History of education exhibit unveiled

(April 1, 1999, Gazette)

An exhibit documenting the history of education in Newfoundland and Labrador was unveiled Wednesday, March 31, in the G. A. Hickman (Education) Building.

The project was created in response to a high level of public interest in educational issues, and the need to infuse a historical perspective into discussions of education. The display is an initiative undertaken by the Faculty of Education and the Festival of Anniversaries Committee as part of the Festival of Anniversary celebrations underway at Memorial, Memorial's Department of Facilities Management, the Johnson Family Foundation, and Dr. Darryl Fry, alumnus and honorary graduate of Memorial.

Dr. Evan Simpson, vice-president (academic), Dr. Terry Piper, dean of education, and other representatives of the university and the provincial government were present at the ceremony. Dr. Piper is pleased with the historical view the panels will offer.

"Providing a historical perspective on education in Newfoundland and Labrador is an important part of the process that encourages informed discourse on education," said Dr. Piper. "These panels will help provide this perspective."

Dr. Philip McCann, professor emeritus in the Faculty of Education, is the driving force behind the initiative.

Dr. McCann's area of study is educational foundations (history).

"I had a desire to put my research in a form that could be appreciated by a broader audience," he said.

Dr. McCann said the esthetics committee in the faculty are eager to beautify the building and feel that these panels, which were designed by Dougal Dunbar, will add to the esthetics of the building while providing a view of the history of education in the province.

Carol Lidstone, who unveiled the panels, was Dr. McCann's research assistant and did much of the archival research for the project. When completed, the panels will be permanently displayed in the main corridor of the second floor of the G. A. Hickman (Education) Building.

The display will eventually consist of nine large panels, each depicting a theme in the history of education in the province. The content of the exhibit is partly chronological and partly thematic. Each panel contains a mix of visual materials and explanatory text.

The first panel, titled The First School and Missionary Education, depicts the main features of the first known school in Newfoundland and Labrador, founded at Bonavista in 1727 by the Rev. Henry Jones. The panel notes that classes were probably held in a house and the first teacher was a woman, who taught reading from simple moral and religious texts. The school at Bonavista was the first of several schools established on the east coast of

Newfoundland by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts during the 18th century. The panel is based on historical work conducted by Dr. Garfield Fizzard on the province's first school.

The second panel, Schools in a Fishing Society, 1800-1900, depicts the economic and social life of the period as it revolved around a fishery based on the merchant-family truck system. During the first part of the century, when Newfoundland was in transition from the English itinerant fishery to a shore-based sedentary fishery, a variety of schools were established by missionaries, fishing admirals, charitable organizations and individuals.

After the first Education Act, in 1836, "public elementary schools" were founded, usually small one-room wooden structures (the fishing economy could provide nothing more elaborate), and these remained the norm in the outports until well into the 20th century. Research summarized on the panel states that only in St. John's were stone-built colleges established. This panel gives a panorama of schools that could be found on the island during the 19th century.