MACLEAN'S Canada Report


Old school disciplines versus "life-learning": a struggle for six million futures

COURTNEY TOWER September 1 1969
MACLEAN'S Canada Report


Old school disciplines versus "life-learning": a struggle for six million futures

COURTNEY TOWER September 1 1969


MACLEAN'S Canada Report

Old school disciplines versus "life-learning": a struggle for six million futures

ANNE MACDONALD, 17, will have to march, single file and in silence, between classes at Moncton, N.B., High School, this fall. If she or any of her 1,500 schoolmates step out of line, Principal E. W. N. Bradley, a former militia officer, may set a punishment of transcribing endless pages by hand from a history book, or sitting in special dunce chairs outside his office.

Colleen Tambling, 17, will smoke in her Grade 12 class if she wishes, chew gum, chat and come and go pretty much as she pleases, at the Campbell River, B.C., Senior Secondary School. John A. Young, principal, runs probably the freest public school in Canada. He believes “the majority of teachers are obsessed with teaching,” rather than helping students discover things for themselves.

These worlds-apart practices dramatize the conflicts within the teaching of 6,000,000 Canadian students now beginning a new school year. Some demand strict discipline and an emphasis on teaching facts. Others would eliminate grades, examinations and the teacher standing before regimented rows of constrained children. Classes resume amid questioning and change among students, teachers, parents and governments.

Among the questions: With education costs soaring — up 30.7 percent in 196869 from the previous year, to $6 billionplus for all formal education — do the results justify the tax burden? What is elementary and secondary schooling for

— to prepare youth for university or careers, or to open their minds to discovery? Will unrest hit the high schools

— and are they that rigid? Are elementary schools much better? Where do teachers stand on change?

“Students are not the only ones who have this feeling of where do we go from here in education,” says Lloyd Dennis,

co-chairman of Ontario’s year-old HallDennis report on education, catalyst of the current debate. “That, at least, is a great change from our old complacency.” The concern is whether Canadian education is best equipping youth to cope with an ever more automated future. Educators say that, slowly, every province is in varying degree experimenting.

The ideas behind the experiments are eloquently argued in “Living and Learning,” the report co-chaired by Mr. Justice Emmett Hall and Dennis. It provides a philosophy grouping myriad things that had been tried somewhere and has had a remarkable national impact. It encourages Canada’s 285,400 teachers and their school boards to shift focus from children advancing in disciplined grades, all together, to the child “as an individual learner.”

Now, bit by bit, schooling is becoming more of a “continuous progress,” the student moving subject by subject through school at his own speed. There is a larger choice of subjects. Where computers make it possible, timetables are being worked out for each student. “We are over the hurdle,” says James French, education board Chairman in the affluent Toronto suburb of Scarborough. As HallDennis say: "The concept of passing or failing and of being promoted or made to repeat a year will disappear.”

Some class periods are more flexible, lasting 20 minutes or two hours — whatever is appropriate. Students are becoming encouraged to work at their own interests, with teacher intruding only if wanted. Classroom walls are coming down, to an open view of children working at tables, lying engrossed on the floor, or dashing to the library (now the re-



JULIE MOLLINS was 51/2 when she came to Ottawa last fall from England. She Knew the alphabet and rudimentary arithmetic, could print and read simple sentences.

“Five years old? Kindergarten,” the rulebook Ottawa principal said abruptly, barring her from Grade 1.

At kindergarten, Carl and Joan Mollins saw, Julie regressed. She had little to do but trace letters; the atmosphere was grayly thou shalt not.

In her year of Canadian kindergarten, Julie unlearned the alphabet. She can no longer read or print simple sentences, or do any arithmetic.

Julie often brought home a paper star awarded to “good resters.” Good Resters are children who lie for 20 minutes immobile and unspeaking on the floor.

In England, Julie and sister Tracey, 8, forever chattered about school. Now they never mention it.

But during one week of an active, challenging summer school run by local churchwomen this year, Julie blossomed. At home, she talked a mile a minute about all the work she was doing, and added:

“And we can speak out loud at this school.”

source centre). A similar freedom is in some high schools. The strap is being abolished. These are beginnings; in most places, questions remain.

What is learning for?

Hall-Dennis say it is to open young minds to enquiry and innovation rather than to stuff them with boring facts or to impart specific job-directed skills, which they can get in community colleges and universities. How to use information in this day of information explosion, rather than simply amassing some little bit of it, is what matters. “Half the skills that will be needed 15 and 30 years from now don’t even exist yet,” says Dennis.

Ontario, agreeing, is moving its 535 high schools away from the present “streaming” of students into either arts and science, business and commerce or technology and trades — a caste system with “academic” course people on top. Students will delve into four broad areas of study — communications, social sciences, pure and applied sciences, and arts. They will move more easily into university or into the mushrooming community colleges (129,700 enrolment in 1968-69 versus 26,000 in technology institutes in 1965).

ÄÄHigh schools tell us nothing about

politics, Marxism,

religion, sex.^^

Alberta this fall is introducing astronomy, creative writing, economics, comparative religions, sociology, in junior high school (grades 7, 8 and 9). Here and there, the high school is recognized as a place of learning in itself, not just a preparation for something further. Central Collegiate in Regina operates a popular and advanced fine-arts program and classes go not by the hour but by whole mornings or afternoons. Campbell Collegiate in Regina this fall begins teaching, with superb equipment, several technologies. The courses are for bright students, Principal W. P. Steer stresses, “not shop courses for guys who couldn’t cut it in algebra and Latin.

Wide contrasts remain. And not many schools yet encompass what many students say they really want. “High schools don’t tell us anything about the big issues of the day — politics, Marxism, religion, sex,” complains Graham Bruce, student-council president at Duncan, B.C., Senior Secondary School. Ontario has opened sex study to local option, and discussion of drugs at senior levels. In Edmonton, a course on sex and family life is opposed by a group led by Public School Board trustee Mrs. Edith Rogers,

The classroom where the children teach teachers how to teach

HEATHER NUTBROWN, a tidy, warm girl, moves among her dozen charges with a special bright interest for each one’s collage of colored paper, cloth, sticks and feathers. The sevento ten-year-olds share ideas and the glue, telling Mrs. Nutbrown about their fish or ship and being led on to talk of ships and ports and the sea around them at Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Several schoolteachers look on, some a bit askance at the din. It is they, not the children, who are being taught.

Mrs. Nutbrown and children who had finished Grades 1, 2 and 3 at Prince Street School returned to classes this summer, to instruct 120 teachers from the country and town schools in the open new methods now practised. The children act out stories for the teachers, illustrating creative drama. Teachers watch them watching film strips, listening to stories, learning the friendly way. Toronto teacher Mary Noylander tells other teachers to take their children on more field trips into their communities, and how to follow up later.

“We are trying to get them away from the information-passing type of education . . . and to group children according to their interests, not their ages,” says Joe Murphy, seminar leader for the teacher improvement course.

The upgrading of teachers — 46 percent of whom have below the normal certificate qualifications — is key to the overhaul of education launched this year within a seven-year $264 million anti-poverty program. Fully $113,086,000 of this federal-provincial spending is to be on education, for P.E.I. had truly become an island, increasingly alone, in Canada. The population of 109,000 is the same as it was in 1891; the 35,400 labor force has an average education of Grade 6, a productivity level up to 50 percent below the national average. Only 11 percent of heads of families earn more than $5,500 per year. Last year, 483 families with children of school age or younger left the beautiful Island, the traditional weary exodus that saps P.E.I.’s energies.

Premier Alec Campbell’s government seeks to consolidate and modernize a

system on a tiny island (Quebec is 270 times as big) that still has 202 oneroom schools, 338 different school boards that collect their own taxes, and as many trustees (1,437) as teachers (1,420). The school population is only 30,000. Reginald Ross, a white-haired construction foreman at the national park, is secretary-treasurer of Stanhope School Board, which has 42 students in one two-room school. In the year ended, the board collected $10,481 to keep that school up, to bus children over Grade Eight to a consolidated high school and to pay Ross’s $600 annual salary. Ross earns his money, for collecting the taxes and doing the books, but having that many secretarytreasurers is wasteful. The districts will be cut to five or seven, with probably 53 trustees.

The degree - granting universities of St. Dunstan’s (Catholic) and Prince of Wales College (Protestant-attended) merge this fall into the 1,700-enrolment University of Prince Edward Island. A technical arts college starts up with an initial enrolment of 100 and vocationalacademic high schools are being established. Adult retraining is being pressed.

Partly because the development plan has been badly sold to Islanders, not everyone is ecstatic about upsetting old ways. Why consolidate schools, asks Mrs. Frank Myers, wife of an opposition member of the legislature, when they simply force children to travel farther and return “coming in the door as their parents are leaving to attend upgrading courses?” But 17year-old George Roach this year is the first of 112 grandchildren (and 103 great-grandchildren) of the late Jack Laybolt and Mrs. Laybolt to reach Grade 12, and the bussing of students to consolidated high schools made that possible. Sister Margaret Mullally is a comfortably direct woman who teaches by modern methods 18-20 students the equivalent of Grades 1 to 4 in the oneroom Newton school outside Summerside. She has no patience with fellow teachers at the upgrading course who prefer past methods: “They all complain so much about discipline problems,” she says. “I don't have any.”


m^I tell my student teachers that when they stand before their classes, they are

facing the enemy. I tell them you don't even smile until Christmas.

who is indignant: “It’s communist-inspired. It’s an attack on moral standards.”

Despairing that the public system will ever loosen up, more parents are paying anything from $165 to $1,350 a year to send their children to private “free schools.” There, students choose whether they’ll take guitar playing and coffee drinking, early Greek drama or Grade 11 Math — most go through all such stages in about that order. Some hire and fire their teachers. Students make the rules, by consensus, at Knowplace and Barker Free School in and near Vancouver, Superschool and Everdale Place in and just outside Toronto. “It’s immoral to put kids into a school situation where they are confronted by scared, confused adults who cling to their posts through worship of order,” explains television personality Pat Watson, who sent his three children to Superschool.

Are old teacher-knows-best attitudes

really changing?

“The high schools are harder to change; they are so huge it’s hard to make them into sensitive and humane institutions,” says James French in Scarborough. One high school there, Cedarbrae, has 2,300 students, from children of 13 to young adults of 19. And opposition to being “soft” reaches up to the Ontario Department of Education official who sniffs that the HallDennis report “will breed a bunch of hippies.”

The training new teachers get can be a problem, if an instructor at one Ontario College of Education is typical: “I tell my students that when they stand before their first class in September, they are facing the enemy. I tell them you don’t even smile until Christmas!” Another teacher, of drama, at an O.C.E., puts the names of errant student teachers into a little dog house. All over, teachers send boys home for hair that is too long and girls for skirts that are too short. Vice-Principal John Young of Martingrove Collegiate in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke sent David Budgell, 17, home for wearing an ascot and bellbottom trousers (both clean), saying “we expect our students to dress in a manner that would be acceptable to most businesses.”

Young adults still must ask to go to the toilet, which prompts Dennis to wonder: “God gave them bowels; why would I be the one to regulate them?” Of all the Hall-Dennis recommendations, the one to abolish the strap raised the

most fuss among teachers. “We still seem to have the ethic that to find salvation you have to hurt a little,” Dennis says. Another too-common attitude: “You’d be surprised how many educators, on becoming principal, say, ‘Ah, my first command!’ ”

John Young, the principal in Campbell River, puts the question: “How can we expect young adults to learn responsibility if the school treats them in essentially the same manner as they were treated in Grade One?” Many believe student militancy will hit the high schools this year. Several hundred Regina students marched last spring, their support for salary-negotiating teachers forging a radical spirit. A Montreal student paper was banned for printing a four-letter word, and an underground newspaper at Pauline Jewett Secondary School at Brantford, Ont., was considered “a filthy rag” by the principal. Maclean’s correspondents report that a cooler time is expected this fall in most universities, which have been fairly responsive to student demands. An unresolved question: what will be the effect of rebellious students coming up from high schools?

Many students who don’t raise Cain, simply drop out. In British Columbia, Young complains, “barely 50 percent of our students (there were 495,200 last

year) complete high school successfully.” Certainly 23.9 percent of British Columbians between the ages of 5 and 24 are not at school, and B.C.’s record is second best only to Ontario. For all Canada, 26.4 percent of the next generation are not at school.

Is the high school a hopelessly bad


No, changes are everywhere. Ontario this fall will have at least 100 (of 535) high schools eliminating grades and exams, offering more subjects, freeing students to work on their own. Saskatchewan pioneered this in 1964; a provincial evaluation says the phased-in change is working quite well, although all teachers have not gotten used to it. Other provinces follow more gingerly. Team teaching, two or more teachers sharing their special knowledges with pupils, is being tried everywhere.

What about the primary school?

It’s where the action is: increasingly, these schools are built with just enough walls to keep the roof up. Louis Pearce, 12, curls on the broadloom at Allandale Heights Public School in Barrie, Ontario, to read a novel. Classmates listen to taped music, draw and paint, watch a film strip. Each follows his own work timetable, at his own pace, most often sprawled on the floor, some silently absorbed and some chattering over joint projects. Many teachers are sceptical at first about this learning by discovery, the antithesis of organized classes, but they soon appreciate how fascinated the child becomes. At Centennial junior public school in Kingston, Ont., a convinced principal, Richard Dodds, says “the lid’s off learning.”

Edmonton has more than 20 such schools, and they are appearing everywhere. But they are the vanguard; many more are like the Ottawa school of Julie and Tracey Mollins (page 1 ).

Are the spending priorities right?

Many argue elementary education must catch up from years of oversight in favor of high schools and vocational schools. Ontario MPP Tim Reid would “reallocate money down to the kiddie level.” He says “you would save millions later,” citing the vast sums spent on remedial English courses years later. Metropolitan Toronto, Hamilton and other cities are running pre-schools for children under five in poor, often immigrant, centra! areas, where the human wastage is great. The mothers come in

££switch spending down to the kiddie level

and save mill ions


as teaching assistants, and learn to teach the children at home. In Peterborough, Ont., grades 4, 5 and 6 teachers in eight schools were replaced by parents one day a week; the schools are moving to an open approach now, with those parents’ cheers. The Quebec government is sponsoring radio and TV broadcasts to parents titled “L’éducation, c’est votre affaire.” In British Columbia, there is a 10-weekend series of courses for school trustees.

How well trained are the teachers?

In most parts of Canada there is no longer a teacher shortage, and the pay is becoming more respectable. Last year salaries ranged from an average of $6,849 for elementary teachers and principals in British Columbia to $3,787 in Newfoundland; from $9,583 for secondary teachers and principals in Ontario to $5,880 in Prince Edward Island. They have since been raised in some provinces, including Manitoba and P.E.I. “We can get teachers with good qualifications who wouldn’t have come here before,” says Lloyd Dennis, now director of education for the heavily rural Ontario area of Leeds-Grenville. Ontario is moving to demand degrees of all elementary and secondary teachers — 39 percent have degrees in Ontario now, compared with 53 percent in British Columbia and only 29 percent in Manitoba; in Prince Edward Island, 47 percent of teachers operate on letters of authority, which is lower than normal minimum certification. Teacher-training colleges are being transferred to university faculties. But improved qualifications bring demands for higher pay.

Premier Ross Thatcher feuds with Saskatchewan teachers, blaming soaring education costs on their salaries. There may be strikes this fall in Saskatchewan, and in Quebec where the government wants one contract to cover all its 70,000 elementary-secondary teachers.

How much help is educational television, the most glamorous of the teacher aids?

The provinces are setting up centralized ETV facilities. But teachers, who

oppose uniformity of instruction, often stop using it. To Alf Hanwell, who runs television for the Ottawa Public School Board, “nobody out of Toronto can build programs that we need.” He says only local producers can use local symbols and reference points to make programs relevant to their children. HallDennis say TV should only be a tool used by the individual teacher, produced locally or regionally; it does not yet generally work that way. In Ottawa, 11 TV teachers under Mrs. June Turner (elegantly bare-midriffed and mini-skirted one day recently: she bites out “network” as a swearword) have produced 180 programs a year for 144 area schools. Ottawa also is piloting a system whereby, at four schools, a teacher can dial for any of 2,000 films and videotapes and have it on the classroom screen in two minutes. Metro Toronto is planning an elaborate ETV system. Edmonton and Calgary have extensive programming. Quebec’s is among the more ambitious.

Must education keep costing us more?

Important changes can be made simply by changing attitudes. But the $6billion-plus tab for all education in Canada in 1968-69 is 30.7 percent higher than that of the previous year. In 1968 it cost $995 to educate one pupil, 20 percent more than it did in 1967. Quebec’s education budget is $974,600,000 this year, 28.9 percent of its total spending and 25.9 percent higher than a year ago. Ontario has soared to expenditure of $1,467,000,000, 41 percent of the provincial budget. Other provinces range upwards from 30 percent of total budget. Provinces are able to keep costs from rising further only by delaying needed new building. Establishing French-language schools will raise costs further, especially in New Brunswick and Ontario. Long-term forecasts are for a doubling and more of education spending in the next decade; Ontario hopes to keep its increase to 10 percent next year.

Although Ottawa pays $880,000,000 to the provinces for education already, provincial premiers win sympathy for demanding some new form of sharing the load nationally. As Lloyd Dennis says: “Education is no longer a local prerogative, paid for by the homeowner. It is a national exercise ... no one should be deprived because of the area where he was born.”

Anne MacDonald would agree with, that.

Why do Indians think they’re inferior? Elementary: they learn it in school

THE 65,000 INDIANS at school in Canada are taught to feel that they are inferior persons.

They must read that their forebears were savages in furs and skins. Or they read of common life today, of trips, subway rides, lovely homes, manicured farms; Indian reality is bad housing, on reserves and in slums, and 78 percent of their families earning less than $3,000 a year. Their life expectancy is 34 years; the national average 62 years.

Forty percent of Indian children enter school not knowing English or French. Their own languages are not taught or used. Only Alberta and

Saskatchewan universities have any real training program for teachers of Indians.

As a result:

—Fifty percent of Indian students do not get beyond Grade 6, 61 percent beyond Grade 7 and 97 percent beyond Grade 11.

—In all Canada about 150 registered Indians (of 238,000) are in full-time university courses.

—In all Canada there are 130 Indian teachers. Seventy of these are on the Six-Nations Reserve near Brantford, Ontario, which, almost uniquely, has been administering its own education for 15 years.