The history of industrial arts in three selected Virginia public school divisions

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


The history of industrial arts is rooted in the manual training movement, which began in the second half of the 19th century. Of the three school systems studied (Danville, Lynchburg and Richmond), Lynchburg was the first to offer manual training classes. Started in 1901, the classes were almost exclusively hand woodworking, and were taught at the secondary school level. In 1903, Richmond began offering manual training in its elementary schools. This program was first called industrial arts in 1921. Danville added industrial arts to its program of studies in 1929.

In the fall of 1929, the Virginia State Board of Education directed that non-vocational industrial education be promoted throughout the State. In the decade that followed, industrial arts programs in Danville, Lynchburg and Richmond grew to fill this directive. This period of growth was followed by almost 40 years of stagnation.

In June 1969, the State Department of Education created the Industrial Arts Education Service. Thomas Hughes was appointed to head this new division. Under his direction, the industrial arts curriculum throughout the State underwent many changes. These changes were reflected in the renewed development of industrial arts programs in the three school systems studied in this paper. Today, these programs offer a wide variety of pre-technical and personal enrichment courses. As such, they serve both the general and vocational aspects of the schools' program of studies.