Citizenship and Schooling in Manitoba, 1918-1945
Bruno-Jofre, Rosa, Manitoba History
*The author would like to thank Ken Osborne, Tom Mitchell, and Sybil Shack for their comments on an earlier draft of this paper.
Faculty of Education
University of Manitoba
In the last few years there has been a renewed interest in citizenship education and in a reformulation of educational aims in light of some kind of ideal of a polity in a global society. With the exception of Ken Osborne's work, however, there have been few historical studies on citizenship and schooling in Canada. (1) In this paper I examine the official discourse of Canadianization as expounded in The Western School Journal and by the Department of Education in Manitoba, and then analyze examples of the intersection of the official discourse and life experience in school and beyond. I will focus mainly on Manitoba between the end of War I and the end of War II.
By 1918 the impact of immigration had already been felt while large urban workers' and farmers' movements had grown in importance. (2) Education, character formation, and citizenship were both local and national concerns. Anglo-conformity was the central principle permeating the dominant notion of citizenship that sought to make proper members of the national polity. In addition, in the early 1920s there was emphasis on a notion of citizenship mostly based on service to the community, duties, responsibilities, and social integration, while by the end of the decade the dominant discourse was beginning to be influenced by progressive education notions of education and democracy.
The end of World War II (1945) provides a historical breaking point because it brought a new international reality that would in the long run affect Canada's view of herself. The war also led to a questioning of racist and ethnocentric ideas, and theories of cultural relativism emerged which along with internal developments made it imperative to reconstruct the understanding of citizenship formation and its principles.
Through the examination of the official discourse and then the exploration of oral testimonies and case examples such as the public schools in Franco-Manitoban communities, this paper shows that the official discourse was not necessarily taught and learned in schools. It also shows that people often developed a sense of being Canadians in their own terms in an often-contested process of resistance and negotiation.
THE OFFICIAL DISCOURSE OF CITIZENSHIP IN MANITOBA
Public schooling was created as an integral part of the modern state, having as one of its functions the shaping of a moral citizenry. Outside Quebec, the geo-political framework for citizenship education was English Canadian. It neglected French Canada, emphasized loyalty to Britain and the British Empire, and treated the colonization of the First Nations as a matter of fact. The framework had, however, unique connotations given by the situation of Canada within the British Empire, its preoccupation with its place in North America, and the nation-building motif persistent in education. Furthermore, education was and still remains under provincial jurisdiction although schooling for the First Nations had been left as a federal responsibility.
The aim of public schools in English Canada was to create a homogeneous nation based on a common English language, a common culture, identification with the British Empire, and an acceptance of British institutions and practices. The British Empire its values and institutions were seen as an indispensable support for a distinctive Canadianism because of Canada's place in North-America. Thus, before the Citizenship Act of 1947 there were only British subjects resident in Canada; there were no Canadian citizens as such.
At the end of the Great War, as evidenced in Canada's signing the Peace Treaty at Versailles in its own right and in its separate membership in the League of Nations, there was a growing feeling among Canadians that their country was a distinct national entity, but also an important component of the British Empire. Business leaders and political leaders also had an urgent concern with "education and the national spirit." They were motivated by the massive presence of so-called "aliens", the depression after the war, and the growth of the Canadian labour movement which featured 428 strikes in 1919 across the country and the Winnipeg General Strike the same year. (3) Also the war and its sacrifices could be justified only by a new emphasis on community and duty.
Schooling was the state agency that was expected to generate unity of thought, to teach English to the children of new immigrants, to educate them in Canadian ways, and to generate a civic culture based on service, duties, and responsibilities. Social integration and cohesion were major objectives. In 1918, the Minister ofEducation, Dr. R. S. Thornton, in his public address to the Manitoba Educational Association, identified the need to bring newcomers more quickly into Canadian national life and into the life of the province. He said: "Our aim is to plant Canadian schools with Canadian teachers setting forth Canadian ideals and teaching the language of the country." (4) He quoted the 1916 census as showing that 42% of the population of the province represented thirty-eight nationalities. His concern was also related to the issue of social and labour unrest. The public school was conceived as an agency for national unity and social harmony. In the case of Manitoba, a major step had been taken in 1916 when, at Thornton's initiative, the legislature repealed the section of the Public Schools Act which permitted bilingual instruction in schools supported by public funds, and unanimously approved the School Attendance Act making school attendance compulsory and instruction unilingual in English.
Tom Mitchell has recently argued that the Great War evoked a sense of national identity among members of Canada's English speaking middle class, while Canada as a country in 1919 was fragmented along ethnic, social class, and regional lines. (5) In his view the middle class sought to address the post war crisis "by casting the post-war order in a particular idiom of nationalism informed by a common Canadianism rooted in Anglo-conformity and a citizenship framed in notions of service, obedience, obligation and fidelity to the state." (6) The National Conference on Character Education in Relation to Canadian Citizenship that took place in Winnipeg in 1919 was an example of efforts after the war to advance this idiom of citizenship. The Conference was funded by the Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba, himself a Winnipeg investment banker, by other business and professional individuals, and by the Rotary Clubs of Canada. The organizers tried to move the service spirit of the war years to stimulate and guide post-war reconstruction. It is clear from its final recommendations that those who left room to accommodate diversity received little or no attention at the Conference. Such was the fate of Prof. Carrie Derick, Vice-President of the National Council of Women, and first woman faculty member at McGill University. She thought of an evolving unified Canada that did not suppress diversity and placed great emphasis on equality of opportunity through education and compulsory schooling. (7) Winnipeg labour organizations decided not to send delegates but there were participants willing to voice the workers' view without, however, making an impact on the audience. The One Big Union condemned it as nothing more than propaganda of patriotic imperialism. (8) Delegates from Quebec, especially the Francophones, politely dissented from the national enthusiasm of the Conference. They tried, with little obvious success, to make participants aware that there was another view of Canada. Most participants perceived teachers as playing a powerful role in transmitting an ideology of Anglo-conformity, assimilation, service, social stability, and hostility towards radical change.
At the time The Western School Journal reached every school district in the province. Initially a fully independent publication, since 1916 it had contained a bulletin of the Department of Education in Manitoba and also of the Manitoba Trustees Association; and after 1919 there was news from the Teachers' Federation. It also included a bulletin from the Manitoba Educational Association. Dr. William McIntyre, principal of the Normal School in Winnipeg, known for his reformist bent, was the editor for much of the period until his retirement in 1934. The editorials and articles of the Journal praised the objectives set for the Conference in 1918, and applauded its final recommendations. (9) An outcome of the …
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Publication information: Article title: Citizenship and Schooling in Manitoba, 1918-1945. Contributors: Bruno-Jofre, Rosa - Author. Journal title: Manitoba History. Issue: 36 Publication date: Winter 1998. Page number: 26+. © 1999 Manitoba Historical Society. COPYRIGHT 1998 Gale Group.
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