TEACHER EDUCATION AT McGILL

David C. Munroe

Abstract


The eighteen fifties were years of progress in Canadian education. Concrete steps were taken in each of the colonies to establish public systems for providing educational services which would supplement those already being provided by private and religious bodies. In Nova Scotia, Joseph Howe persuaded William Dawson to become the first superintendent of education in 1850 ; two years later, Prince Edward Island became the first colony to provide free schooling for all its children; Canada West had already begun to build its public system under the dynamic leadership of Egerton Ryerson; Jean Baptiste Meilleur, after a decade in office as superintendent in Canada East, was challenged because the reform had proceeded too slowly and was replaced by P.J.O. Chauveau in 1855 ; and in 1858 New Brunswick set up a system of public schools and appointed its first superintendent. Education, which had long been negleeted, was now on the move.

Moreover, there was some interchange of ideas between the leaders of this movement. Dawson, after four years in office in his native province, moved to the principalship of McGill, where he became closely associated with Chauveau. Ryerson, who had made an extensive tour of European countries in the mid-forties, was appointed to serve with Dawson on a commission on higher education in New Brunswick. Since the two provinces of Canada East and West were united under a single government, there was regular collaboration between the departments of education in such activities as the publication of a bilingual journal of educational news and developments. As a further link, and one that was not insignificant, Sir Edmund Head, an enlightened governor with a genuine interest in education, served first in New Brunswick and then as Governor-General of Canada. It was he who established the commission in New Brunswick, who later recommended Dawson for the principalship of McGill and suggested to him that the establishment of a normal school within the university would be a wise and profitable move.

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