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Oct 18 1902


The Montreal Herald, Saturday, October 18, 1902

The Teacher and the Farmer

Once more the question of the salaries paid to teachers in this province has come up for discussion, in connection with the annual Teachers' Convention, and we, the people of a country which prides itself upon its enlightenment and often speaks with scorn of the "Benighted States" have again to face the humiliating fact that the Province of Quebec pays its teachers less on the average than any state in the Union. If it was discovered that any company paid a certain class of its employees, no matter how little intelligence their work might require, the starvation wage of $240 per annum, there would be a tremendous outburst of indignation about "soulless corporations," and yet this is actually the average salary paid to the Protestant teachers of Quebec, while in many cases the sum is no more than $100 and $80 is even reached as a minimum. Yet the story is such an old one that we hear it repeated without as much as turning a hair. Even in Montreal, which counts itself the centre of light and intelligence for the Dominion, the amount paid for education last year was only $347,000 according to Dr. Shaw's figures, while Toronto, which is only three quarters the size, paid $675,421, or very nearly twice as much as Montreal. Truly, as the same reverend remarked, the wonder is not that our schools in many places are so inferior but that so much is being done with such limited means. That, however, is hardly an attitude, which is likely to do much toward bettering present conditions. Yet what is to be done about it? In Montreal it must be several years before the wreckage of that long regime of municipal corruption, which we hope has passed forever, can be cleared away, and a point reached where we can talk about appropriating a longer proportion of the civic revenue for educational purposes. But in the rural districts where the condition of things is at its worst, much might even now be done by determined and judicious agitation on the part of the friends of education in behalf of increased liberally and improved methods. The difficulty in securing money for education in farming communities lies not so much in actual penuriousness on the part of the average farmer, as in his failure to realize or estimate the cost of living. A farmer, for instance, calculates that he and his family of three or four can get along very nicely with a cash expenditure of say $500 a year on their personal wants. He therefore, reasons it out that a single ought to be able to live on $100 or $200, failing to give anything like due proportion to the fact that he grows almost everything he eats, and works in clothes which he would not for a moment expect a school teacher to wear.

This difficulty, however, ought not to be insurmountable. It can be best met by bringing the school into closer touch with the rest of the community, and by the advocacy and introduction of new lines of study which will appeal to the practical mind of the hard-headed taxpayer.

In connection with the latter point, it is worth noting there is no class of self-supporting educational institutions at the present, which are thriving so well and paying their promoters such handsome dividends as the successful business colleges. The reason is obviously because the pupils and the parents of the pupils in these schools believe that in them they are equipped to get better value for their labor.

Now I can see no reason why, if properly presented, the advantages of agricultural instruction and manual training should not be made to appeal to the farmer on the same basis, and the teaching of those subjects made a lever on which to raise the standard of the whole public school system throughout the country. It is all very well for educationalist to insist primarily upon the culture value of these subjects, and this no doubt is very great. But the phase of the question that should be emphasized to influence the hard-headed tax-paying farmer, is the practical side, that this kind of education is going to make farming more profitable for the graduate in it.

Sir William MacDonald is making it possible to show what can be accomplished in these directions, and it remains with the true friends of education to see that the results and advantages of the experiments made are brought to the attention of and appreciated by the general public.

The teachers themselves must of course take the lead and bear the brunt of this work of educating the public. They must be both judicious and enthusiastic in their advocacy of the new lines of progress. I know that one cannot expect to find masters of diplomacy working for $250 a year and there is much in that sum to inspire enthusiasm. But I do believe that there are better things in store in the very near future for those teachers who will put their shoulders to the wheel with zeal and energy. And an enthusiastic mind is more effective then a disgruntled one.

The press has a duty, too, in this matter, to which it has as yet failed to rise. There must be some pressure brought to bear, more steady and effective than an occasional ranting spasm of indigestion over the disgraceful salaries paid to teachers. It is time that the editors of this country awakened to the fact that there are other issues of vital importance to the country besides the adjustment of the tariff.

The Fascination of Canadian History

Another most important feature of the convention was the emphasis which was laid upon the study of Canadian history not only for its practical value to us in shaping our present political and national course, but for the stimulus and pleasure which it must bring to any Canadian with the faintest strain of patriotism in his blood, to read of the magnificent and victorious struggle of our forefathers had with rugged nature and an austere climate and with the cruelest and most warlike of savage foes.

There has been a tendency in the past for Canadian to excuse their ignorance of their own history on the ground that it is not presented to them in readable form.

How far the literary deficiencies of school text books are responsible for this impression, I am not prepared to say, although personally I am of the opinion that there is far too great a tendency in the schools to cut and dry history for the children, and make it a mass of dry bones, instead of presenting it in the fullness of living flesh, and guiding the pupils to pick out the essential points for themselves.

But so far as the general reader is concerned, such a plea is absolutely groundless. Not only have we the fascinating works of Francis Parkman, but almost every month adds to the number of popularly written, instructive and attractive single volume, one interesting phase of our country's history. Within just the past few months three such books have, to my knowledge, been published by a single Canadian firm, George N. Morank & Company, Limited.

One of these was Beckles Wilson's "Life of Lord Strathcona," of which mention was made in three columns some weeks ago. Another is "The Fight With France For North America." by A.G. Bradley, of which a second edition has just appeared. This is a book, which really deserves to be called notable, since it is at once informing and vivid. Practically the whole story of English success over France, on this continent down to the final conquest of Canada is told in one concise volume. Clearly written, not too long, and arranged in due perspective, the story has all the stir and tension of romance. Mr. Bradley has caught in full measure the romance and splendor of these wars of mountain, lake and woodland, and interest and pleasure in large degree will be derived from its perusal.

Pioneer Women of Canada

The third volume to which I refer, "Maids and Matrons of New France," by Mary Sifton Pepper, was published earlier in the year in a somewhat dull season and did not receive anything like the attention it merits. The nineteen pioneer women who disembarked on the shores of Massachusetts in 1620 have been celebrated ever since in romance and poetry. Twelve years earlier a banner bearing the lilies of France, was planted on the headlands of Quebec. The colony thus inaugurated was increased from time to time by the emigration of small groups of women from the mother country. These heroic souls, the pioneer women of Canada, played an important a part in its growth, and are as worthy of eternal remembrance as their Anglo-Saxon sisters of New England. Yet, with few exceptions, they have waited in vain for a poet to tell in immortal verse their heroic deeds, or an historian to perpetuate their fame.

The history of most of these women of the Canadian wilderness will never be known for it is buried under the soil moistened by their sweat and tears. One of the intrepid sisterhood, Jeanne Mance, the founder of the Hotel Dieu in this city, has been commemorated by a place in the Maisonneuve monument in the Place d'Armes St. Helen's Island recalls by its name the brief sojourn of the beautiful child bride of the noble Champlain on these shores; the annals of a few others have been written by graphic historians.

But even these are little more than names to most of us. It has remained for Miss Pepper to give us some idea of the strenuousness, the romance, the tragedy, and the pathos of their heroic lives, and she has done it in a work that is as rarely interesting and as full of delicate flights of fancy as any novel.

When we have read it, we come to the conclusion that a comparison between these two companies of pioneer women, the Canadian gentlewomen and the Pilgrim mothers would result in no discredit to the former. Although the Frenchwomen, were dominated by strange superstitions and frequently inspired by supernatural visions, they never became slaves to witchcraft, as did their New England contemporaries. When one reads of their achievements, he is caused to wonder why the term "new woman" is so often applied to those members of the gentler sex whose ambition lead them to seek a field of influence and action outside of their own homes. It is nearly three centuries ago that Judith de Breso's renounced the luxury of wealth and aristocratic home and devoted seven years to the study of chemistry and medicine that she might become a physician and nurse to the savages of the New World; that Marguerite de Roberval, descendant of a long line of cavaliers and noble dames, wandered alone through the haunted wastes of Demon's Isle, and kept at bay the wild beasts of the wilderness with her old French harquebus; that Marie Guyard, with her few brave assistants, delicately nurtured and high born women of France, made of themselves, in turn, mechanics, architects and farmers in their adopted land; that those dainty nurses, the hospitalieres of Quebec, dyed their cherished white gowns a dull brown that they might follow their profession more efficiently amid the smoke and uncleanliness of squalid wigwams.

These three books are only recent examples of the great flood of romantic histories which already threaten the regime the historical romances and bid fair to drive it from the field of public favor. The others will be published by the same firm before the year is out, one being a reprint of Alexander MacKenzie's own thrilling account of his stirring adventure in crossing the North American continent to the Pacific, and the other, Sir Gilbert Parker's 'Quebec: The Place and the People,' both of which should be most fascinating reading.


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