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The Education of the New-Canadian: A Treatise on Canada’s Greatest Educational Problem


[ Children parade their patriotism at Henrietta Public School, North Saskatchewan River, 1917, , Koozma Tarasoff personal collection 1215 ]

Throughout the prairie provinces great stretches of land have been settled by immigrants from European countries. In many cases, as in the cities, they very seldom come into contact with Canadian influences. They, too, have their own churches and their own newspapers. The language of the home is German, Ruthenian, Hungarian, Bohemian, or Polish, as the case may be. In the villages where they trade they have their own merchants, speaking their own language. In these settlements there is but one force at work to Canadianize their children—the public school. Even here the teacher is very often one of their own nationality, who has an inadequate knowledge of our language, and a very vague idea of Canadian citizenship and all that it stands for. This phase of the problem will be dealt with in a later chapter. The most conspicuous, perhaps, of these settlers who have made their homes apart from English-speaking people are the Ruthenians and German Mennonites. The Doukhobors, although fewer in number, may also be mentioned, especially those known as "community" members. [...]

The principle of communism prevails among the Doukhobors who have settled in the Western Provinces. Many, however, have become independent, and no longer recognize the authority of their former leader. Some have written in eulogistic terms of the beauty of this community life, but most Canadians will fail to approve of a people who favor a mode of life which absolutely denies a public school education to the children living in the community. We suspect the integrity and honor of a man who denounces the education of the young, who forbids parents to allow their children to attend the public schools, without making provision for their education elsewhere. Last year, at a night school in a Western town, there were in attendance two young Doukhobors, one a girl of fifteen and the other a boy of fourteen, who had never been a day at public school. The parents had been forbidden to send them to school, and this by the autocratic leader of the community. They were bright, but mentally-starved children, and as one witnessed their eagerness to learn to read and write English, he could not but feel that Canada has made a very serious mistake in allowing such a man to guide the destinies of so many of her future citizens. His policy, apparently, is to keep the people in ignorance, and all the while we, as Canadians, blindly turn our heads the other way and continue our dreams of nation-building. Let us have a thorough investigation of conditions among these people, and let us insist upon the state exercising its right to see that every one of these New-Canadians obtains what in free Canada should surely be one's birthright—a public school education! [...]

Source: J.T.M. Anderson, "The Education of the New-Canadian: A Treatise on Canadas Greatest Educational Problem" (London and Toronto: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1918), 31-34, 93-94.

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