SLAVES OF MACHINERY
To multitudes of men and women the lure of levers, cranks, wheels and pinions is as seductive, as insidious, as heavenly in its promises, and as hellish in its performances, as the opium habit. The craving for opium, however, is an acquired taste, while the passion for machinery is born in thousands. We have seen children, while yet in their baby-cabs, fascinated by automobiles, sewing machines, and even little mechanical toys. We knew a boy on a farm who built a fairly workable miniature threshing machine with his own hands before he was old enough to speak the name of it in anything but baby-talk. We have seen boys work in the broiling sun day after day hoeing potatoes, pulling weeds, gathering crops, and doing other hard jobs for small pay, carefully saving every penny to buy a toy steam engine.
Parents usually look upon these evidences of mechanical ability with pleasure. They regard them as sure indications of the vocation of the child and oftentimes do everything in their power to encourage him in these lines. They little realize, however, the supreme danger which attaches to this very manifestation. Nor have they looked far enough ahead to see what is, in so many cases, the lamentable result.
The boy of this type hates to sit quietly on a hard bench in a school and study books. Some of the boys who went to school with us had imitation levers and valve-handles fastened about their desks in an ingenious way, and instead of studying, pretended that they were locomotive engineers. With a careful eye upon the teacher, who was his semaphore, such a boy would work the reverse lever, open and close the throttle, apply and disengage the brakes, test the lubrication, and otherwise go through the motions of running a locomotive with great seriousness and huge enjoyment.
These boys usually have considerable trouble with their teachers. They do not like grammar, frequently do not care for geography and history. They flounder dolefully in these studies and are in a state of more or less continual rebellion and disgrace. Because of their intense activity and restlessness, they irritate the teacher. She wants quiet in the school-room. Their surreptitious playing, rapping and tapping on desks, and other evidences of dammed-up energy and desire for more freedom and more scope of action, interferes with the desired sanctity of silence.