Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dr. Francoise Noel speaks on local history: Friday, October 1 at 2:30 pm in Room A122.

 The first departmental seminar of the year concerns the Nipissing District:

The Impact of Regulation 17 on the study of District Schools: a Case Study from the District of Nipissing
 By Françoise Noël
Can  the historian interested in examining the expansion of Ontario schools into the Districts in the ideologically charged period from 1911 to 1931, do so from the standard documentation available? In answer to this question this paper provides data at both the micro and the macro level originating from three sets of documents: Schools and Teachers, the Inspection Summary Registers, and the Report of the Committee Appointed to Enquire into the Condition of the Schools Attended by French-Speaking Pupils, referred to here as the Merchant Report. While these documents allow us to provide a snapshot of the Ontario school system at the beginning and end of this period, the impact of Regulation 17 on the documentation available makes the task of studying the intervening years difficult. Schools and Teachers, does not include English–French schools for the entire period between 1914 and 1926, thereby creating a significant gap in our knowledge of the system in this period. That gap can only be partially filled by using the Inspection Summary Registers as these were created for the express purpose of tracking compliance to Regulation 17 and do not contain the same information. The Merchant Report, while it provides much useful information on the schools that taught French for the period 1925-1926, also does not fill the gap in Schools and Teachers. Regulation 17 leaves behind a legacy of documentation which is ideologically biased towards the resolution and understanding of that “problem” and this continues to make it difficult to view the expansion of schools into the Districts in an ideologically neutral fashion. Our examination of a micro sample from the Nipissing District also underlines the extent to which each school was a separate entity onto itself and shows that conditions could exist in schools located only a few miles apart. Summary data of any kind can therefore provide only a limited view of the situation in District schools. The structure of the school system and its divisions into two or more sectors, depending on the period, reflects the ideological debates of the day. As historians, however, we need to look beyond these divisions and seek an understanding of the interrelationship between schools and their communities that goes beyond these boundaries.