The plan now followed in the technical high schools of the city, by which one teacher in the school specially qualified for such work is charged with the duty of advising pupils who leave school and aiding them in securing desirable employment, could be adapted to the junior high school, where the need for service of this kind is even greater than in the technical high schools. Such work requires men who have had some contact with industrial conditions, and who possess sound judgment, common sense, and a fairly comprehensive knowledge of the local industries. If the curriculum embraces the course in “Industrial Information” suggested in a previous chapter, the teacher of this subject might well be designated as vocational counselor for the boys in the school. A course similar in nature should be provided for the girls and a woman teacher selected to advise them when they leave school. Considerable difficulty probably will be experienced in securing women teachers competent to assume this task, but any wide-awake teacher who will devote some attention to published studies of industrial conditions and get in touch with the local organizations engaged in the investigation of wage earning employments, such as the Consumers’ League and the Girls’ Vocation Bureau, can soon acquire a fund of information that will enable her to offer valuable suggestions and advice to girls who expect to become wage earners.
The vocational counselor must guard against conventional thinking and the mass of “inspirational” nonsense which forms the main contribution to the vocational guidance of youth provided in the average schoolroom. The ideals of success usually held up before school children seem to have been drawn from a mixture of Sunday school literature and the prospectuses of efficiency bureaus. Boiled down the rules prescribed for their attainment are two: first, “Be good;” and second, “Get ahead.” The pupils are told about well-known men who became famous or rich, usually rich, by practicing these rules. Occasionally there is some prattle about the “dignity of labor,” as a rule meaningless in the light of our current ideas of success. We do not think of a well-paid artisan as “successful.” His success begins when he is promoted to office work, or becomes a foreman.
The inherent difficulty with ideals of success which demand that the worker become a boss of somebody else is that the world of industry needs only a relatively small number of bosses. Theoretically it is possible for any individual to reach the eminence of boss-ship. In real life less than one-tenth of the boys who enter industrial employment can rise above the level of the journeyman artisan, at least before later middle age, because only about that proportion of bosses are needed.
The task of the vocational counselor will consist in putting the pupil’s feet on the first steps of the ladder rather than showing him rosy pictures of the top of it. For the great majority the top means no more than decent wages. This, after all, is a worthy ambition, frequently requiring the worker’s best efforts for its realization.