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The Grand Regulator

The Grand Regulator: The Miseducation of Nova Scotia's Teachers, 1838-1997

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    The Grand Regulator
    Book Description:

    Schools of education with utilitarian goals and strict standardization - often called "Normal Schools" - have been widely criticized by both the academy and the general public. In a story that resonates across Canada, The Grand Regulator examines an educational system that failed to inspire great teachers and produce imaginative, thinking citizens. Drawing on an array of archival materials, government publications, and firsthand accounts with former Normal School students, George Perry provides a rich reconstruction of the intellectual, social, economic, and political foundations of teacher education in Nova Scotia, and the methodological preoccupations that have hampered its subsequent development. He shows how a supposed science of education based on child psychology, in concert with the province's regulation of public schooling, justified low expectations for the education of most children and how standardized training programs deemphasized teachers' general liberal education and intellectual curiosity. The most complete study of Canadian teacher education to date, The Grand Regulator presents an analysis of perennial issues regarding the improvement of education that continue to concern us, and illuminates ways of raising the level of instruction in our present-day schools.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8892-9
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Tables and Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xi-2)
  6. INTRODUCTION: Teacher Training: “So Little for the Mind”?
    (pp. 3-22)

    More than a half century ago, the historian Hilda Neatby’s So Little for the Mind blamed the education system for the academic deficiencies she saw in Canada’s university students. Students were unable to read, write, and think, her book argues, because “expert educators” had sacrificed intellectual rigour in an attempt to make schools an easy and pleasant experience. It was an “age without standards,” in which students’ familiarity with the landmarks of Western civilization could no longer be assumed. The “mental discipline” needed to master a body of facts was no longer demanded because too many failures would result. What...


    • 1 “The Grand Regulator”: The Normal School Idea in Nova Scotia
      (pp. 25-47)

      European and North American governments begin to take responsibility for the training and certification of teachers in the middle of the nineteenth century. Their motivation is fundamental for our purposes here. It turns our attention at the outset to the role played by the state in the training of teachers, the main theme running through this book. Specifically, why did the lawmakers of Nova Scotia, a British colony that would soon be part of a Canadian federation, create a provincial teacher-training institution in 1854? It is taken for granted today that teachers need to be trained and that the government...

    • 2 “A Humiliating Defeat” and a Pyrrhic Victory: The Normal School Bill of 1854
      (pp. 48-63)

      The establishment of a provincial training school in 1854 was attended as much by bitterness as it was by happiness. The colony’s first full debate over the desirability of educational centralization was indicative of the lack of consensus that delayed the emergence of a strong provincial system of education. A small band of normal school supporters led by Joseph Howe and George Young had succeeded in creating a normal school but had failed to achieve greater provincial regulatory authority. Confessional and local autonomy were not weakened by the Normal School Bill. Also, scepticism continued to greet the idea that teachers...

    • 3 “Several Pounds In Arrears”: Training Begins at the Provincial Normal School
      (pp. 64-87)

      In 1863, halfway through his tenure as principal, Alexander Forrester complained that the Provincial Normal School was “still sadly impeded and crippled in its operation.”³ His institution’s strategic role in producing trained teachers, the “living agents” on whom the success of a new provincial system of education depended, had been ignored by politicians. Meagre financial and regulatory support had made his promise of greater “professionalism” through training empty. Even the survival of the provincial institution in Truro was now uncertain. The superiority of normal-trained teachers was still neither so obvious nor so highly valued as to make legislators see beyond...

    • 4 “The Scylla and Charybdis of Politics and Denominationalism”: The Normal School and Its Critics
      (pp. 88-106)

      Political controversy set back the Provincial Normal School’s development severely in its first fifteen years. As the title of this chapter suggests, institutional survival required Alexander Forrester, in his dual role as principal and superintendent, to navigate through the swirling political and religious controversies of the day. His ambitious plans and pedagogical innovations were attacked and faced long delays. The Normal School survived, but the cost to Forrester and his institution was high. The Presbyterian Forrester was often the target of these attacks, but the status and nature of a normal school itself within a provincial system of education brought...


    • 5 “A Democracy of Education”: Schooling and Teachers for the Children of the “Labouring Masses”
      (pp. 109-130)

      The search for the right course of study for the children of workers, for families whose children were thought to be unlikely candidates for professional occupations, began in earnest once the inevitability of universal schooling was recognized. The chapters comprising the second part of The Grand Regulator describe the modified educational goals provincial authorities attempted to introduce. They make the minor importance attached to a teacher’s general education more understandable, if still an odd notion in the last half of the nineteenth century. The value of higher education for elementary teachers would be viewed sceptically for decades to come. Even...

    • 6 The Normal School’s “Duality of Function”: Pedagogy and Teachers’ General Education
      (pp. 131-155)

      A.S. Hunt, the province’s superintendent of education between 1870 and 1876, wrote in 1873 that the day was not far off when all candidates for teaching licences would be required to attend the Provincial Normal School.³ James B. Calkin, who had succeeded Alexander Forrester as principal, still had little reason to believe that the provincial government was about to move quickly. After twenty years of political neglect the government had given no indication that training for the province’s teachers would be required any time in the near or distant future. Even funds for repairs were hard to get in the...

    • 7 “The Chloroforming Effect” of Popular Education: Training for Rural Teachers
      (pp. 156-182)

      Colin McKay (1876–1939), the Nova Scotia-born labour activist and a critic of public schooling, was ambivalent about the way public education was changing in early twentieth-century Canada. This is evident in his writing. That schooling was now widely available for the children of working people, McKay applauded. He was also encouraged that “the new industrial conditions” were stimulating an interest in some form of “technical instruction,” believing that it was advantageous for workers to receive a technical education based on scientific knowledge. McKay may have thought, it has been suggested,³ that knowledge of science and technology would raise the...


    • 8 “A Concession to Circumstances”: An “Unlimited Supply” of Women Teachers
      (pp. 185-213)

      Many thousands of single rural women were hired as teachers in Nova Scotia between 1870 and 1960. Their qualifications and salaries were among the lowest in Canada. Gendered attitudes about women’s role as teachers made it easier to rationalize a series of “concessions” between the 1860s and 1950s that took the form of lower licence requirements. These “concessions” applied principally to women teaching in rural and village schools. This chapter shows how the availability and willingness (and necessity) of young single women to teach, if only for a year or two, sustained and even made possible the survival of the...

    • 9 “You Took What You Could Get”: Why Women (and Men) Taught
      (pp. 214-240)

      On a Saturday in February 1910, Edith Amirault began her journey to the Provincial Normal College in Truro, a distance of two hundred miles. Her father, a fisherman, yoked up his team of oxen and took Amirault and her trunk by wagon to the wharf in the Acadian community of Lower West Pubnico at the western tip of Nova Scotia. Her brothers – she was the youngest of six children – rowed Amirault and her trunk by dory across the harbour to Lower East Pubnico where she was to get the train. Amirault was soon headed to Yarmouth, where she would catch...

    • 10 “The Household Life of the Normal School”: The “Normalization” of Teaching
      (pp. 241-274)

      On 17 May 1997, close to one thousand alumni of the old Normal and its successor, the Nova Scotia Teachers College, gathered in Truro for the college’s 134th closing exercises. It was an occasion marked more by sadness than joy because the alumni were witnessing the final graduation of teachers from Canada’s last single-purpose, government-run teacher-training institution.³ If the voices of the college’s former students who were interviewed for this book are to be believed, the final closing was a mistake, costing the province its pre-eminent teacher-education centre. University programs, in which all teacher education was now to be centred,...

  10. PART FOUR CONCLUSION:: 1961–97

    • 11 Haunted by Its Origins: Provincial Teacher Training after 142 Years
      (pp. 277-300)

      The idea that teachers needed training was not obvious to Nova Scotians in the middle of the nineteenth century when the province opened its first and only normal school. Despite decades of political neglect, normal school promoters succeeded in their mission to make teacher training, as Principal Forrester had put it, “the natural channel” for qualifying for the teaching profession.³ Through the century that followed, they overcame sectarian squabbles, managed on under-funded programs and facilities, and generally endured their institution’s dependent status under government regulation. A system of education, Forrester’s “grand regulator” of teachers and pupils, oversaw all aspects of...

  11. APPENDIX: The Regulation and Training of Teachers: A Chronology
    (pp. 301-308)
  12. A Note on Sources
    (pp. 309-310)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 311-358)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 359-374)
  15. Index
    (pp. 375-384)