Looking Backward From 2000 to 1887 HTML version

Chapter 12
The questions which I needed to ask before I could acquire even an outline acquaintance
with the institutions of the twentieth century being endless, and Dr. Leete's good-nature
appearing equally so, we sat up talking for several hours after the ladies left us.
Reminding my host of the point at which our talk had broken off that morning, I
expressed my curiosity to learn how the organization of the industrial army was made to
afford a sufficient stimulus to diligence in the lack of any anxiety on the worker's part as
to his livelihood.
"You must understand in the first place," replied the doctor, "that the supply of incentives
to effort is but one of the objects sought in the organization we have adopted for the
army. The other, and equally important, is to secure for the file-leaders and captains of
the force, and the great officers of the nation, men of proven abilities, who are pledged by
their own careers to hold their followers up to their highest standard of performance and
permit no lagging. With a view to these two ends the industrial army is organized. First
comes the unclassified grade of common laborers, men of all work, to which all recruits
during their first three years belong. This grade is a sort of school, and a very strict one,
in which the young men are taught habits of obedience, subordination, and devotion to
duty. While the miscellaneous nature of the work done by this force prevents the
systematic grading of the workers which is afterwards possible, yet individual records are
kept, and excellence receives distinction corresponding with the penalties that negligence
incurs. It is not, however, policy with us to permit youthful recklessness or indiscretion,
when not deeply culpable, to handicap the future careers of young men, and all who have
passed through the unclassified grade without serious disgrace have an equal opportunity
to choose the life employment they have most liking for. Having selected this, they enter
upon it as apprentices. The length of the apprenticeship naturally differs in different
occupations. At the end of it the apprentice becomes a full workman, and a member of his
trade or guild. Now not only are the individual records of the apprentices for ability and
industry strictly kept, and excellence distinguished by suitable distinctions, but upon the
average of his record during apprenticeship the standing given the apprentice among the
full workmen depends.
"While the internal organizations of different industries, mechanical and agricultural,
differ according to their peculiar conditions, they agree in a general division of their
workers into first, second, and third grades, according to ability, and these grades are in
many cases subdivided into first and second classes. According to his standing as an
apprentice a young man is assigned his place as a first, second, or third grade worker. Of
course only men of unusual ability pass directly from apprenticeship into the first grade
of the workers. The most fall into the lower grades, working up as they grow more
experienced, at the --periodical regradings. These regradings take place in each industry
at intervals corresponding with the length of the apprenticeship to that industry, so that
merit never need wait long to rise, nor can any rest on past achievements unless they
would drop into a lower rank. One of the notable advantages of a high grading is the
privilege it gives the worker in electing which of the various branches or processes of his