching primarily through the eye by the models and machines exhibited, it would
naturally form the focus of other means of instruction by lectures, classes, etc.
I apprehend it is only when taken up by Government that such an institution would assume proportions sufficient to be really effective as a means of national education.
From Warington W. Smyth, Esq., M. A., F. R. S. — As regards the broad question of technical education, I will only add, that the greater proportional advancement made by France, Prussia and Belgium in mining, colliery working and metallurgy, appears to me to be due, not to the workmen, but, in great part, to the superior training and attention to the general knowledge of their subject, observable among the managers and sub-officers of the works. No candid person can deny that they are far better educated, as a rule, than those who hold similar positions in Britain.
From David S. Price, Esq., Ph. D. - In reference to the second part of Dr. Playfair's letter, recommending that an official inquiry should be made into the means “by which the great states are attaining an intellectual pre-eminence among the industrial classes, and how they are making this to bear on the rapid progress of their national industries,” I would beg to observe that I believe the sooner we are acquainted with the facts the better.
Whilst assenting to the proposition, I must distinctly state that I do not agree with Dr. Playfair that the technical education of working men is the most important method for the maintenance of our industrial supremacy. The information gleaned by acting upon his suggestion would be instructive, and great good would result from its application; but what is really wanted for this country, and is of vital consequence to our future prosperity, is a higher scientific culture of those who are likely, in the natural course of events, to be master manufacturers, so that when discoveries are made they may fructify, and not stagnate or decay, as has too often been the case, for want of intelligence on the part of those who command capital and works to perceive their merits; and that they, the manufacturers, may be able to appreciate and adequately remunerate the scientific talent that this country is, and always will be, able to afford them.
I would add further, that no reformation bearing upon industrial progress is more required than in the legislature, and it is a reproach to the country that science is not represented in Parliament. It is only a few years since that our classic and commercial statesmen repudiated the idea of the exhaustion of coal in England, whilst last year they, in a fit of alarm, organized a commission to inquire into its probable duration.
It would be well if an investigation were made as to what have been the results of the teachings in science of the German universities; what Liebig has done for modern chemistry, and how the system inaugurated by him at the small University of Giessen has spread throughout the world, and what benefits have resulted from it; what we owe to the teachings of other chemists, and the physicists, metallurgists and geologists of those excellent seats of learning. Whilst advocating the necessity for the dissemination of scientific training in England, I must not omit to bestow a passing tribute of commendation to the success of those institutions of recent date, which were established to supply a want that existed many years since. I allude to the Royal College of Chemistry, of which the late Prince Consort was the president, the School of Mines, and the colleges in the metropolis, where scientific departments have been founded. Of the two former I can speak from positive knowledge. In the first named, many of the men who have taught, and not a few of those who have studied there, have not only enriched chemical science by their researches, but have left a permanent mark upon the leading industries of this country. From the School of Mines have emanated men who in metallurgy and geology have greatly extended the application of those sciences; nor is this to be wondered at, when we consider the reputation of the professors under whom they have studied. It is, however, a well-known fact that the public do not rightly appreciate the education that this institution is capable of affording, and that comparatively but few of the sons of manufacturers avail themselves of its advantages.
In conclusion, I must express my firm belief, that extended scientific education is of the highest consequence to us, if we wish to retain our present position in the scale of nations, that it will mostly benefit the future master manufacturer, that it must tend to elevate the social position of the intelligent working man, and to create a greater sympathy between master and man than at present prevails; and if it do this, the evils which threaten to impede, if not to paralyze, our national progress may be averted.
From J. Scott Russell, Esq., F. R. S. – I have to state that in much that Dr. Playfair has said I entirely agree, and that from my own recent personal inquiries into the state of technical education in Switzerland, Germany and France, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that it is much more advanced in those countries than in ours.
As.a juror in the Paris Exhibition, I have come to the conclusion that the higher class of education given in each of those countries to the workmen in its skilled trades, as well as the superior professional education given to the higher classes of men employed in technical professions, is everywhere visible in the works exhibited by those countries. And I attribute the surprising strides those countries have been making for the last ten years in many of the great staple branches of mechanical construction and manufacture to the admirable scientific and practical training which the governments of those countries provide for their working classes.
Dissatisfied with our national progress, we have naturally turned our minds to search for the cause of the progress of other nations, and for the cure of our own deficiency. We find that during these years some nations have been occupied in diligently promoting the national education of the various classes of skilled mechanical workmen, for the purpose of giving skill to the unskilled and rendering the skilled more skilful. We find that some nations have gone so far as to have established in every considerable town technical schools for the purpose of teaching all the youths intended to be craftsmen those branches of science which relate most nearly to the principles of their future craft. Workers in metal are taught the nature of the mechanical powers with which they will have to work, and the chemical properties of the materials they will have to operate upon; engine builders are taught the principles of heat and steam, and the nature of the engines they have to make and work; shipbuilders are taught the laws of construction, hydraulics and hydrostatics; and dyers and painters are taught the laws of chemistry and color. All skilled youth are taught geometry, draw