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There is a human waste due not only to poverty, ignorance, and lack of opportunity, but due also to misdirection of effort. Let us consider for a moment the relation of our topic to the urgent matter of unemployment.
The causes of unemployment are divisible into two general classes, impersonal or economic, and personal. Although the latter group of causes is doubtless the less important, there seems to be quite often a commingling of both the personal and the impersonal causes; and in the judgments of the individuals affected, both the employer and the employee, the personal elements loom large. It is with these personal causes that the remedial agencies deal, and it is to these personal causes that the vocational movements are, for the present at least, largely directed.
Excluding abnormal conditions of industry, the selective influence of personal qualifications operates continuously. These personal elements under modern conditions are not only the conventional industrial virtues like steadiness, temperance, and application, but the subtler, yet equally potent, factors, such as intrinsic fitness, a life-career motive, and a life-career plan. To the student of vocational guidance these last are highly important elements not only as bearing on the incidence of unemployment, but also as affecting the economic career as a whole.
The overcrowding of the traditional occupations, such as law, medicine, and the clerical pursuits, shows what little effort society makes to direct talent into its possibly most appropriate opportunities. Communities obviously should organize such incentives and guidance as will awaken interest in other occupations just as commendable and perhaps more promising than those into which the majority of our young people drift.
Through extension of vocational training opportunities, then, and especially through the provision for prevocational schools, which, when their purposes are better understood, will become selfdiscovery schools, and as such afford young people and their teachers a most important basis for vocational guidance, the schools are beginning to deal with the task suggested.
Vocational service endeavors to help pupils to self-knowledge, and to reconstruct school programs in order that they may more sensitively minister to the self-discovery and economic needs of different pupils. Vocational service is an instrument for talent saving. In its larger relationships, however, vocational service is only one phase of the social organization of school and vocation. It introduces into education the idea of fitness of the individual, apart from class or group; it introduces into employment the idea of fitness of the task, and appraises the occupations in terms of career values as well as social worth.
There are three directions in which vocational guidance and training provision for the young person already at work must be made: First, to enable the boy and girl to advance in their present employment; second, to prepare them for a change to something more desirable, whether related to the present employment or not; and, third, to stimulate their general development as citizens, homemakers, and social beings.
There will be in the coming years a large increase not only of vocational schools, as such, for the homemaking, professional, agricultural, and commercial employments, but also a large variety of experiments in trade instruction of boys and girls and special groups of young people, some of whom can afford only a limited time.
Comprehensive vocational assistance, through specially trained teachers and others, is now recognized as a proper part of the new machinery of service, service which should begin in the elementary grades and continue, at least, to the period of young manhood and womanhood. This seems to be the conviction of thoughtful educators everywhere.
The old vocational influences have disappeared. Ages less sensitive to childhood's rights than ours, the Middle Ages at all events, saw that the prosperity of the craft as well as of the craftsman depended on rigorous direction and training during the plastic years, and an apprenticeship system resulted which the world will probably not see again. The employer was the teacher, the shop the trade school, and a legal responsibility rested on the employer for the right upbringing and the health and eventual efficiency of the apprentice. Not only was industry, so far as it was organized and monopolized by the craft guilds, thoroughly educative, but the home with its household manufactures, the father's shop, the mother's kitchen, and the simple economic environment, all tended to serve as potent directive and vocationally educative influence.
This condition is gone forever. Much of our schooling at best is devoted to abstract preparation for life, instead of treating the child as if living and now in life. Social control and democratic education are the forces which now must do the work of those vanished vocational forces as yet unreplaced in the preparation of youth for life.
Out of such needs in the fields of education and employment the Vocation Bureau of Boston, as an illustration, has developed the following general aims:
1. To study the causes of the waste which attends the passing of unguided and untrained young people from school to work and to assist in experiments to prevent this waste.
2. To help parents, teachers, children, and others in the problems of thoughtful choosing, preparing for and advancing in a chosen life work.
3. To work out programs of cooperation between the schools and the occupations for the purpose of enabling both to make a more socially profitable use of human capacities and opportunities.
4. To publish vocational studies from the viewpoint of their educational and other efficiency requirements, and of their career-building possibilities.
5. To conduct a training course for qualified men and women who desire to prepare themselves for vocational-guidance service in the public-school system, philanthropic institutions, and in business establishments.
6. To maintain a clearing house of information and investigation dealing with life-career problems.
The public school, as already suggested, is the logical starting point for the work of vocational guidance. Here the child is under daily observation, and the problems of the family make themselves known in countless ways. Just as we have added to the school service the nurse, the physician, the play supervisor, and other agencies of enlightened modern demand, we need to supplement the teacher's insight into the character and attainments of the pupil by the practical cooperation of a vocational counselor in touch with the demands, the conditions, and the opportunities of the world of work, in touch with the intimate details of the families in a particular school neighborhood, and working hand in hand with the teacher, the parent, and later with the employer in making the best investment of the boy's training and possibilities.
Vocational guidance must cooperate with vocational education through the natural channels of approach. These are: The school authorities, the teachers, the parents and advisers of youth, the employers of labor, and public opinion.
Through school authorities.-As a beginning there may be need of a privately supported vocational-guidance bureau to work with the school boards and school officers of a town or city, as the Vocation Bureau of Boston has cooperated for five years with the Boston school authorities.
The vocation bureau entered into a definite agreement with the Boston school committee to establish vocational guidance in the schools of the city. A committee of six masters was appointed to promote cooperation. A system of vocational-record cards was established for elementary and high schools. This system showed the parents' plan for the pupil, the especial ability of the pupil in some line, his physique, and finally his own plan of life, whether to enter a trade, profession, or business. Teaching thus became more personal, and consequently more helpful from the vocational standpoint to the individual boy or girl.
Along with this card system, meetings of teachers were held for the study of vocational conditions and questions, and addresses were given by people of special fitness before schools and parents' associations.
One of the principal provisions in the arrangements between the school committee and the vocation bureau was for a group of teachers to be known as vocational counselors, to be appointed by their respective principals and to represent every school in Boston. Over 100 teachers were so appointed, and they have been meeting throughout each school year to consider the educational opportunities of the city, the vocational problems of the children, and to confer with employers and others who have been invited to the sessions. The number is now over 200.
The work of the vocational counselors has been a labor of love. Nobody has expected that attending occupational talks would alone equip for effective vocational guidance. Highly important results, however, have come out of these meetings.
In the first place, every school in the city has had one teacherindeed, in some schools committees of teachers have formed voluntarily—to give time and thought to the dropping out from the grades of many boys and girls. These teachers are personally studying the home, street, and other influences which steady or unsettle the children when the compulsory education laws no longer restrain; they are trying to discover what assistance a school can give to parent and child perplexed with the problems of a life career.
There is plentiful testimony showing that fathers and mothers now turn to the Boston schools as never before for advice and help concerning their children's future. Questions as to what high schools or vocational schools and what courses to choose are continually coming before the counselors. The abilities, the interests, faults, and promising tendencies in the children are topics of grave discussion between parent and teacher or principal, the viewpoint being not only that of present school requirements, but also that of the probable careers of the children. In the classrooms the occupational talks have been repeated in order to make clear the efficiency requirements of the practical world outside. School programs, and even commencement-day programs, have begun to show how schools are facing the challenging world which is soon to claim the productive years of these children.
This awakened practical interest of the schools in the life work of the children can not stop short of comprehensive supervision and protection of the after-school careers of boys and girls. Already teachers, on their own initiative and with an expenditure of much time and energy, have gone into the homes of their pupils, and have sought to get first-hand knowledge of the industrial environments. If our schools are to have any guiding relation to life, and all educational reform clamors for this relation, teachers must be given every incentive to touch in such personal ways the realities of the life which their pupils will live.
It should be pointed out here that the creation of this large body of vocational counselors was intended to afford a foundation for the more specialized and technical requirements of genuine vocational guidance. In 1912 the school board detached, at the suggestion of the vocation bureau, three capable counselors to make investigations which should prepare the way for more effective vocational guidance work in the Boston schools.
After the vocation bureau had conducted this work for two and one-half years, the school board early in 1913 voted to establish a vocational guidance department. The number of school vocational counselors was increased to over 200. The plans formulated and carried on under the personal direction of an assistant superintendent are in some of their interesting details as follows:
SUPERINTENDENT'S CIRCULAR NO. 10, 1913.
to the Principals of Schools and Districts:
In order to make the work in vocational counseling uniform, it seems desirable to have the counselors all over the city chosen as follows:
Two from each elementary school building containing a graduating class; One from each building containing grades above the fourth but below the
eighth; Two from each high school.
The plan which will be outlined later will consist of (1) work with the graduates and (2) with those who drop out before the graduation; hence it will be wise to have the counselor who is to deal with the graduates an eighth-grade teacher, while the other counselors may be teachers of lower grades.
Realizing the high character of service which has been given by the present group of vocational counselors, it is hoped that so far as possible they may be retained, and that in choosing additional counselors the principals will bear in mind the fact that it is essential to the success of our undertaking to have only those who are keenly interested and willing to give of their time and strength. Asi le from the counselors, all principals are urged to attend the meetings whenever possible and to cooperate in every way possible.
Through school teachers.-Vocational guidance has its greatest opportunity to serve vocational education through the proper training and equipment of teachers and school vocational counselors. The course given by the vocation bureau to the Boston teacher counselors has been developed through these several years into a university course on vocational guidance. It was given in the Harvard University summer school in 1911, 1912, and 1913; in the University of California and the State Teachers' College, at Greeley, Colo., in 1914 and 1915; and now in Boston University and Teachers' College, Columbia University. Some of the time a class has been conducted in the offices of the bureau.