Newfoundland National Convention, 6 November 1946, Debates on Confederation with Canada


November 6, 1946

Mr. Chairman[2] I am very sorry to say that Hon. Mr. Justice Fox is unfortunately and unavoidably absent because of some illness. I feel sure that you will all join me in hoping he will have a very speedy return here to his duty as Chairman.

Report of the Education Committee:[3] Committee of the Whole

Mr. Hollett In introducing this Report of the Committee on Education, I wish to state that the Committee consisted of Messrs. Harrington, Fowler, Spencer, Ryan, Fogwill, Miller, Jones, Smallwood, Newell and myself. Each and every one of these members gave full attendance to all sessions of the Committee and gave great aid in bringing it in so quickly. To mention any particular names might be invidious, but I am bound to mention the name of Mr. Newell, the secretary whom we appointed; and Mr. Smallwood and Mr. Harrington, appointed to assimilate and compile the facts obtained by them and by the whole Committee. I would also like to pay tribute to Mr. Hanley of the Department of Education who assisted us very materially in getting together the necessary data. These remarks also apply to all members of the department. You have had this report for some considerable time, and whilst in presenting it I did not read it fully, I feel sure you have given it sufficient study to debate it without having it read again. If that be so, then on behalf of the Education Committee we invite now your criticism, either constructive or destructive.
Mr. Smallwood It seems to me that the Convention may find in the report two matters for criticism. One is the second paragraph which describes the Committee's whole approach to the subject of its investigation; the other would be the final conclusions of the Committee, section 11. In section 2 it says:
The Committee decided at the outset that its approach to the subject of education must be strictly limited in character. It felt its own inability to discuss education philosophically, or to approach it professionally. No member of the Committee felt competent to deal with education either as an art or as a profession. It was decided at the outset to restrict November 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 155 our approach to the economic side. What does education cost the treasury now, and what has it cost in the past? Is the country getting adequate results for the money spent? Could the same results have been got with less expenditure? Will the same level of expenditure have to be maintained in future, or will expenditure be higher or lower than now? One thing the Committee decided from the commencement of its approach was its inability to judge of the the country's capacity either now or in the future to meet the costs of education: the members felt that while as members of the National Convention itself they would have ultimately to come to that judgement, as members of the Committee they had neither the general national data, not even the mission, to consider the wider question of the country's ability to carry educational services.
As to the final conclusions, that is a horse of another colour. Dealing with section 2, I have felt and am sure all members of the Committee felt, that here, perhaps, was the basis of the criticism that the Convention might be prepared to offer in connection with this whole report. If this Convention or the government or the Department of Education or other competent authority were to bring to Newfoundland a man or a number of men for the purpose of investigating not the cost of education, the purely economic side, but education itself; if they were prepared to bring in men who might be described as professionals — not teachers or educators, but men who had made a study of education as such, men who had studied educational systems, the purpose and the reason; men who had made a comparison of the different types and forms and systems of education; and turn them loose in Newfoundland, giving them authority and power and a year or two in which to make a factual and objective study of education as such and of the educational system as such in this country; then, having spent about six months in the different departments, attending meetings of the Education Council; meetings of executive officers, the Council of Higher Education; going out to the different schools, these men might be able to offer to this Convention an opinion on the education system which would be worth having. Our Committee, consisting of two journalists (Mr. Harrington and myself), a returned soldier, two retired teachers — I cannot remember the rest — none of us trained men in the realm of the administration and philosophy of education, for that reason decided to admit to ourselves frankly and to the Convention that there was a great deal of the subject of which we knew nothing. We were not trained or equipped to make that kind of investigation. Then we dug into the question of what it cost since 1920-21 down to the present time; and for that expenditure what have we got in the way of education? How many schools and how many classrooms, how many teachers? Has the school system from the plant, the physical standpoint, improved for that additional expenditure? Then we made a stab at guessing as to what the education plant would have to be in the years ahead. The result you will find in this report. I thought a frank statement of the spirit in which this report is presented would be best.
Mr. Dawe If you want any further information ask Dr. Barnes.
Mr. Butt With regard to (c): "It is apparent that education has made and is making very real progress in Newfoundland." Is that based upon the fact that we have been, during the last few years, spending more money?
Mr. Smallwood ....The answer is, frankly, "Yes". It is safe to say, with more new schools and classrooms, rebuilt and reconditioned schools, more equipment, more teachers, more students, a larger percentage of attendance, a larger proportion of total expenditure going into it than before, yes, there has been an advancement in the field of education.
Mr. Butt Would it be possible for the Committee to indicate to us on what lines or on what basis they made that report? Even a journalist, if he wants to build a house, decides what he wants and then calls in an architect and says, three bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom and so on, he says, "This is what I want." Could you tell us on what basis the Committee came to its conclusions? For instance page 203 of the official handbook, 1946, reads "Changes in the curricula during...democratic citizenship and patriotism." If they considered the main lines on this sort of thing in the report did they feel unable to deal with a matter of that kind? I am thinking of our terms of reference: "to consider facts and make recommendations for future forms of government." What has 156 NATIONAL CONVENTION November 1946 happened in the last ten years to make us more fit to govern ourselves than in other years?
Mr. Hollett That would take a great deal of time.
Mr. Butt I am not thinking of any one particular thing in the report. It tells us we spent half a million dollars on those school buildings; I have no doubt that is necessary. We spent $15,000 additional in the training of teachers. Is that a proper proportion? I do not know. If you have a good teacher you have a good school; and that does not mean it should be a good building. During the period, while spending extra amounts of money, have we increased the grading and standard of our teachers?
Mr. Hollett The point is one which we did consider, but we did not go into the various points you mention. We took it for granted that the Convention knew what is being done along the lines of health and nutrition in schools. We came to the conclusion that education has made very real progress That is something about which it is very difficult to bring in facts. As for patriotism, that is instilled into children before they read or write. We are not saying it is like we should see it, but we realise that education is something which cannot be controlled by the thought of any one particularindividual. Education is something which grows by the instinct and ability, both financially and morally, of the people. We will not therefore give our personal views of the term. I don't know if that answers the question.
Mr. Butt I don't want to be misunderstood, but I know the people in the education department very well. I believe very strongly that we have made real progress. I feel also that these people are doing a remarkably good job, and I am impressed with their sincerity. That is a correct statement; but the point I want to know is, are there main lines that you could have considered? For instance teachers' grades, how far have you gone with that? I am not interested in particular examples, I am thinking of the main lines that you were taking.
Mr. Smallwood I believe it was Mr. Butt who recently was telling me of a situation in connection with road building. I think he cited an illustration of how an amateur can be fooled very easily by an engineer. Two estimates are made of the cost of building a road, one is small and the other a much larger amount. The amateur, not being equipped with technical knowledge, is easily fooled, and I think Mr. Butt's illustration was that $40,000 went down the drain before ever a sod was turned because of the estimates. It appears that amongst engineers around the world the whole job is done by estimates. Well now, apply that to this matter of education. I have no doubt that there are men in the world today who could walk into the Department of Education and say, "What's your total grant for education?" "What's the total of your administrative cost?" "What is the total amount of your grant for teachers' salaries?" "What is your total amount for this, that, and the other, in percentages?" And the minute they hear those percentages they compare them with a dozen or maybe 20 countries around the world, and, if they are trained they know if these are correct percentages or not.... I would think that, after having spent some years in the department, Mr. Butt would have a general familiarity with that kind of thing, but I don't think the Education Committee felt competent to approach the matter in that regard. There may be a dozen men in this Convention today who can blow holes in this report, and I know there are many men outside the Convention who can riddle it properly, and outside the country there are educators and professional educationalists who would make it look like monkey work. Unfortunately we have not got that kind of training. We could only look at it as amateurs, ordinary Newfoundlanders, in the light of how many school buildings, how many rooms, the cost of upkeep and the probable future cost, etc.
These matters touch me closely. I feel very prejudiced on it. I have a deep suspicion of any attempt on the part of any country or government to use the schools for propaganda. Hitler did that, and I don't want to see it done in this country. The government should foot the bills and then hands off. Least of all do I want our education system to be used for matters of propaganda, except maybe in the matter of health, and in that the Junior Red Cross is doing a very good job. Let us have confidence that our children are being brought up clean-minded and open-minded. They have a right to form their own opinions as they face life. Let's equip them to think, and in collaboration with the other agencies, churches, etc., let us train them morally and in matters of character. That's a wholly professional topic November 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 157 which I don't feel competent to discuss.
Mr. Newell ....I wonder if all the members have had the time to actually read this report. Obviously Mr. Butt has, or at least he read the beginning and the end, and perhaps I am a little late in bringing this point up, but from the turn that the discussion immediately took I am led to wonder if perhaps it would not be wise if perhaps we should find out how familiar the Convention is with the text as a whole. I hope this is not impertinent, but I would really like to know if all the members have had a chance to read this before we continue with the discussion.
Mr. Chairman That would be very hard to get, Mr. Newell.
Mr. Newell If any members have not studied the report they might say so. I just wondered.
Mr. Chairman Mr. Newell, I put it to the Convention that if there were any objections they should be brought forward. I did not hear your objection then. I don't know if there are any others. It can be read if the Convention so desires it.
Mr. Miller I think we ought to proceed with the discussion on the report, and, since I am on my feet, I think I will give Mr. Butt a material example of patriotism taught in the schools during the war. Unlike Mr. Smallwood, who looks on any form of patriotism with some suspicion, I think it is a clean example, and perhaps the only reason why we did not include it was that it was obvious that every Newfoundlander should know about it. That was the selling of war savings stamps in our schools, where our children came and looked for a dime, and the next day for another dime, and eventually they got the price of a war savings certificate. I believe these children knew the purpose of these certificates, I believe that was a clean way of teaching patriotism. It certainly worked, and it was countrywide, and as it was perfectly obvious and we did not mention it; but it is a typical example.
Mr. Butt Excuse me for getting up again. I am not trying to be like Hitler. I am not interested in those political items, but cite them as examples. While I am on my feet, Mr. Smallwood, not $40,000 went down the drain, but $40,000 could have gone down the drain if the estimate happened to be one third out. There you are.
Mr. Jackman I would like to have education defined and to know when is a man educated.
Mr. Miller Never.
Mr. Ballam There is one point Mr. Butt brought out. He mentioned that the money spent on teacher training was $15,000, whilst that for building schools was $500,000. I think what Mr. Butt meant was, is there enough being spent for teacher training, is it in proportion? And if not do you consider making recommendations for more expenditures in that respect?
Mr. Butt I know that I am correct. The $15,000 is not even the correct figure, but I do want to put the same question that you did. I want to find out if the Committee considered the main lines as distinct from the purely professional aspect of the situation...
Mr. Hollett I don't think any member has any right to get up as often on any point. Regarding teacher training, during the sessions of the Committee we did have Mr. Frecker, Secretary for Education, before us on several occasions, and although we have not embodied his talks in this report we secured enough information from him to make us believe that the Department of Education is very much alive to this matter of education, and are now making plans for summer schools in the Memorial College and all over the island; so they have taken steps to raise the standard of our teachers. That is a very difficult problem, as Mr. Frecker pointed out. Along these lines I am quite sure that the average standard of teachers in the years to come is going to be very much ahead of what it is at present. We have to remember that we have I think it is over 2,000 teachers all over the island, some of them with only 12 or 14 scholars, and it is not to be expected that the state could spend thousands of dollars to send a teacher to each small settlement. But they are endeavouring to raise the standard of all teachers insofar as the money allows. Mr. Frecker left no doubt in our minds that that is one of the great problems which we will have to face, and they are facing it manfully. I cannot give you any particular facts on it....
Mr. Newell This report is, in some ways, the beginning of our reports. It is the first brought in, and we may be justified in saying that we did not know exactly what the Convention expects, and those bringing in reports after this will have the advantage of seeing this one torn to pieces and will know better what to expect. I think the Committee will agree that we did not feel it was our 158 NATIONAL CONVENTION November 1946 job to bring in a report which would answer every possible question that could be asked about education in Newfoundland. In going back to the question of what we were sent here for, I think we were to examine and inquire into the financial and economic condition of this island. In view of this we felt that we had to inquire mostly into the amount that was being spent on education. We have that in black and white. We have certain supplementary facts that will come out during debate, but I don't see that it was our business to discuss the philosophy of education. Everybody has ideas on this, and we could probably have gone on at great length discussing such things. I have supplementary information here which may answer the question of the member for St. John's West. For the year ending June 30, 1944, there were the following teachers in the following grades:*
Mr. Smallwood What's the total of graded and ungraded male and female teachers?
Mr. Newell I will give you those figures a little later.
Mr. Job Sometime ago when the Chadwick- Jones report[1] was being considered, I think Mr. Miller made the suggestion that when any report came up we might perhaps consider the findings of the Chadwick-Jones report in con junction with the new report. Mr. Newell adequately stated that the report was based mainly upon giving the information as to the financial standard of the education business. I noticed in looking into these figures here a rather interesting comparison. In the Chadwick-Jones report the subsidies, grants, etc, for 1935-36 are given as $696,000; in your report, the total education grant is given as $956,000, a difference of nearly $300,000, and the same applies to 1941 and 1942 where the Chadwick-Jones figures are $1,094,000 and your figures are $1,532,000. The Chadwick-Jones estimate for 1946 and 1947 is $2,350,000, yours is $3,538,000. The figures are so very far apart that I thought I would like to draw your attention to it, because there is obviously some mistake somewhere.
Mr. Smallwood That matter did come up before. When the report of the Education Committee went before the Steering Committee, before being presented to this house, the Steering Committee noted these apparent discrepancies to which Mr. Job has just referred and returned the report to the Education Committee, pointing them out. The Education Committee, in good humour and without rancour, looked at the figures and were quite content that its own figures were accurate. It had gone to great pains to make them accurate and was rather suspicious of any difference in the Chadwick-Jones report. Being quite confident of our figures, we felt that it was the Chadwick-Jones figures that were wrong. We found that they deal with two entirely different amounts. Our figures include the same things as the Chadwick-Jones report, but they include other things as well... Our figures include everything. You may take it that the figures in this report are quite accurate. They may not be compared because the two tables deal with different matters.
Mr. Newell The figures for the graded and ungraded teachers are: graded teachers 1,788, ungraded teachers 326. All grades from third up to university grade are lumped together in graded teachers. That would give about 20% roughly of ungraded teachers. That was at June 30, l944. I think the situation was about as bad then as it has been for some time, due to the difficulty of getting teachers in many parts of the country, and the chairmen of school boards not being able to November 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 159 be too particular.
Mr. Butt I believe that education is making real progress in Newfoundland and that our educators are doing an excellent job, but I feel that the Convention should be made conversant with the main lines, such as the grading of teachers, etc.
Mr. Newell Since the report has been tabled the Convention has been busy with other matters and I wonder how any delegates have studied the report.
Mr. Job Mr. Chairman, without doubt there is a marked difference between the estimate of salaries and your estimate of the total education grant of $3,538,500. There is a difference of about $1 million, and I think this should be cleared up.
Mr. Smallwood For the present year ending March 31, 1947, we got our information from the department within the past three weeks, and if there is any difference in the figures, as referred to by Mr. Job, why should anybody worry? That is a matter for Chadwick-Jones to worry about. After all, the Education Committee is comprised of average Newfoundlanders, and not of men thoroughly versed in the issue. With regard to state control of schools I feel that the pupils would be subjected to propaganda. I do, however, agree that children should be helped to think for themselves and to develop character, but I would not advocate state interference with the system.
Mr. Hollett This subject of education is a real problem. During its sessions the Education Committee was addressed by the secretary of the department and he gave sufficient information to the Committee to make us believe that the government was definitely interested in the training of teachers and that it had taken steps in this respect. I feel sure that the standing of the average teacher of the future will show a decided improvement over the past and present. While on this point I would like to remind delegates that the government could not be expected to spend thousands of dollars towards the training of teachers for very small settlements.
Mr. Newell The Education Committee did not feel it was obligated to examine all aspects and give all minute details, as the terms of reference pertained to an examination of Newfoundland's economic and financial condition. In view of this the Committee decided to find out the cost of education and other matters along general lines in connection therewith...
Mr. Crosbie I agree with Mr. Newell that the primary job of the Convention is to collect financial and economic facts. I also believe we got the estimate of the expenditure on education far too low. The majority of professional teachers received less than $3,000 in 1944, and I notice in the report also that two teachers received less than $300 salary. If they had to pay board they were in debt. Further on I notice that 31 get from $300 to $400; 196 from $500 to $600; 285 from $600 to $699; 232 from $700 to $799; 202 from $800 to $900; 446 from $1,000 to $2,000 and 20 over $2,000 upwards. I think this offers little encouragement to people to become professional teachers, and I think the Committee should recommend an increase in the salaries. We are not concerned with what has been paid in the past. We must look to the future, and it is ridiculous for anyone to think that a teacher could be expected to exist properly on $500 a year.
Mr. Hollett I agree with Mr. Crosbie. I know one male teacher, aged 23 or 24, who is paid $55 a month salary and who pays $50 a month board, except that at Christmas-time he draws $150 augmentation. I also know of a female teacher who is paid $50 a month salary and pays $42.50 a month board. She too gets the augmentation grant.
Mr. Burry Mr. Chairman, I feel sure we all agree with what Mr. Crosbie has said with regard to the small salaries paid school teachers. The same laxity applies to the training of our teachers. Twenty percent of our teachers are ungraded and yet Mr. Hollett wondered if the government was justified in spending money for the training of teachers in smaller schools. I come from a district where we have quite a number of small schools and need teachers, and I say that the government would be amply justified. There is no reason in the world why small communities should be deprived of the services of trained teachers, because perhaps it is from those schools that will be sent representatives to this house in later years. Good trained teachers is the important thing, I think. What Mr. Smallwood has said I back it up, we have to have a larger percentage spent on the training of teachers for all of our schools both in the city and in Labrador.
Mr. Jackman According to the figures now put forward by the Education Committee in regard to 160 NATIONAL CONVENTION November 1946 teachers' salaries, the only thing I can say is this: is the government paying scab wages for one of the most important professions in the country? After all, teachers start off when they first leave home to go to school; and schoolteachers should be considered among the most important professional people we have. I beg to make a motion that this Convention go on record and recommend to the Commission of Government that they raise the basic wages for teachers, even if we have to bring the higher-ups down. Mr. Smallwood has mentioned that it is possible when we get plenty of goods on the market again, prices will come down. Even if that does happen, still the teachers are not getting a decent living wage, and by asking for an increase on the basic rate, that will give them a little further increase when the buying power of the dollar increases. I beg that the Education Committee recommend to the Commission of Government an increase in the basic rate of pay for the teachers.
Mr. Chairman You are making this as an additional recommendation of the report?
Mr. Jackman Yes.
Mr. Chairman The motion is, "That the committee of the whole make a recommendation to the Education Committee to recommend to the Commission of Government that the basic wages of a teacher he raised." Does anybody wish to speak to that motion?
Mr. Reddy I wish to support Mr. Jackman. I also agree that teachers' salaries are very low and I think we should make a recommendation for further increase in their salaries.
Mr. Higgins Whilst I agree with Mr. Jackman, I am afraid the matter does not come into our terms. Maybe Professor Wheare would give us an idea of his views on that.
Mr. Northcott We should give credit where credit is due, and the Commission of Government deserves credit for the increase in grants.... They have been generous in building many schools throughout the island, and it has made the teachers much happier. The new schools are better equipped and we have been able to get better results and we have been waiting for this for a long time.
Mr. Jones As a member of the Education Committee, and having taught well over 30 years in the schools of this country, I support the report now before the Convention for public discussion. I know there are many people thinking and saying that $3.5 million is a lot of money to be spending on education in this country, and are wondering if we are getting adequate returns for such a large sum. I think every cent of this money is well spent. Up to ten or 15 years ago many of our outport schools were scarcely fit to herd cattle in, and in such buildings we compelled our children to spend five or six hours a day. These schools, if you can call them such, were poorly lighted, poorly ventilated, poorly furnished, and inadequately staffed. No wonder the Department of Public Health and Welfare in its investigations found such a large percentage of our school children's eyesight defective, brought about chiefly by eye strain. Many of these schools contained long benches, in which five or six children sat with no support to their backs, and with chests cupped in in order to reach the desk which was either too high or too low, and in this posture they generally sat through the period. Is it any wonder that we have such a high percentage of TB in this country? I am sure we all agree and are pleased to know that the Department of Education is taking steps to remedy this evil as quickly as possible with the grants at its disposal. I said that the schools were understaffed. I will give you an example from my own experience. I once taught, or tried to teach, in a school with over 100 pupils enrolled with no assistance. I was not only supposed to teach the lower grades, but expected to prepare primary, preliminary, intermediate and associate grades as well. Is it any wonder, Mr. Chairman, that I am standing here today after going through such an ordeal for three years? I am glad to say that these conditions do not exist at the present time, thanks to increased educational grants. It has been said that all our government departments are overstaffed, be that as it may. In my experience with the Department of Education, I am sure this does not apply. Every person employed there is giving faithful service for the salary which he or she receives. In reference to teachers, it has been often said that they have a good job, only having to work for five hours a day. I say it is a noble job, trying to mould the minds and characters of boys and girls, in order to fit them to take their place in the community in which they live. It is a noble work, and teachers should be better paid for the work they are trying to perform. But if a person thinks a November 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 161 teacher's work is finished when he dismisses his pupils, he is very much at sea; he often has to work up to late hours of the night; he has the next day's lessons to prepare, assignments to correct and many other things to do which only a teacher can know. Owing to the shortage of teachers, which had been brought about chiefly by enlisting in the different forces, and others taking more remunerative work, the department finds itself compelled to accept boys or girls from the high schools who had passed grade XI, admit them to summer school for four or five weeks, and in September place them in charge of a school. This is not as it should be, but the department finds it imperative, as experienced teachers are not available. Supervisors are therefore scattered through the districts in order to help these young and inexperienced teachers in their work....
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I think that money spent on education is money well spent, because the better a community is educated the better it can manage its own affairs, and this applies to the government of a country as well.
Mr. Chairman With regard to your motion, Mr. J ackman, I have discussed it with Professor Wheare and we feel we cannot pass a motion making a recommendation to the government; but you can make a recommendation to the Education Committee as to the possibility of approaching the appropriate authorities to the basic wages of teachers being raised. You cannot go straight to the Education Committee and ask them to make a recommendation to the government; you can ask that an amendment be put in the report condemning the low wages of teachers. In those circumstances I am afraid I cannot accept your motion as it is now.
Mr. Higgins I suggest that probably Mr. Jackman might draft up something tomorrow.
Mr. Jackman That would be better; it will give me more time.
Mr. Vardy I must congratulate those responsible for such able reports on education and forestry. I shall defer any comment on the latter until the appropriate time. I do not profess to be an authority to speak on education from a theological or academic standpoint; but rather as one who is anxious to learn.
I am happy to find that at least someone on the Committee has entertained many of the hopes and thoughts for the immediate further extension of the Memorial University as I have myself. This splendid college has served a useful purpose to a point; but after 21 years as a junior college, that is, a college giving the first two years of arts and science, (three years for engineering), students who desire further education must go abroad to Canada or the USA and spend about two years to complete their studies for a degree in arts and science. Canadian colleges and universities have a very high regard for the quality of the work done by our students. This is good proof that the college has so far justified its existence as a junior college. It is likely now that after 21 years of existence the college has probably reached the limit of its possibilities as a junior college. The next step should be the development to a degree- giving college. This appears an appropriate time, as the present college was a memorial to those who served, and more particularly those who died, in the cause of freedom during the great war, 19l4-l918. What more fitting memorial could there be to those who died during the second great war than the inaugurating of a degree-conferring college? Newfoundland is probably the only dominion which cannot boast of such an institution of higher learning. For reasons of prestige, therefore, this step is highly desirable.
The benefits from the present college have been felt throughout the whole island, since the students come from every part of Newfoundland, and after their studies return for the most part to their towns and villages. With degree status the college could considerably augment its contribution in raising the general standard or level of education in this country. It is likely that over a period of ten years the enrollment would rise considerably. At present the normal enrollment would appear to be about 380. With degree status the enrollment would soon rise to an average each year of about 450 to 500.
It would not be the intention to attempt training for medicine, engineering or other professional training which would be very costly with our limited means; but to provide courses in liberal arts and science leading to the B.A. and B.Sc. One immediate benefit would be better qualified teachers throughout Newfoundland. You will find Newfoundlanders in key positions in almost every corner of the inhabitated globe; but they were mostly trained and educated in other countries. If this can be done with our 162 NATIONAL CONVENTION November 1946 material outside, it can be done here, and it would be only reasonable to expect that some of these men would stay here. We are a producing country, both in material and brains equal to the best; but in this respect we must become more national-minded and export more of the finished product in order for our country to derive any real benefit from our natural wealth.
Touching briefly on the question of teachers' salaries, I do feel the lower grade teachers are still underpaid and there is little inducement for anyone to take up the profession unless they see their way clear to qualify for the higher scale. In the matter of assisting in the building and equipping of new schools, I would say the department has done a good job and the value of this policy will best be proved over a period of years....
Mr. MacDonald ....Education, to my mind, is one of the more, if not the most important subjects in our study of the future well-being of our country. An educated people tends towards a prosperous and happy future, an uneducated people the very opposite. We have in the past been woefully lacking in this very important matter. Progress has been made in the past few years undoubtedly; but much more needs to be done. The question has been asked in this report: "Is the country getting adequate results for the money spent? Could the same results have been got with less expenditure?" The Committee has answered these questions in a general way by stating they consider the department had done a good job under the circumstances. They probably have, but my answer to the question, considering it from a financial and social point of view, is that the same result can be obtained from a smaller expenditure and that better results could be obtained from the same expenditure. I don't mean by this that teachers are overpaid; they are very much underpaid. Teaching, as a profession, is probably the lowest paid, for what we expect from them, of any class in the country.
Our set-up in the matter of education is wrong, and here I probably enter upon a very controversial subject. The system of denominational education which we have is antiquated and should be changed to a public school system, as in all progressive countries in the world today.In discussing this question I shall endeavour to approach it from a purely financial and social aspect. The theological arguments I shall leave to more learned minds. I speak as an outport man, where the effect of the present system is probably more pronounced than in the city of St. John's, where large schools can be provided to carry out the provisions of this system. Financially, the present system is uneconomical, in that there is too much overlapping both of money and effort, and socially it tends to instill and keep alive that spirit of intolerance which has been a drag on our country from time immemorial, and which we could very well do without.
To illustrate what I am saying, my own town of Botwood might be very well used in this connection. Some two or three years ago, when compulsory education was put into effect, it was found that our schools would not accommodate all the children. The population was at that time about 2,700. We had five schools divided among three denominations; one, the largest having three schools, and the other two having one each. All these school buildings, except one, were in a bad state of repair and, with the exception of two, had no sanitary facilities. An effort was made to get an amalgamated school. A committee was formed to carry out the idea, which would have meant that one central school with a primary school on each end, or three schools in all, would have been sufficient to take care of the pupils, and give them a higher standard of education. The whole district of Botwood was canvassed, and it was found that the great majority of the people were in favour of such a school. We contacted the education department, and where did we get? Just nowhere. We even had a visit from the Commissioner of Education of the day, who advised us that an act had been passed enabling an amalgamated school to be started, providing that the various school boards would agree. What chance do you think we had, when the members of the school boards are recommended by the different ecclesiastical authorities, some of which were opposed to the idea? The final result to all this was that four new schools were built which, with the original two remaining, total six. Since then one more has been added, making seven in all. Is that economy? Does it tend to raise the standard of education as much as could be obtained by an amalgamated or public school? It has been said that the public or amalgamated school system is not workable. All we have to do to answer that question is to point to Grand Falls, Corner Brook, November 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 163 Millertown, Badger, Buchans and compare their results in examinations with other places.
The present system does not give teachers a chance to accomplish what they would wish. A teacher with four or five grades to teach cannot hope to attain the same result as with one grade, and the children cannot hope to attain that degree of knowledge which is their right. The teachers in these seven schools number 18. The largest of these school has six rooms, three others have three rooms each, the other three schools one room each, making a total 18 rooms — 18. Can you imagine anything more wasteful or uneconomical when a central school of say ten or twelve rooms, and two schools for primary grades, would suffice? I might say that three of these school are situated within a radius of about 200 yards.
In conclusion, it is my opinion that the present system is not only wasteful and uneconomical, but seriously retards the education of our young people who do not get the chance to which they are entitled, and to whom we look forward, at some time, to carry on the public affairs of this country. It also restricts the efforts of that underpaid, self-sacrificing body, the teachers of this country, to reach the goal they have set for themselves, the education of our young people. They are doing a good job but would be eager and willing to do even a better one, without the present restrictions now placed upon them.
Mr. Higgins Usually I am in accord with my friend Mr. MacDonald on those matters, but frankly I can't agree with the statement, or his suggestions of a new school system such as he has outlined. As far as this country is concerned the system of education that we have meets with the approval of the people, and unless you have the approval of the people as a whole no system of education is going to be successful, because apparently it has worked out very well. Whilst it does not make any difference what comments we make here, nevertheless we should express our thoughts, and I would like to say that in my opinion our system of education is entirely satisfactory, and should not be changed.
Mr. Keough I would like to go on record as concurring completely with the statement made by Mr. Higgins.
Mr. Burry I would like to say a few words on that matter — as a member of the National Convention, not as a member of the profession that has much to do with the spending of this money and is part of the denominational system. It is true, as Mr. Higgins said, it is the choice of the people and it should remain as such. I agree with him there, but I agree also with Mr. MacDonald that it is a wasteful system, not giving us the best possible advantage of the money spent, and I wonder if we could not as a country perhaps do a little better under our denominational system. There seems to be a tendency at the present time to greater divisions. Our school system in a little community seemed to be working very well, and then certain denominational interests stepped in and opened another school, which results in a very wasteful system. I would like to be able to arrange it so as to avoid that happening, to preserve that arrangement rather than to split it up again. That seems to be a thing to consider. I regret that sometimes you will find in some small communities a fairly good system operating under our denominational system, and then, for reasons that you all know, the split is made and the system is very inefficient. That does not apply to our work in Labrador, where I am chiefly interested, because our work there is going very very smoothly under the denominational system, but I am afraid perhaps in the future it may suffer because of it. I will have no more to say about this at the present time, but I would like to say that in Labrador and the northern part of Newfoundland the work of education is efficiently enhanced by the interest the Grenfell Mission people have had in the schools and the education of the people in the north. The amalgamated school in St. Anthony is a great success and is making a great contribution to that community. Perhaps you do not know just what is being done in Labrador by these people, and has been done for some years. There were three boarding schools in Labrador, one at Mary's River, one at Cartwright and one at North West River. Two of these are still existing, one at Cartwright under Dr. and Mrs. Forsyth and one at North West River under Mrs. Paddon and her son. The one at North West River is now being converted into a nondenominational school. We have three teachers there, and we have plans made for the community to set up a $15,000 building with a four room school. It will be under the board of education, but I am glad to say that the Grenfell Mission 164 NATIONAL CONVENTION November 1946 people will carry on their boarding school. They take the children from the isolated villages and families around the coast and bring them into North West River and Cartwright, board them, feed them and clothe them for $40 a year, $4 a month, and now at North West River they will be sending them to the amalgamated school, and we are hoping that boarding school will increase. That means that from the lone villages and families along the coast the Children have the advantage of getting their education, and being fed and clothed for the year, and under the denominational system the Anglican Church and the one I represent put teachers in the bigger villages along the coast, which gives us a fairly good system of education. The interest that the Grenfell Mission has had in the north has facilitated the matter of education to a great extent, and it seems to function fairly well at the present time.
[The committee rose and reported progress and the Convention adjourned]


Newfoundland. The Newfoundland National Convention, 1946-1948 Vol 1: Debates. Edited by J.K. Hiller and M.F. Harrington Montreal: Memorial University of Newfoundland by McGill-Queen's University Press, 1995).



Selection of input documents and completion of metadata: Gordon Lyall.


  • [2] Captain W.G. Warren, the Convention's Secretary, acted as Chairman in the absence of Mr. Justice Fox.
  • [3] Volume 11:65. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • *
    Grade Male No. of Teachers Female No. of Teachers
    University 98 64
    Associate 83 74
    First Grade 172 489
    Second Grade 137 449
    Third Grade 47 175
    Uncertified 73 253
  • [1] Volume II: 16. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]

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