Need teachers who can read and write

Nova Scotia needs “a general system of education,” financed by direct taxation, with teachers who are better than half-educated “lazy vagabonds,” George Young writes in the Halifax Novascotian. As elsewhere in British North America in the early 19th century, most Nova Scotians were illiterate, and relatively few children attended the only elementary schools, offered by private teachers. Public schools financed by “a general tax” were advocated. Excerpt from the Novascotian, February, 1825.

Throughout the whole range of Nova Scotia (I speak not of our Academies) the masters of our common schools are men, with few exceptions, of little education and questionable morality. It is notorious that whenever a lazy vagabond emigrates to the Province, who would rather get his livelihood by indolence than by labour, and has just a smattering of learning to inspire him with a most inordinate degree of self-conceit, he sets up at once as schoolmaster, and puts on the silly airs of a pedagogue.

In some of our poor settlements, I have seen a shivering wretch, with a ventilated jacket and ragged inexpressibles—his poverty brought on solely by his vicious habits—entrusted with the education and the morals of our rising generation! I know a schoolmaster now, not a great way from Horton Corner, who cannot read even tolerably, who I would defy to work a rule of fractions, and who cannot write even a common letter without murdering the King’s high English, and misspelling every word of two or more syllables. And why?—he receives £20 a year—hardly the wages of an active servant— and boards a week alternately with the parents of his charges. Our Legislature should provide carefully, and distinctly provide, for the removance of this evil.

Unfamiliar Canadian history stories 015


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