THIS volume sets forth the effort to lay
the foundation of a vigourous and progressive citizenship in that part
of the Province familiarly known as New Ontario. Education has long
clung to old standards. It is characterized by a rigid adherence to
types of matter and modes of treatment whose chief sanction is that of
age and not of intelligence. Tradition is a careful but not always a
safe guide, and this learning was taken under observation and ruthlessly
exposed by so remote, yet far-seeing, a critic as Dickens, who forever
pillories it in his well designated work, “Hard Times.” His Mr.
Gradgrind and Mr. M'Choak-Umchild are still too much abroad. Education
must take upon it the complexion of the age and of the geographical and
industrial conditions that surround it. In this respect it will be found
that the forms and machinery of education in this new Northland have
shaped themselves to the needs and the environment. New departures in
the field were sought out and put to the test and were proven both
salutary and practicable, so that in some respects New Ontario has set
the pace and, compared with the earlier settled portions of the
Province, as in the case of the Consolidated school, can boast a
ten-year lead in the race.
The writer chanced to hold, to him, a not unenviable though strenuous
place in Northern history. A large part of his active experience
synchronized with the period of the famous “Cobalt-Porcupine” boom, and
he moved amid, and, in a measure, directed, the forces that gave the
system shape. Consequently the educational drama took the rapid action
and stirring character of the scenes in which it was enacted. Much of
this is herein incorporated. But, as a somewhat academic study, it
declines to lend itself to the kaleidoscopic movements of camp, canoe,
and trail, whose elusive spiritual element often refuses to take form in
the cold cast of language. This pulsating life is therefore left for
freer treatment in a later volume.
But withal, the motive of the strenuous life portrayed or suggested
herein has been the author’s devotion to the child, and particularly to
the typical child of the North, “on the long, lone trail.” For, often
has he met him pursuing his companionless way, a solitary figure in his
single-handed battle with adverse circumstance, and has tried to lend
him the word of cheer. And ever and anon the picture will float into
vision and reassert itself, among the shifting scenes in light and
shade, that crowd the background of a cherished memory.
North Bay, Canada, 1918.
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