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Border Crossings

Border Crossings: US Culture and Education in Saskatchewan, 1905-1937

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Border Crossings
    Book Description:

    At the dawn of the last century a shift in direction emerged among education policy-makers in Saskatchewan. Prior to 1905, the territories that would become Saskatchewan and Alberta maintained a school system largely modelled after Ontario's British-inspired system. Between 1905 and 1937 however, the shared geography and culture of the continental plains that span the border between the United States and Canada became the primary influence on education in the Canadian prairies. In Border Crossings, Kerry Alcorn examines Saskatchewan's embrace of the culture of farmer revolt and populist and progressive democratic thought that originated south of the border. He argues that as a consequence Saskatchewan education developed in resistance to eastern Canadian forms, with education policy makers - some brought in from the United States - consciously looking to their southern neighbours for direction in developing educational models. Alcorn's detailed portrait of University of Saskatchewan president Walter C. Murray and his "Wisconsin Idea," further highlight the influence of the north-south axis. A challenge to standard histories of Canadian education, Border Crossings encapsulates the development of the meaning, practice, and language of Saskatchewan education in the early twentieth century.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-9003-8
    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)

    • 1 Introduction: The Continental West
      (pp. 3-15)

      HEADING WEST, TRAVERSING THE AMERICAN MIDWEST AND GREAT Plains by car from Kentucky to Saskatchewan, I finally come to a place where I begin to feel at home, although I am still eighteen hours’ drive from my residence in Saskatoon. This place is where Interstate 80, which runs east and west across Iowa, gives way to Interstate 680 and meets Interstate 29 heading north, some 60 miles north of Omaha, Nebraska. Here the lightly rolling terrain, the world’s largest truck stop, and factory outlets nestling among seemingly endless rows of corn recede into the rear-view mirror, and I find before...

    • 2 The Continental Plains in Historical Perspective
      (pp. 16-24)

      THE COMFORT I ALWAYS FELT, WHILE DRIVING FROM LEXINGTON, Kentucky, to Saskatoon, when I left the east-to-west flow of traffic along Interstate 80 in Iowa to head north to Saskatchewan on Interstate 29, and my discomfort as I left the southward flow of Interstate 29 to head back east on Interstate 80 towards Kentucky, were more than simply emotional responses to traffic on American Interstates. They also involved more than a symbolic demarcation. Walter Prescott Webb identifies the Great Plains as the treelees region that begins in the east roughly between the ninety-fourth and ninety-eighth meridians. The gateway to the...

    • 3 US Culture in Saskatchewan
      (pp. 25-62)

      TYPICAL STUDIES OF CANADIANCUL TURE AND HISTORY EXAMINE the nation’s development from east to west or as a series of movements running parallel to but seldom crossing the US border. What I propose in this chapter is to look at Saskatchewan between 1905 and 1937 in an entirely different way. If we view prairie society and culture along a south–north path from the American Midwest and Plains into Saskatchewan, the picture that emerges is quite distinctive. Indeed, a handful of writers, both American and Canadian, assumed such a perspective in the first half of the twentieth century. They found...


    • 4 US Contributions to K–12 Education Policy
      (pp. 65-91)

      THE HISTORY OF EDUCATION POLICY IN SASKATCHEWAN FOR kindergarten through grade 12 from 1905 until the beginning of the Depression in 1930 is predominantly one of rural schooling. The paramount challenge was to educate a burgeoning population more heterogeneous than any other province, in a pioneering landscape that was harsh, remote, and unforgiving. Into this frontier territory settled hundreds of thousands of immigrants, most of whose mother tongue was neither English nor French. In Saskatchewan, they sought the freedom and promise of a continental frontier that the federal government identified as the “last best west.” Saskatchewan’s policy makers looked in...

    • 5 The “Populist Moment” in K–12 Education
      (pp. 92-116)

      FEW EVENTS, IF ANY, AROUSE MORE COMMENT AMONG HISTORIANS of Saskatchewan education, or from writers of that era, than the arrival of the American expert on rural education Harold Waldstein Foght (Figure 5.1). In 1917, Inspector McKechnie of Regina spoke for policy makers: “The survey made by Dr. H.W. Foght, meant an outside expert viewing our system and our problems first hand. We await with interest his report. It doubtless will sum up the best thought of those who are working each day in the welfare of the province. It should also present educational conditions from new or different angles,...

    • 6 The University of Saskatchewan and Its “Culture of Emulation”
      (pp. 117-141)

      CREATED IN 1907 BY AN ACT OF THE PROVINCE OF SASKATCHEWAN, the University of Saskatchewan became the sole university for a new province that encompassed more territory than North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska combined. It was formed “for the purpose of providing facilities for higher education in all its branches and enabling all persons without regard to race, creed or religion to take the fullest advantage.”¹ The institution’s first president, Walter C. Murray, decreed it to be a people’s university and a servant that would touch the life of the entire province. Although such grand, populist statements might fall...

    • 7 Parallel Meanings: Democracy and Education
      (pp. 142-161)

      WITHIN A CONTINENTAL PERSPECTIVE OF THE NORTH AMERICAN Great Plains, many policy makers, be they federal politicians in Ottawa, provincial cabinet ministers in Regina, university presidents in Saskatoon, or school inspectors in rural Saskatchewan, appropriated, purposefully, the symbols of the US west to make the Canadian west an extension of the American west, largely to entice migration and also to further development. The national government and its ministers of the interior – especially Laurier’s, Clifford Sifton and Frank Oliver – borrowed or re-created these symbols, images, and meanings and assigned them to what would become the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan (see...

    • 8 Putting It Together
      (pp. 162-170)

      IN SPRING 1930, THE CHAIR OF THE SCHOOL MANAGEMENT Committee for the Saskatoon School District, Dr Swanson, made the following motion: “That it be laid down as a policy of this Board that the Superintendent at least once in two years and annually if possible, be instructed to proceed to those centres where progressive educational policies are in operation, with a view to seeking information that will be helpful in developing the educational programme of this Board in all its phases … That the Superintendent be asked to begin with Easter Week 1930 to proceed to certain centres of progressive...

  6. Notes
    (pp. 171-198)
  7. References
    (pp. 199-210)
  8. Index
    (pp. 211-218)