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- Life in Canada Fifty Years Ago - 18/31 -


private and public of peace and war."

There seems to be a growing disposition in the public mind to do away with the first important educational landmark established in the Province. Why this should be, or why its influence for good should at any time have been so much crippled as even to give occasion to call its usefulness in question seems strange. One would think that its intimate connection with our early history; the good work accomplished by it, and the number of men who have passed out of it to fill the highest public positions in the gift of the Province, would save it from violent hands, and furnish ample reasons for devising means to resuscitate it, if it needs resuscitation, and to place it in a position to hold its own with the various institutions that have come into existence since its doors were first thrown open to the young aspirants for a higher education half a century ago.

The opening of Upper Canada College in 1830 gave an impetus to education which soon began to be felt throughout the Province. It was impossible, in the nature of things, that with increasing population and wealth there should be no advance in our educational status. If the forty-six years that had passed had been almost exclusively devoted to clearing away the bush and tilling the land, a time had now arrived when matters of higher import to future success and enjoyment pressed themselves upon the attention of the people. The farm could not produce all the requirements of life, nor furnish congenial employment to many active minds. The surplus products of the field and forest, in order to become available as a purchasing power, had to be converted into money, and this set in motion the various appliances of commerce. Vessels were needed to carry their produce to market, and merchants to purchase it, who, in turn, supplied the multifarious wants of the household. Then came the mechanic and the professional man, and with the latter education was a necessity. It was not to be expected that the tastes of the rising generation would always run in the same groove with the preceding, and as wealth and population increased, so did the openings for advancement in other pursuits; and scores of active young men throughout the Province were only too anxious to seize upon every opportunity that offered to push their way up in life. Hence it happened that when Upper Canada College first threw open its doors, more than a hundred young men enrolled their names. In a comparatively short time the need for greater facilities urged the establishment of other educational institutions, and this led to still greater effort to meet the want. Again, as the question pressed itself more and more upon the public mind, laws were enacted and grants made to further in every way so desirable an object. Hence, what was a crude and inadequate school organization prior to 1830, at that time and afterwards began to assume a more concrete shape, and continued to improve until it has grown into a system of which the country may well be proud.

The contrast we are enabled to present is wonderful in every respect. Since the parent college opened its doors to the anxious youths of the Province, five universities and the same number of colleges have come into existence. The faculties of these several institutions are presided over by men of learning and ability. They are amply furnished with libraries, apparatus and all the modern requirements of first-class educational institutions. Their united rolls show an attendance of about 1,500 students last year. There are 10 Collegiate Institutes and 94 High Schools, with an attendance of 12,136 pupils; 5,147 Public Schools, with 494,424 enrolled scholars; and the total receipts for school purposes amounted to $3,226,730. Besides these, there are three Ladies' Colleges, and several other important educational establishments devoted entirely to the education of females, together with private and select schools in almost every city and town in the Province, many of which stand very high in public estimation. There are two Normal Schools for the training of teachers. The one in Toronto has been in existence for 29 years, and is so well known that it is unnecessary for me to attempt any description of it. The total number of admissions since its foundation have been 8,269. The Ottawa school, which has been in operation about two years, has admitted 433. Three other important educational institutions have been established by the Government in different parts of the Province. The Deaf and Dumb Institute at Belleville is pleasantly situated on the shore of the Bay of Quinte, a little west of the city. The number in attendance is 269, and the cost of maintenance for the past year $38,589. The Institute for the Blind at Brantford numbers 200 inmates, and the annual expenditure is about $30,000. These institutions, erected at a very large outlay, are admirably equipped, and under the best management, and prove a great boon to the unfortunate classes for whom they were established. The Agricultural College at Guelph, for the training of young men in scientific and practical husbandry, though in its infancy, is a step in the right direction, and must exercise a beneficial influence upon the agricultural interests of the country. Of medical corporations and schools, there are the Council of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario; the Faculty of the Toronto School of Medicine; Trinity Medical School; Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons; Canada Medical Association; Ontario College of Pharmacy; Royal College of Dental Surgeons; and Ontario Veterinary College. There is also a School of Practical Science, now in its fourth year. This, though not a complete list of the educational institutions and schools of the Province, will nevertheless give a pretty correct idea of the progress made during the fifty years that are gone.

The accommodation furnished by the school sections throughout the country has kept pace with the progress of the times. As a rule the school-houses are commodious, and are built with an eye to the health and comfort of the pupils. The old pine benches and desks have disappeared before the march of improvement--my recollection of them is anything but agreeable--and the school-rooms are furnished with comfortable seats and desks combined. The children are no longer crowded together in small, unventilated rooms. Blackboards, maps and apparatus are furnished to all schools. Trained teachers only are employed, and a uniform course of study is pursued, so that each Public School is a stepping-stone to the High School, and upward to the College or University. Great attention has been paid by the Education Department to the selection of a uniform series of text books throughout the course, adapted to the age and intelligence of the scholars; and if any fault can be found with it, I think it should be in the number. The variety required in a full course--even of English study--is a serious matter. The authorities, however, have laboured earnestly to remove every difficulty that lies in the student's path, and to make the way attractive and easy. That they have succeeded to a very great extent is evident from the highly satisfactory report recently presented by the Minister of Education. With the increasing desire for a better education there seems to be a growing tendency on the part of young men to avail themselves of such aids as shall push them towards the object in view with the smallest amount of work; and instead of applying themselves with energy and determination to overcome the difficulties that face them in various branches of study, they resort to the keys that may be had in any bookstore. It is needless to repeat what experience has proved, in thousands of instances, that the young man who goes through his mathematical course by the aid of these, or through his classical studies by the use of translations, will never make a scholar. Permanent success in any department of life depends on earnest work, and the more arduous the toil to secure an object, so much the more is it prized when won. Furthermore, it is certain to prove more lasting and beneficial.

The same causes that hindered the progress of education also retarded the advance of religion. The first years of a settler's life are years of unremitting toil; a struggle, in fact, for existence. Yet, though settlers had now in a measure overcome their greater difficulties, the one absorbing thought that had ground its way into the very marrow of their life still pressed its claims upon their attention. The paramount question with them had been how to get on in the world. They were cut off, too, from all the amenities of society, and were scattered over a new country, which, prior to their coming, had been the home of the Indian--where all the requirements of civilization had to be planted and cultivated anew. They had but barely reached a point when really much attention could be devoted to anything but the very practical aim of gaining their daily bread. It will readily be admitted that there is no condition in life that can afford to put away religious instruction, and there is no doubt that the people at first missed these privileges, and often thought of the time when they visited God's House with regularity. But the toil and moil of years had worn away these recollections, and weakened the desire for sacred things. There can be no doubt that prior to, and even up to 1830, the religious sentiment of the greater portion of the people was anything but strong. The Methodists were among the first, if not actually the first, to enter the field and call them back to the allegiance they owed to the God who had blessed and protected them. [Footnote: Dr. Stuart, of Kingston, Church of England, was the first minister in Upper Canada, Mr. Langworth, of the same denomination, in Bath; and Mr. Scamerhorn, Lutheran minister at Williamsburgh, next.] Colonels Neal and McCarty began to preach in 1788, but the latter was hunted out of the country. [Footnote: Playter.] Three years later, itinerant preachers began their work and gathered hearers, and made converts in every settlement. But these men, the most of whom came from the United States, were looked upon with suspicion [Footnote: I have in my possession an old manuscript book, written by my grandfather in 1796, in which this point is brought out. Being a Quaker, he naturally did not approve of the way those early preachers conducted services. Yet he would not be likely to exaggerate what came under his notice. This is what he says of one he heard: "I thought he exerted every nerve by the various positions in which he placed himself to cry, stamp and smite, often turning from exhortation to prayer. Entreating the Almighty to thunder, or rather to enable him to do it. Also, to smite with the sword, and to use many destroying weapons, at which my mind was led from the more proper business of worship or devotion to observe, what appeared to me inconsistent with that quietude that becometh a messenger sent from the meek Jesus to declare the glad tidings of the gospel. If I compared the season to a shower, as has heretofore been done, it had only the appearance of a tempest of thunder, wind and hail, destitute of the sweet refreshing drops of a gospel-shower."] by many who did not fall in with their religious views; and it is not surprising that some even went so far as to petition the Legislature to pass an Act which should prevent their coming into the country to preach. It was said, and truly, when the matter about this was placed before the Government, that the connection existing between the Methodist Episcopal Church of the United States and Canada was altogether a spiritual and not a political connection; that the Methodists of Canada were as loyal to the British Crown as any of its subjects, and had proved it again and again in the time of trouble. Yet, looking back and remembering the circumstances under which the people came, it does not seem so very strange to us that they should have looked very doubtfully upon evangelists from a land which not only stripped them and drove them away, but a little later invaded their country. Neither do we wonder that some of them were roughly treated, nor that unpleasant epithets were thrown out against their followers. This was the outcome, not only of prejudice, but the recollection of injuries received. There were a good many angularities about Christian character in those days, and they frequently stood out very sharply. They were not friends or enemies by halves. Their prejudices were deeply seated, and if assailed were likely to be resisted, and if pressed too closely in a controversy, were more disposed to use the _argumentum baculinum_, as being more effectual than the _argumentum ad judicicium_. But time gradually wore away many of those asperities, and now few will deny that the position our Province holds to-day is to a considerable extent owing to this large and influential body of Christians. They built the first house devoted to public worship in the Province; through their zeal and energy, the people were stirred up to a sense of their religious obligation; their activity infused life and action into other denominations. The people generally throughout the country had the bread of life broken to them with regularity, so that in the year of Grace 1830 a new order of things was inaugurated. But with all this, a vastly different state of affairs


Life in Canada Fifty Years Ago - 18/31

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