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EDITED BY WILLIAM F. RUSSELL, Ph. D.
THE WORKER AND
READINGS IN PRESENT-DAY LITERATURE PRESENT-
STELLA STEWART CENTER
CORRESPONDENCE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY
COPYRIGHT, 1920. BY J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY
PRINTED BY J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY
PHILADELPHIA, U. S. A.
To my colleagues who concern themselves with the significant work of helping young people to find their true vocations:
This book has been compiled in an effort to meet the needs of boys and girls who feel the urgent necessity of selecting the right vocation. Few subjects provoke so keen an interest as that of one's life work. “The thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.” But there is danger in early selection and specialization before there is perspective. To be a vocational misfit is almost as tragic as to have no work at all.
Two dangers have confronted the world of education: the danger of the narrow commercial or industrial training that looks for quick returns and tends to convert vocation into a blind alley instead of an
a open door; and the danger of the so-called cultural, academic education that leaves vocation to accident and chance. Any system of education fails that does not include the philosophy, the perspective, the vision of the humanist, and at the same time the technical efficiency that contends successfully with immediate facts, details, routine. We need a “ curriculum of Modernities as well as a curriculum of Humanities.”
Literature is most valuable in giving the student an insight into vocational activities. There is hardly any field of man's work but the man of letters has made it his own. There is a great mass of unimaginative, expository composition, written by well-intentioned authors, setting forth outlines of world industries. Such material is purposely excluded here, even from the bibliography, for such reading has its place only after the interest in a particular vocation has been aroused, and that interest can be quickened only by real literature literature that portrays the souls of occupations as well as of the men who follow them.
The selections included in this volume do not aim primarily to convey knowledge of facts or processes, but to emphasize the human, social aspect of work, and to interpret it in its vital relations. They have the atmosphere of human philosophy, a sense of warm human relationships, qualities that will bring about a good understanding between the theorist cloistered in academic seclusion and the man who to his hot and constant task is heroically true.”
In the next place, the selections are taken from the works of present-day writers. Many educators agree that contemporary literature is not sufficiently represented in the school curriculum, and that students select their reading from contemporary writers without guiding criticism. A great effort is being made to have the literature of the class-room a faithful transcript of the complex life on the other side of the school-room walls. In other words, it has been strongly felt that the literature curriculum should keep pace with social evolution, even with the last phase of that evolution.
Then, too, it has seemed advisable to include a variety of literary types and composition, such as thrilling narrative, graphic description, the lyric outburst, the bit of essay as alluring as the winding road—all necessary to portray man at his work.
The selections exclude for the most part those activities connected with the so-called fine arts and professional life, not because they are not a part of the world's work, but because justice demands that due recognition be given the worker who labors in the industrial, commercial, and occupational activities of life, with his hand as well as with his head. The great need of society is for the laborer to appreciate himself and to be appreciated by those who are not in the popular sense toilers.
The reading of literature about work should lead to composition of the best type--that based on close observation of the kinds of work done in the student's environment. Thus a style that is direct and concrete will be developed, suitable for the average practical demands of life. The selections deal with various sections of the United States, in response to the demand that students should have the opportunity of seeing local activities in literary perspective. The occupations and industries of other countries are also represented, to encourage the student to think in terms of the world. So the text has a wide geographical range, in an effort to supplement the parochial and sectional point of view with the national and international.
That literature, particularly novels, which has acute economic crises for a background has been relegated to the bibliography. Such reading is peculiarly sombre and depressing; and the ambitious student will select judiciously what suits his needs. The text on the whole is meant to express the sane, wholesome content that