Bechtel, Kathryn - M.A
Rural Agency and The Schools Act Of 1906 - Dr. Terry Crowley, advisor
When the Ontario Conservative government of J. P. Whitney passed new schools legislation in 1906 that increased salaries for teachers in the province and restricted powers previously enjoyed by local school trustees, the rural districts in the province rose in such angry indignation that further legislative changes followed during the next year. While increasing discrepancies between urban and rural life had been observed in the late nineteenth century, this thesis argues that governmental actions in relation to education in 1906 and 1907 served not only to highlight what was perceived in some quarters as “the rural school problem,” but also to consolidate opinion in rural Ontario. Rural schools found it difficult to pay teachers as much as their urban counterparts because rural residents were more dispersed and the transportation infrastructure was rudimentary, but the government's new requirements were seen as running contrary to the thrift characteristic of the province's farmers. In a populist vein that ran deep through Ontario's agrarian thought, the government's actions were also viewed as arbitrary and dictatorial. As well, negative reactions greeted proposals to change the mode of teacher training even though they were intended to improve teaching qualifications. When opposition to the new measures gathered steam initially in local and agricultural emerging agrarian leaders like J. J. Morrison, Caleb A. Mallory, William Charles Good, and Ernest Charles Drury spearheaded attempts to get the government to reverse its stand. Meeting after meeting on the issue was held around the province. Following an exceptional example of rural solidarity, new legislation in 1907 mollified the government's previous position without reversing the stand it had taken about the need to improve the quality of education in the province.