Discussion on “industrial education” (committee report), Boston, Mass., June 27, 1912. (see proceedings for July, 1912)

Publisher: IEEE - Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.
Publication Date: 1 November 1912
Volume: 31
Page(s): 2,138 - 2,156
ISSN (Paper): 0097-2444
DOI: 10.1109/PAIEE.1912.6659971



Henry G. Stott: The work that we are doing in New York in connection with the companies which I represent, is a very modest one, but one which was forced upon us by very peculiar circumstances. We have men who are trained for switchboard operators in railroad work, who handle a large amount of power, and these men are brought in with practically only a common school education and are taught the ordinary methods of operation of switchboard apparatus, taking care of the apparatus, etc. We found after training up men in this way that they became highly expert, although they had apparently no theoretical knowledge of what they were doing. However, a day of reckoning came to us when something went wrong with the operation or some trifling connection was broken, and these men failed lamentably. After a few experiences of that kind we discovered that no matter how well a man was able to carry on his routine duties, assuming everything was in first-class order, the least disturbance of that routine upset his whole idea. He was only an automaton. He could not think for himself. We thought we were using, perhaps, too poor a class of men. We tried a number of men trained at technical schools but it became very manifest that men who had received technical school education, while they met all the requirements of the case, could not be held there and we could not expect to hold them in work which soon becomes monotonous. We finally came to the conclusion that it would be necessary to establish a class to find out whether a man was an automaton or whether he had been really thinking and reading.