Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Seventy Years

theoretical and manual work. The High Schools and the Polytechnic Schools of Germany provided very thorough, if theoretical, instruction in several branches of engineering, and accomplished excellent results in drawing instruction.

Because much of the early engineering on American canals and railways was done by French engineers, the methods employed in the schools of France were carefully studied by American educators. The instruction at I'Ecole Centrale at Paris, at I'Ecole de la Martisiere at Lyons, and at similar schools at Angers, Chalons-sur-Marne, and Aix, was of a particularly high order, embodying practical applications of science in a way that had not been utilized in America prior to the opening of the Worcester school.

"But this system in its perfection," to use the words of Charles 0. Thompson's inaugural address, "cannot be at once transferred to America, for many reasons. The most prominent of which is the radical difference between the European boy and the American. Take the German as a specimen. He is trained from infancy to a certain subjection to his master; the American begins to cherish independence of all masters almost before his training begins. The German boy stands quiet to be chiseled into shape; the American is never quiet, and the artist's first endeavor is to keep him in one position long enough to receive an impression."

The plan so minutely specified in letters of instruction from Boynton and Washburn was probably regarded by the founders as being clean-cut and easy to accomplish. That it was to be a problem taxing the ingenuity and patience of administrators and teachers was soon apparent to that little group of devoted men who assumed the task of putting the plan into operation. Even after several years of apparent success, Dr. Thompson stated that "the whole scheme must be regarded as an experiment in American education, which, at the present stage, is sufficiently promising to warrant its further prosecution."


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Last Modified: Fri Jul 30 11:15:25 EDT 1999