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RBC Letter

March 1946 — Vol. 26, No. 3 — Education

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There is no field of human activity in which educational ideals rationally applied are of more value than in business. Besides preparing the mind to accept responsibility for tasks, a liberal education develops a sense of right, duty and honour. More and more, in this modern world, business rests on rectitude, as well as on good judgment.

This article will not, like 17th century Comenius' chief book which he sub—titled "The Whole Art of Teaching All Things to All Men", attempt to cover all the field of evaluation and guidance; it is merely an examination of the situation in regard to education in Canada at this time.

Only those who do not know the felicity of good education, and are ignorant of its force in the world, despise it, and thereby they lose the thousand paths that have not yet been trodden, with their undiscovered rewards for men and women.

Not everyone means the same thing when he speaks of "education". The word covers a wide range of interpretations, from mere information—giving, on the one hand, to complete man—making on the other. According to John Dewey, the practical aim of education is social efficiency, and its ultimate purpose is self—realization. Plato gave as his view that health, beauty, wealth, power and other things are ingredients in happiness, but are neutral before education, which teaches how to use them. A more satisfying enunciation of the aim of education can probably be acquired by arranging in order the leading activities of life. They are: (1) activities which directly minister to self—preservation; (2) those which, by securing the essentials of life, minister indirectly to self—preservation; (3) those which have for their objective the rearing of a family; (4) activities which are involved in the maintenance of proper social and political relations, and (5) activities which Herbert Spencer refers to as "miscellaneous, which fill up the leisure part of life, devoted to the gratification of the tastes and feelings." Whatever partition is attempted, it cannot be categorical. There can be no education for one constituent of life that is not in some measure a training for all, but the emphasis in teaching will be affected by the order of importance in which the divisions are regarded. The foregoing sequence seems to be justified by the fact that it places the significance of the survival aspects of life in the order in which they naturally lie.

Montaigne remarked, in his essay on Pedantry: "Wee can talke and prate, Cicero saith this; These are Platoes customes; These are the verie words of Aristotle: but what say we our selves? what doe we? what judge we? A Peroquet would say as much." Well, without a great deal of talking, the Canada and Newfoundland Education Association set up a survey committee which produced a report that can be regarded as a blueprint for education in Canada. This survey, which has been drawn upon for much of the factual material in this Letter, remarked: "None of the proposed reforms will turn out to be anything more than mere tinkering with obsolete machinery unless schools are established and maintained on such a basis that they can enlist and retain the interest, attention and energy of the pupils. If a considerable proportion of Canadian pupils remains in the lethargy, indifference and indolence which too long have been characteristic of many, if not all schools, the Canadian people are not receiving value for their educational expenditure." Here lurks the eternal puzzle of the one and the many: how can the necessities and wants of the individual be harmonized with the needs and desires of all the others who are to be educated in Canada? How is the existing machinery to be adapted so as to provide the education everyone needs or desires?

In "Canadian Education," the quarterly journal of the Canada and Newfoundland Education Association, it is recorded that no English—language school history text—books mention the rights of the French language under the constitution, and French textbooks give little space to the Hudson's Bay Company, the English explorers, the United Empire Loyalists, or the history of provinces other than Quebec. No true appreciation of history - and therefore of how Canada got to be where she now is - can be gained from prejudiced or careless texts. It is necessary, in order to have truth in history, to walk all around every incident, act, and rule, viewing each from all angles.

This applies with equal force in the international field, because the peace of the world depends upon every nation understanding the aims, the hopes, the fears, and the needs of all other nations, as a basis for trying to find common, humane and moral goals. There is encouraging evidence that the nations are more aware of this urgency following the late world war than they were after world war one. Today sees the establishment of the Educational and Cultural Organization of the United Nations, with two objectives: (1) To develop and maintain mutual understanding and appreciation of the life and culture, the arts, the humanities and the sciences of the peoples of the world, as a basis for effective international organization and world peace; (2) To co—operate in extending and in making available to all peoples for the service of common human needs the world's full body of knowledge and culture, and in assuring its contribution to the economic stability, political security, and general well—being of the peoples of the world.

No agency can make the objects of culture or education identical for all peoples; nor can it build an education divorced from any nation's historic past; nor can it create equality of educational standards for individual nations without their willingness and effort. Indeed, these are limitations upon the educational authorities within a state, with reference to diversity of interest, racial origin, and environment. Yet raising the standard of education nationally and throughout the world is important. It is to the material interest of all people to advance the standard of living in depressed areas, and the relationship between education and standards of living is obvious. An international agency cannot dictate, but it can supply information that will provide nations with the consensus of other nations as to how they ought to gauge success in education, and whether their young people are receiving every advantage it is possible to give them.

All of this brings the investigator up against the question: "What is education?" One thing is beyond dispute, education should be a conscious, liberal, methodical application of the best means in the wisdom of the ages to the end that youth might learn how to live completely. There is lack of unanimity on what different people mean when they speak of a liberal education. In the sense used herein, it is merely opposed to technical or professional or any special training. Curricular material may be selected with emphasis on one or another aspect, but true culture makes it necessary that a person should be many—sided and take large views - which he cannot be and do if his educational background is narrow. Science will not make an artist, but the artist cannot dispense with science. To the painter, parallel scratches on a rock may mean symmetry and design; to a geologist they tell the story of a glacier that slid over this rock a million years ago. If the artist blends the spirit of that event in his painting, and the geologist brings the beauty and symmetry into his lecture or treatise, both are the better for it.

Education today, in its best sense, means educating for a fluid society, in which every person is free to move in any direction his disposition takes him, so long as he does not cause too much friction in his contacts with others similarly pursuing their own lives. Education has become increasingly miscellaneous and encyclopaedic. Job specialization demands a more deliberate and specific form of vocational training for those who desire it; intelligent participation in civic and political affairs requires a broad general education; and the responsibility of social life calls for guidance such as never was attempted in past generations.

This is why technical education in Canada is skilfully blended with the academic, combining the general with the specific and the cultural with the practical. It is somewhat casually taken for granted that business men are interested only in the office training, and industrialists in the technical training of children, but this is not so among enlightened people. They recognize that good basic and wide education is an advantage to any child, and forms the foundation upon which a life of usefulness in the community is built.

Dr. Charles E. Phillips, professor of the history of education at the Ontario College of Education, and editor of "The School," said in his "Behind the Headlines" booklet entitled "New Schools for Democracy": "The growth of the high school is the most notable educational achievement of the present century." He called attention to the gain in secondary school enrolment over a 40—year period in Ontario. In that time the population increased by roughly 60 per cent, and elementary school enrolment by less than 20 per cent, but secondary school enrolment increased nearly 500 per cent. Almost everyone is agreed that high schools should not be merely university preparation institutions. Only a small proportion of young people go on to university, and it is widely questioned whether the high school curriculum is satisfactory for those who leave high school to go into employment. The ideal, according to Dr. Phillips, will be a composite school. "It will offer a programme related to the needs of today, but to broad needs of people as individuals and citizens, and not merely as workers. There will be no fanatical insistence on either a completely academic or preponderantly vocational curriculum. It will be able to produce educated persons because it will not be hampered by having to teach unwanted subject matter and being compelled to forego desirable types of guidance and instruction for lack of time."

Three other kinds of educational establishment should be mentioned: universities, private schools and special schools. The universities played an important role in training thousands of young men for war service. Most youths who wish to continue their studies will be enabled to do so under provision made by the government and the universities. In the realm of special schools, most of those for the blind and deaf are conducted by provincial governments. Special or auxiliary classes for the mentally retarded and children with physical defects are part of the local systems, hut departments of education assist the local authorities in their organization and maintenance. Most schools for the mentally defective come under jurisdiction of health or welfare departments. In addition, there are reformative and corrective institutions for juvenile delinquents. Correspondence classes and evening classes are carried on for children and adults who cannot attend school. In 1942, in 8 provinces, there were 38,000 pupils enrolled in private schools, and in Quebec 58,000. Business colleges in 8 provinces had an enrolment of 22,000 in 127 schools, while Quebec, with 61 independent schools reporting, had 5,000 pupils. Schools for Indians, administered by the Indian Affairs Branch, have 17,300 pupils. Youth training organizations operated during the war to prepare young men and women for war work, are now being adapted to peace time training.

To what extent are Canada's facilities for elementary and secondary education used? A census monograph records that in the ten years prior to 1931 there was an increase of nearly 26 per cent in those attending schools, compared with an increase of only 18 per cent in total population. The average number of years spent at school had increased by 1.93 since 1911. Of all children going to school, 94.6 per cent attended 7 to 9 months out of a possible 9 months, and only 2.2 per cent attended less than 4 months. Average attendance was about 87 per cent of possible. It is pointed out that the difference between the length of school life (average 9.89 years) and the time spent in school (average 8.55 years) is waste (1.34 years).

One question exercising Canadians interested in education is: having brought in measures compelling children to go to school, did the authorities pursue the matter so as to keep every child busy at his highest natural level of successful development? The ability of some provinces or sections to provide better salary levels and more desirable facilities for teachers than other provinces or sections determines the educational opportunities, and militates against equality of education. The remedy for inequality of opportunity in Canadian education is not simple, declared the Canada and Newfoundland Education Association committee report. The cure does not lie in a direct transfer of educational responsibility to the Dominion government. While a reluctant province may not be driven faster or farther in education than it cares to go, the Education Association committee is firmly of the opinion that, if unsatisfactory conditions are to be remedied, more money must be provided for education.

The most important source of revenue for school purposes, the tax on real estate, is no longer sufficient, in many cases, to meet the rising costs. Educators, however, are accustomed to advancing by little and by little, and, in the words of the committee, "their plans always provide for sectional advances even if the ultimate objective may not be attained in a single effort."

If education can be made interesting, then it will not end with school—days. The school programme needs to be deliberately built around the anticipated length of school life, with points properly selected where it may be said a phase of education ends, so that the pupils who must leave at those points shall do so with some sense of accomplishment. Every additional incentive, up to the time of actually leaving school, will serve to carry the pupil into further education in later life. One of the sad truths in life is that many persons learn to really live when their lives are well—nigh spent, but it has gone out of fashion to mock men who strive after knowledge even in their last years. The out—and—out realists demand to know: "What will he do with it?", but most people nowadays realize that there is deep satisfaction in knowledge for its own sake. That is why the work of the Canadian Association for Adult Education is so popular. The fallacy that people cannot learn after they pass their teens has been exposed these many years. It is true that the world has hailed the success of those who attained prestige early in life - the Alexanders, the Julius Caesars, the Mary Stuarts, the Charles James Foxes, and the William Pitts, but new attention is being paid to the achievements of men like John Knox who learned Hebrew at 50, and Goethe who started the study of oriental literature at 66, and Sydney Smith, who learned French at 80, and Solon, who declared that the secret of his strength and continuing youth was "learning something every day."

Increasingly, there grows a sentiment in favour of giving children more than the contents of text—books; of making them active thinkers, not passive recipients; of developing their creative powers. At the same time, the teacher needs to guard against propagation of any particular political philosophy.

Education is intended not only for making a livelihood, but for the sake of society and for the maintenance of democracy. If this ideal is to be carried into action, democracy must be presented in the schools in a dynamic way so as to win the intelligent support of the pupils. In addition, democracy must be given practical application in education. It is not democratic to offer identical curricula for all children. Curricula must be reasonably attractive, and the reasons for including some subjects and excluding others should be made clear to both parents and children. To do this, it will be necessary to explain to the scholars, and to place the facts before such interested bodies as the Home and School Associations. After explanations of the whys and wherefores have been made, then transfer of pupils from one subject to another should be made as simple as possible, with credits carried over.

One subject of paramount importance, not stressed as many think it should be, is that of health. The matter of education in health and nutrition will be dealt with in a Letter devoted specially to the subject of Canada's health facilities, but in the meantime it is interesting to note a few current statements. The Health League of Canada, during the recent Health Week, pointed to the case of a city having 100,000 children with a high relative record of school attendance, where absences amount to 1,000,000 school days a year. Most of this absenteeism is due to illness, much of it preventable. In the United Kingdom, a committee of the Royal College of Physicians drew attention last month to the serious amount of sickness among university students, and the "almost complete indifference by many university authorities to any measure of preventive medicine." Teacher training schools have established lectures and demonstration classes conducted by public health nurses and doctors, to provide student teachers with standards by which to recognize signs of physical deficiency in their pupils, and to demonstrate methods by which health education becomes the daily living experience of the child. There is another factor in regard to health: far too many schools are deficient in heating, lighting and ventilation, and too many rural schools lack sanitary conveniences.

Few of Canada's schools have adequate libraries, or access to public libraries, and not enough people have been led into good reading. The Canadian Reconstruction and Re—establishment Committee was told that $1.25 a year per capita would provide complete library facilities for every person in Canada, even in the smallest rural communities.

Education is no longer in the region of the "three r's." Another trinity has taken over - the hand, the eye, and the voice. Pupils are being led to observe, and from general impressions to sift particular ideas. Art galleries and museums are taken advantage of wherever they are within reach. Lantern slides and the cinema are used by many teachers. A film taking only ten minutes might lead into discussion of the subject that will bring out more in the way of background and basic information than could be assimilated in an hour's lecture, and the movie—engendered discussion will be remembered. As to radio, the educational services of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation are growing steadily. Two eastern and two western schools are taking part in the "Citizens—to—be" broadcasts which started last month. The Shakespeare series drew most favourable comment, and other programmes suitable for class room use are planned.

Whatever is done about methods and curricula, the success of education depends primarily upon the teacher. Canadian teachers exhibit remarkable high ability and are accorded commensurate prestige. They are progressive in organizing and advising, and they have the knack of teaching in a straightforward, interesting way. Sound scholarship and high professional skill are required in teachers, and as a matter of course they need healthy bodies, level nerves, boundless patience, cheerfulness, and great capacity for leadership. Some communities force the teacher to be a model of all the negative virtues, while others leave teachers free to lead their own lives.

If the idea of advancing education appeals to the people, then they must be prepared to pay teachers salaries which compare favourably with industry. "If," says the Education Association survey committee, the Canadian people want the best minds and the finest spirits to train their children, they must pay them better than they pay unskilled and partly skilled labour." An analysis of teachers' salaries in the Dominion shows that 74.9 per cent received less than $1,223 per year; 49.9 per cent less than $782 per year, and 24.9 per cent less than $537 per year. One province has 50 per cent of its teachers receiving less than $422 a year; in five provinces they receive less than $750 a year; in three provinces the median is higher than $1,000 a year. An 8—hour—a—day workman at 50c an hour would earn more than $1,000 a year. Speaking in Montreal last month, Mr. A. M. Patience, president of the Federation of Home and School Associations, said that when parents realize the role which teachers play in the development of children, physically, emotionally and socially, as well as in intellectual development, they will be willing to provide salaries which will ensure an adequate supply of high—grade teachers for their children.

It would be futile to provide the tools of civilization and culture but give no guidance for their use. The people look directly to the departments and boards of education, school trustees, superintendents and inspectors for practical direction in the wide field of education, and to teachers for guidance of individual pupils. Parents have difficulty in giving advice as to the course their children should follow, because the world has become a complicated place, in which isolated individuals cannot hope to know all that they would require to know in order to give sound counsel. This essential guidance falls upon the school. It is believed by many that every large school, and every community where schools are smaller, should have a counsellor who would help students to formulate their plans for education and vocation.

John Dewey wrote: "What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all of its children." It seems to be the consensus that only by having a well educated citizenry can the grave problems of war and peace be solved, and the common welfare of the community advanced. To fulfil this service, education cannot be made up of cycles of enthusiasm punctuated with periods of inaction. It cannot consist in opening a child's mind, as one does an oyster, by force. It cannot be a mountain of snobbery, because it will bring forth a very small education mouse.

But no race of mankind ever stepped directly from age to age. Bronze age crafts had to work their way through the minds of stone age people, and in turn had to give way to ideas of the iron age. Education, similarly, will press forward a little at a time, meeting the obligations of the moment, but spreading its antennae to sense what is coming, and making its plans for a steady advance. An ancient, asked what branch of knowledge was most necessary, replied, "To unlearn the wrong." That is the first thing to realize: the second is that education works at compound interest, every little bit added and stored away continuing to earn year after year.

 

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