Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Chicken and Egg, Suffrage and Education

J C Sutherland sells his Drug, Book and Stationery business to A J Bedard, upon his promotion to Superintendant of Protestant Schools In Quebec.

A 1913 issue of the Canadian Magazine has an article by J. C. Sutherland, Superintendant of Protestant Schools in Quebec, called A National Purpose in Education. 1913 was also the year Mr. Robertson and his Royal Commission came out with its recommendations for reforming Canadian schools. Of course, education in Canada is a Provincial concern.

J. C. Sutherland was a Richmond merchant and a former Secretary of St. Francis Academy, the high school the Nicholson children attended. His attitude toward education reflected (or influenced) the general attitude in Richmond, Quebec at the time.

In the 1910 era in Canada, with respect to education, there was the city problem and the country problem. Sutherland addresses the rural problem in his article. His style is simple and direct -one of the reasons he went on to an illustrious career. Knowing Sutherland likely helped Marion in her rise in the Teachers Union.

In his article Sutherland says that Canada, unlike Germany, Denmark and Japan, does not have a great national purpose in education. He believes this is especially important in order to train farmers in scientific principles for efficient production. Farmers in Denmark, he says, often have degrees in the chemistry or physics. (I didn't know that:My sister in law comes from Danish farmers and she describes a very 'rustic' childhood in the 40's.)

The problem: trained teachers of any calibre prefer to work in the cities. In Canada, and especially in Quebec, he says there is a serious lack of good teachers in rural schools. In Quebec, he writes, 25 percent of the rural teachers are new to their trade each year. (Marion and Edith only spent one year teaching in a rural school.) The one great remedy for the hopeless rural school situation is school consolidation which would improve the quality of schools and attract better teachers.

Here are some excerpts that are relevant to my story Threshold Girl on Amazon Kindle, about a young girl coming of age in the 1910 era based on the Nicholson Family Letters.

"Now that the great majority by far of the elementary teachers of this continent are women, the question of keeping up a supply of the trained is more difficult than ever. It is a difficulty in the older provinces, quite as much as in Alberta and Saskatchewan, where new schools are being opened daily. A large percentage of teachers marry, and consequently give up the profession. Others, where salaries are low, either make their way into other work or move to those parts of the country where the salaries oare better...Nowhere is the supply (for teacher) equal to the demand; all over rural Canada one may find backward educational conditions, due primarily to insufficient salary or to unattractiveness in the physical conditions or to both...

Another incentive to modern countries in general during the last half century has been the extension of the suffrage. It has been recognized that every man who exercises the right of a vote should have sufficient education to follow intelligently in the newspapers the political issues of the day. Those who opposed suffrage were also for a time opposed to the extension of education to all classes of the people. The minority who are still doubtful of the benefits of general education may be regarded as a very small one in Canada. Ontario's first large workable act dates from 1846. The records show that there were many people opposed to the principle of public schools and to the idea of being taxed for the education of other people's children, but the broader public spirit today, of which the province in proud, was rapidly developed."

Hmm. Sutherland is talking about MAN suffrage here, or, I suppose he is being coy, as some Scandinavian countries already had universal suffrage. Finland anyway. He states that universal suffrage naturally leads to universal education, when, with respect to woman suffrage, the opposite is claimed, that the education of women lead to women demanding and getting the vote.