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EDUCATION IN UPPER CANADA
FROM THE PASSING OF THE
CONSTITUTIONAL ACT OF 1791
CLOSE OF REV. DR. RYERSON'S ADMINISTRATION
VOL. 11: 1831-1836.
Edited, under the direction of the Honourable the Minister of Education, with Explanatory Notes,
J. GEORGE HODGINS, M.A., LL.D.,
EDUCATION IN UPPER CANADA.
This Second Volume of the Documentary History of Education in Upper Canada embraces a much shorter period of time than did the First Volume. It, however, deals with a much wider range of subjects, and treats of educational matters of greater interest, and of more practical value to us of the present day.
One of the greatest charms which recently-written histories possess is, that they are not, as a rule, mere records, as Macaulay says, in his History, "of battles and seiges, of the rise and fall of administrations, of intrigues of the palace, and debates in Parliament.” He states that it was his “endeavour to relate the history of the people, as well as the history of the government," etc. Green's History of the English People is another interesting example of modern historical writing.
This Documentary History makes no pretence to be a writing of that sort; but it contains a contribution of materials, out of which, with other information, a history of the social condition and progress of the people of Upper Canada may some day be written.
While the ipsissima verba of the Parliamentary language, (often imperfect, from errors and omissions), in which its proceedings are recorded are reproduced, as revised, in this Volume, the “missing links,” in the shape of contemporary facts have, as far as possible, been supplied.
The Educational narrative, thus combined and made continuous in this Volume, derives its chief interest from the fact that it presents
a striking picture, despite a few drawbacks, of the intelligent progress made by the people of Upper Canada in Educational affairs. This, of course, was mainly promoted by the aid of able Representatives in the Legislature,—by the influence on public opinion of the leading newspapers of the day, and by the personal utterances of experienced men in the learned professions, who, in these early days, had been trained in one or two admirable Schools which then existed.
No one can read the successive Reports of the Select Committees, chiefly of the House of Assembly, during the years embraced in this Volume, without being impressed with the conviction that a comprehensive grasp was taken by the leading men in the Legislature of the subjects under consideration; and that a statesmanlike clearness of vision was shown by the writers, in the preparation of these Reports.
Most of the leading principles embodied in our present school system—and those which were regarded with most favour by the Reverend Doctor Ryerson—are to be found embodied in these Reports.
Take a few examples: For instance, the great advantage of a diffusion of the benefits of Education to a whole people is clearly pointed out in these Reports. The absolute necessity of having a substantial financial basis, on which to rest a successful scheme of Education, is the theme of almost every one of them. That basis, if intended to be substantial, is held to depend, not upon mere Parliamentary votes, but upon a large endowment of lands,—to be supplemented, under the authority of the Legislature, by a vote upon property, so as to maintain the Schools in efficiency.
To give the more force to these views, one of the Reports to the House of Assembly, points out, with a degree of scornful emphasis, that the expenditure of the Legislature for Schools had dwindled down to such a miserable pittance, in 1833, that:
“Your Committee feel it to be their duty, most earnestly and anxiously, to draw the attention of your Honourable House to the astounding fact, that less is granted by the Provincial Legislature for educating the youth of three hundred thousand (300,000) people, than is required to defray the contingent expenses of one Session of Parliament!
“To place this in a point of view more striking, it may be observed, that one-third of the population of any country are subjects of School
Education; but allowing only one-fourth, we have an allowance, from the Provincial Treasury, of four thousand pounds (£4,000) for educating seventy-five thousand (75,000) children, a little more than one shilling per annum for the instruction of each Scholar!—a provision so pitiful--so miserable, for this most important of all objects, cannot fail, when thus presented, of exciting astonishment; and when contrasted with the vast sums expended by other countries in support of public instruction, reflects no credit on this Province.”
Over and over again an appeal is made to the Governor, and to the King, to set apart at least One Million of Acres of the Crown Lands as a permanent endowment for Common Schools. And remonstrance after remonstrance is addressed to the Executive for not carrying out the noble intentions of the Royal Grant of 1797 in establishing “ Free Grammar Schools” in each of the Districts of the Province.
It is gratifying to know that the earnest appeals, of sixty years ago, to have One Million Acres of Crown Lands set apart for the support of Common Schools bore fruit in our own day; and these one million acres of Crown Lands were set apart, by Act of Parliament, in 1849. In 1839, 250,000 acres were set apart for Grammar Schools.
Nor did these Reports fail to call attention to the indispensible necessity of training Teachers for their important work. In the draft of Bill, accompanying the last Report presented to the House of Assembly, in 1836, provision was proposed to be made for the establishment of four Normal Schools in the Province,-three for men and one for women ;--an arrangement such as would have to be reversed, should the scheme be carried out in the present day.
The Reports also advocated the creation of a higher class of Schools than either the ordinary Common, or the Grammar, Schoolhaving three or four Masters—thus foreshadowing the Collegiate Institutes of later years.
The supervision, or inspection, of Schools, (in a less efficient way, it is true, than prevails at present,) was provided for in one or more of the drafts of School Bills submitted to the House of Assembly by Mr. William Buell, Mr. Mahlon Burwell, Mr. Charles Duncombe, or by one of the Select Committees on Education.
It may be that, in some cases, the principles underlying these