Saturday, July 25, 2015

Some Thoughts about Old-Fashioned Textbooks


Here's my YouTube video of a trip through the Social Studies Textbook Visits in Other Lands. I explain that I made the video because so many people have come to this website looking up "BUNGA" "Yams" etc.


Because this text was the first geography book for many, many North American children.  I myself can still recall the excitement I felt opening to the first chapter, Bunga of Malaya. That was in the fourth grade.

I'm pretty sure I got a brand new textbook, where you could still smell the print, so that made the experience extra memorable.

Now, imagine this. This text was used in schools from the Post War Period until the 1970s!

An entire generation of BOOMERS read this book, and learned about a Stone-age tribe in Malaya, not entirely grasping the fact that Malaya/sia was a modern country with a beautiful bustling capital City, Kuala Lumpur.

I didn't grasp the fact and my father had been born in Kuala Lumpur and my grandmother was still living there in 1964!

I bring this up because I have just transcribed a speech from 1946, one given my Marion Nicholson Blair, my husband's grandmother, who was President of the PAPT or Protestant Teachers Union to the Lakeshore Teachers Association.

It's a fun letter, (I think) but it also makes mention  of a Textbook Committee. That very committee might have been voting on whether to put this classic social studies text (written by Americans) into the Curriculum.

When they decided YES, they had no inkling of how a generation of Montrealers would be mesmerized by Bunga and the other "exotic"children in the book... and remember that story into their dotage.. .

(I showed the story to a Malay librarian I got to know researching my grandmother's story Looking For Mrs. Peel and I thought she'd be amused by Bunga and how Malays were 'infantalized' for our consumption, but she wasn't. She found Bunga insulting.

The Readers we used in the 1960's in Canada were also from the 1940s'. (Things moved slooooowly in those days.) The Canadian Reading Development Series it was called. No one (well, maybe one scholar one time) comes to this website looking up those textbooks.

They were competent texts but like all school readers, they were made bland - for our uncontroversial consumption - and everyone knows a bland story is a boring story.

All I recall are the poems: Walter de la Mare (Silvery Moon) and that one with the rabbit screaming in a snare.."Oh, little one, I'm looking everywhere) so sad.. and the mean dog one too, oh and the elephant phone, I once saw an elephant who tried to use the telephant. And I remember the picture below, I loved horses, of course.

This was All Sails Set and the story was about the Blue Nose2.. the boat on the Canadian dime.

Here's the speech.

Madame Chairman, fellow teachers,

I am delighted to have the opportunity of meeting with the Lakeshore teachers association and extremely pleased that as President of the P.A.P.T. I was invited to this gathering.

It is an honor to be the President of the Provincial Association of Protestant Teachers. I believe that I am the 80th President.

I wonder if many of realize just how far back in Canadian history 80 years takes us.

In 1964, when the fathers of Confederation were holding their first meeting in Charlottetown to lay the foundations of this Dominion, of which we are so justly proud, our founders were laying the plans and preparing a petition to lay before the Governor of Lower Canada for the privilege of organization this Association.

From very small and inauspicious beginnings, we have grown and progressed sometimes painfully and over many obstacles to our present status and cherish the hope that we shall continue to do so in the future.

It is a significant fact that the basic principles of our association have remained the same through all these years although the constitution and by-laws have many and varied revisions.

For many years the presidents were chosen from the clergy, then later from our own profession.
One very radical and much debate (idea)took place over 30 years ago when it was proposed that a woman might aspire to the august position of President.

My presence here as President demonstrates this one amendment to the rules and regulations of the PAPT.

Among the old files of this association are some interesting documents showing the negotiations between the teachers and the government to legalize this association with the aim and purpose of protecting the education and interests of the Protestant minority in Quebec and of furthering the interests of the teaching profession.

The aims have never varied.
There has been great progress in education and in the teaching profession. It is sometimes hard to see it from year to year but when one looks back to the changes over a period of time, it is very evident.

One has to be reminded of the well-known story of Miss E. M. Taylor, one of our efficient early teachers who died in 1897 at the age of 94 who taught school for 16 and a half cents a week and worked for her board.

The highest salary she ever received was $1.00 a week besides her board.  
Even after a regular system of instruction was established, teachers nearly always boarded around from house to house, dividing up the number of days by the number of pupils.

Hence, if often happened that the burden of boarding the teacher fell on those who could least afford to bear it.

Then too there were often hard feelings in the community if the children of the home where the teacher had boarded longest made greater progress than some others, the point of contention being that they had extra instruction at home.

Since of teaches or engages in any other work primary to earn a living, the monetary returns are important.

Certainly, there has been progress here.

In my own teaching experience, the initial salary of a teacher entering the profession is at least four times as great as I received when I began to teach.

And there is the added inducement of increase if one continues.
That was not an established fact years ago. You just stayed at the same salary unless you could find some place where they were offering a few dollars more.

In Montreal, in 1919, the initial salary in elementary schools was $350 per year, against $1,000 a year today.

(EDITOR: Flora made 500 a year out of Macdonald Teacher’s School in 1912. Males got $800. Marion was making $650, with six years experience.)

In is not only with regard to salaries that there has been progress, but in almost every way, in buildings, equipment, text books, administration and teacher training.

It is my belief that the PAPT has played a great part in this advancement in that is has held the teaching body together and has been the official spokesman of their aims and aspirations.

The fact that it is one of the oldest organizations in the province of Quebec and is still active shows that it has served well and been of value.

Any society or organization not functioning for the welfare of its members will fade quickly out of existence.

The PAPT is not and has never been one with a huge bank roll, though through its 80 years a great deal of money has been paid into it.

This had been spent yearly in the interests of education and the teaching profession.

I might say, although we have not accumulated money, we have perhaps grown in wisdom and knowledge.
One evidence of our wisdom was in deciding last year that we must have a home of our own, a central office where the work of the association could be more effectively carried out.
It is a modest undertaking when one compares it to the importance of its work.

I hope the day may come when our home will be larger and the services rendered by it to the education of the teaching profession much greater.

I would like to remind you that the Central Office at 1410 Guy Street is your office for it is your money and mine which pays for it and should be used by all in every way possible.

The PAPT will grow and become more effective only by the loyal support of its members, and it is for us to see that it continues to grow and serve education and the teaching profession of this province.

It is only by being actively interested in the association that one can realize the scope of the work undertaken by PAPT.

There are some 30 different committees each taking on special part of the whole plan and each carrying on under the direction of the Executive.

I will only mention two: One the text book and course of study committee, who have prepared a most extensive and comprehensive report which is being considered at the meeting of the Protestant Committee which is being held today.

This committee was under the Chairmanship of Mr. Parks.
The other committee on automatic membership has prepared an amendment to the original ACT 52 Victoria to try to give the teaching body a professional standing comparable to the medical and other professions.

I hope I have shown you that big things in education have been done in Quebec and we look forward to much greater progress so that Quebec may be the leaders of education in the Dominion of Canada.

These are stirring times and there is no limit to what the future can bring if we realize our responsibilities and shoulder them and work together towards a solution of all the problems facing us.

The time for reconstruction is now, as it is the children who are in our schools today who will face the post war problems in this Province.

It is vitally important that we plan carefully and well.

We belong to that group of workers who receive little inspiration by public recognition of work well done, but like the products of our schools, the young men and women of our navy, air force, and army who have done so much to protect and keep  our way of life, we must meet the challenge to us to keep faith and work steadfastly.