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Historical evolution of the office of Deputy Minister in British Columbia educational policymaking 1919-1945… Giles, Valerie Mary Evelyn 1993

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Historical Evolution of the Office of Deputy Ministerin British Columbia Educational Policymaking1919 - 1945: The Career of Samuel John Willis.byVALERIE MARY EVELYN GILESM.A., Simon Fraser University, 1983A THESIS SUBMITFED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OFTHE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OFDOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHYinTHE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIESDepartment of Social and Educational StudiesWe accept this thesis as conformingto the required standardTHE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIASeptember 1993©VALERIE MARY EVELYN GILES. 1993In presenting this thesis in partial fulfillment of the requirements for an advanceddegree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make itfreely available for reference and study. I further agree that pennission for extensivecopying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the Head of myDepartment or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying orpublication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my writtenpermission.Department of Social and Educational StudiesThe University of British Columbia2044 Lower MallVancouver, B.C.V6T 1W5Date: September 199311AbstractS.J. Willis was British Columbia’s longest-serving Deputy Minister. Between 1919and 1945 he influenced directly the policies and procedures of the province’s educationalenterprise.Willis assumed a primary role in policy-making. It was to Willis that the Ministers,school inspectors, teachers and members of the public made known their suggestions andcomplaints. Although he continued to manage the Department with a high degree of centralauthority, he was more inclusive of teachers and trustees in policy-making than were hispredecessors. His ingenuity in this respect is one of the central themes of this thesis.Willis set the tone for dealings with the Department. Public perceptions of theDepartment, and those of teachers in the field, were determined largely by their dealings withthe Deputy. He managed day-to-day operations while Ministers tended political relationshipsand participated in government.As Deputy Minister, Willis provided political advice to his ministers, thus takingresponsibility for controversial issues as an ordinary duty. All the while, Willis showed heunderstood the scope and limitations of his powers. He was careful to support the politiciansand governments he served without assuming the mantle of elected representatives. Therecord of his career exemplifies that of the traditional civil servant.This study concludes that Willis’ bureaucratic legacy can be instructive tocontemporary government officials and suggests that the Deputy performs an importantfunction in providing continuity between changing governments and Ministers.111Table of ContentsAbstract iiTable of Contents iiiAcknowledgements vDedication viChAPTER 1 A Deputy Minister: IntroductionIntroduction 1Willis’ family background and outlook 3Willis’ career progression to 1919 10Thematic outline 19ChAPTER 2 State of the School System and Department in 1919The School SystemPhysical and human resources 23The budget 27The DepartmentThe Superintendent’s duties 27Borrowed traditions from other systems 30The Ontario heritage 32The American experience and influence 37British traditions of civil service 41Alexander Robinson’s organizational legacy 46CHAPTER 3 Managing a Traditional System, 1919 - 1925Changes in the social order, 1919 - early 1920s 54Willis’ administrative style 59Relationships with teachers 64The first teacher strikes in Canada 68The B.C.T.F. ‘s professional interests 71Willis’ view of teachers in the 1 920s 72The quality of schooling 76Curriculum 78Rural conditions 81ivCHAPTER 4 Social and Educational Change, 1925 - 1939The meaning of Progressive Education 86The Putman-Weir Report 91Willis’ response to the Putman-Weir Report 96Coping with Progressive Education 105CHAPTER 5 Struggling Schools: The Depression Years, 1930 - 1938Background to the Depression 110The Kidd Report 114Weir becomes Minister: Deputy’s role declines 120The King Report 125Pursuit of educational equity 133Towards an equalized salary scale 137The Peace River experiment and school consolidation 139The 1937 reform and its background 146CHAPTER 6 The War Years: 1939 - 1945The politics of war 149Administration during the war years 152Teachers’ salaries 160Consolidation of school districts 166Willis and the B.C.T.F. 170Accepting Progressivism 172ChAPTER 7 Leaving Office: The Willis LegacyCircumstances at retirement 177The office of Deputy Minister 185BIBLIOGRAPhY 191VAcknowledgementsI would like to pay tribute to the people who helped me arrive at this stage in myacademic career.First, and foremost, to my research supervisor, Dr. Bill Bruneau, for his excellentguidance and for all the time he invested in me. I join a long list of graduatestudents who speak of him in superlatives. There could not be a more dedicatedteacher.It was my good fortune to have advisors who took special interest in this work. Dr.Jean Barman pointed the way for conducting the research. Dr. Thomas Flemingreworked the organization of this thesis into a more logical and readable form. Dr.Neil Sutherland imparted advice about style and theme which was invaluable intelling the story. All of them gave me encouragement and support beyond measure.For his continuing interest, and for recruiting me into the Policy Studiesprogramme, I would especially like to thank Dr. John Calam.The inspiration for this topic came from Dr. Norman Robinson, who encouragedme to study the influence of the Deputy Minister as an extension of my Master’sthesis work on British Columbia Education Ministers.The person who originally inspired me to want a Ph.D. is Dr. Liam Finn. For hisaffectionate teaching of life’s important lessons, I am truly grateful.Long ago, I was given some good advice by Madeleine Basford. She reminded methat if I planned to go on to graduate school, I must never lose the discipline ofstudying.This thesis is produced on paper and on computer disk in deference to my friend,Frank Ogden. As a futurist, he respects my interest in the past, but forces me toanticipate the exciting changes ahead as the world hurtles through the InformationAge.And I would also like to remember all my other friends for understanding that thework of thesis writing precluded companionship. At last, I am ready to join‘This thesis is dkd2cateéto tEe memorq ofmyftitEer9L(fiertJames Thompson i1ks1921 - 1989Chapter 1A Deputy Minister: IntroductionYesterday the sands ran out for Dr. Willis.1A Victoria Daily Times editorial thus bade a poetic farewell to the former DeputyMinister, Superintendent, principal, and teacher who had contributed more than a half-century of service to education. Samuel John Willis died after a short illness on April 24,1947 in Victoria’s St. Joseph’s Hospital. The family funeral, held the following Mondayon a drizzly spring day, saw the Metropolitan United Church packed to the doors. Thehigh regard for Dr. Willis was evidenced by the stature of his mourners. Those payingtribute included the province’s Premier and leading educationists. Willis, who had anunassuming character and manner, would have been overwhelmed by the distinctionaccorded him. Honorary pallbearers came from the political elite of the day: PremierJohn Hart, Victoria Mayor Percy George, Education Minister George Weir, DeputyEducation Minister Frank Fairey, University of British Columbia President NormanMacKenzie, and University of British Columbia professors Daniel Buchanan, LemuelRobertson, Garnet C. Sedgewick, Maxwell Cameron, Frederick Wood, and C.B. Wood.His flower-banked casket was carried by old friends: Ralph Matthews of the Kiwanis Club;C.B. Deaville of the Masonic Order; Fred M. McGregor, Percy B. Scurrah, and Harold L.Campbell of the Department of Education and Dr. J.M. Ewing, Victoria College Principal.It was a fine and fitting tribute.1 Victoria Daily Times, 25 April 1947, p. 4.2Chapter 1Samuel John Willis was the most senior government employee concerned witheducation in British Columbia from 1919 to 1945. Willis’ career, as attendance at hisfuneral suggested, was inextricably bound to the Department of Education and thegovernment of British Columbia. The major events of his 26-year administration,reconstructed from personal files, Department of Education records, excerpts fromspeeches, and newspaper accounts, document his role as one of the chief architects andstewards of British Columbia’s modern school system.This study begins when functions later taken up by the Deputy Minister were stillhandled by the province’s Superintendent of Schools. Superintendents were required toobtain and to provide teaching supplies, to take responsibility for the budget, to overseeinspection, to organize Teachers’ Institutes, to grant certificates of qualification, and toproduce an annual report. During Willis’ tenure the office acquired the title “DeputyMinister.” S.J. Willis was appointed Superintendent of Education November 3, 1919 andhis title was changed to Superintendent and Deputy Minister while he served. Anannouncement was made to the press in 1928,2 but the first official use of the title DeputyMinister in British Columbia occurred in the 1931-32 school year. This dual titlecontinued to 1965 when the functions were changed. A separate Superintendent wasappointed to deal with services in the field.The statutory provisions for appointment of the Deputy Minister are contained inthe Civil Service Act which provides: “A Deputy Minister shall be a Civil Servant underthe provision of this Act and shall hold office during pleasure.” The actual responsibilitiesof the position are described in the Act as: “It is the duty of the Deputy Minister of eachdepartment, as he has the authority, subject to the Minister, to oversee and direct the otheremployees in the department and to report as to their efficiency. He has the general2 The Star, 29 December 1928, p. 9.3Chapter 1supervision of the business of the department and such other powers and duties as areassigned to him by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council or by Statute.”3 By tracing Willis’career, this study also documents the historical evolution of the office of Deputy Ministerin British Columbia educational policymaking.WILLIS FAMILY BACKGROUND AND OUTLOOKThe grandchild of British immigrants, Samuel John Willis was born July 28, 1877in Kingston, Prince Edward Island, to Charles and Elizabeth Willis, the fourth of theireight children. Samuel Willis grew up in a farming family with six brothers and onesister. The family registered as Methodist at the 1881 census. Samuel Willis received theclassical, liberal education de rigueur at the time for prosperous families with aspirationsfor their children beyond achieving basic literacy. He enrolled at Prince of Wales Collegein Charlottetown, a non-sectarian Protestant college originally called the Central Academy(created by royal charter in 1836) and known after 1860 as Prince of Wales College.5Prince of Wales College was characterized as “classical” and held a reputation forhigh standards of academic excellence. There, Willis proved to be a brilliant student,graduating at the head of his class and winning the gold medal for scholarship.6 He beganR.S.B.C. 1960, C. 56 Section 10 (2) and Section 12.Census of Canada, 1881. Province of Prince Edward Island, District No. 2, Queen’sCounty, Township No. 31, p. 3. and Census of Canada, 1891. Province of Prince EdwardIsland, District No. 135, Queen’s County, Township No. 31, Division No. 2, pp. 11-12.(1881 and 1991 census records are in manuscript form.)For a detailed description of the history, see Sister Mary Olga McKenna’ s chapter,“Higher Education in Transition” in The Garden Transformed, eds. V. Smitheram et a!.(Charlottetown: Ragweed Press, 1982).4Chapter 1his career as a teacher in a red-brick, one-room country school in his native Prince EdwardIsland where he taught for two years before entering McGill in 1897. He graduated in1900, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Classics with first class honours, winning yet anotherscholarship medal. He then taught for a short time at Montreal High School.Steeped in the classics, Willis brought to his teaching and administration work anawareness of the historical bases of government and educational practice. In the nineteenthcentury, educated Canadians generally believed a study of the classics provided the bestopportunity to understand contemporary issues. Those notions about classical training werelinked to the rise of bureaucratic traditions in Europe and later in eastern North America.Between 1830 and 1950, in much of the English-speaking world, political leadersand high civil servants held that classical training prepared its students to apply insights andknowledge of philosophical and social foundations to the future. Educational leadersduring much of that period tended to be classicists and religiously-minded. Two examplesof such leaders were the architect of the Ontario system, Egerton Ryerson, and McGill’ sPrincipal, Sir William Peterson, who influenced those schooled in their institutions.7 Likeother school or public leaders of his time, Willis was likely raised with this awarenessabout preparation for public service. Willis’ classical education also had importantimplications for career advancement. Upward progression in the British Civil Servicefavoured the classicists, who tended to be promoted more rapidly than their contemporariesschooled in other disciplines.6 Victoria Daily Times, 24 March 1908, p. 1. The facts of Willis’ educational backgroundwere reported in support of his appointment as Principal of Victoria High School by theVictoria School Board trustees.Hugh MacLennan, McGill: The Story of a University (London: George Allen andUnwin Ltd., 1960), p.75.5Chapter 1As Symonds noted, it was mainly Oxford men who rose to the highest ranks inservice to the British Empire, and most of them had read classics. Proponents of classicsheld that the study of the Greats was “the best possible preparation for a political oradministrative career because it taught good judgment.”8 Symonds described the socialinfluence an Oxford education had on the world -- including late- nineteenth-centuryCanada. He asserted that the experience was likely to be manifested in emphasis on“character, Christian principles and loyalty to Empire.”9 Certainly in the BritishColumbian educational bureaucracy of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, classicistswere prominent among holders of senior positions in the hierarchy. Willis’ social andeducational background fit neatly with the climate surviving in the British Columbia CivilService where he found himself in the company of other Empire Loyalists and classicists.Examples include Willis’ predecessor as Superintendent, Alexander Robinson, andUniversity of British Columbia Professor and Head of Classics, Lemuel Robertson.Willis’ credential as a practicing Protestant churchgoer further helped him fitcomfortably amongst his fellows in the Department. Churchmen -- or rather observantmembers of various Protestant denominations -- were well represented in the provincialeducational bureaucracy around the time of Willis’ appointment in 1919. Willis had beenraised a Methodist. The Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational churches cametogether on June 10, 1925 to establish the United Church of Canada.1° Althoughopposition to the union was evident in all the denominations, Willis was among those who8 Richard Symonds, Oxford and Empire: The Last Lost Cause? (London: The MacmillanPress Ltd., 1986), p. 1. See especially Chapter 2, “Prophets, Classics and PhilosopherKings.”Ibid., p. 243.10 N. Keith Clifford, The Resistance to Church Union in Canada. 1904-1939 (Vancouver:University of British Columbia Press, 1985), p. 1.6Chapter 1transferred allegiance.11 He became a prominent member of the Metropolitan UnitedChurch in Victoria. His predecessor, Alexander Robinson, was an Anglican as wasPremier Tolmie and the Education Ministers Willis served -- Joshua Hinchliffe and HarryPerry.12Church affiliation, particularly in the major Protestant denominations, was noaccident amongst educationists.13 The reform spirit was strong within both churches andthe educational bureaucracy. Their ultimate goal of making a better society was a sharedone. The social gospel movement in evidence at century’s turn that lasted into the 1 930s inEurope and North America was described by Smillie as a means of applying the Christiangospel to life. He saw it as a movement “optimistic about the reconstruction of societybased on democratic Christian principles. It assumed that religious and secular thoughtwas involved in an interdependent relatiohip”14As someone born in the highpoint of the Victorian age, Willis could not help but beshaped by the strong moral reform movement characteristic of the last quarter of thenineteenth century. One notable example of education and religion working together for11 For further reference see Richard Allen, The Social Passion: Religion and Social Reformin Canada 1914-1928 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1971).12 The Reverend Canon C.W. Downer, an Anglican clergyman, officiated at Robinson’sfuneral on April 12th, 1952 at the McCall Bros. Funeral Home in Victoria. JoshuaHinchliffe was a retired Canon of the Anglican Church when he became EducationMinister in 1928. See a discussion of religious influence in S. W. Jackman, Portraits ofthe Premiers: An Informal History of British Columbia (Sidney: Gray’s Publishing Ltd.,1969), p. 235.13 Note that University of Toronto President Falconer was Presbyterian but fought hard forand then embraced the United Church of Canada formed in 1925. James G. Brown was awell-known Methodist pastor at Ryerson Church in Vancouver and became Principal ofUnion Theological College at U.B.C. in 1926. Information obtained by W. A. Bruneau inan interview with D.G. Brown (son of James Brown), February 5, 1992.14 Benjamin G. Smillie, “The Social Gospel in Canada: A Theological Critique,” in TheSocial Gospel in Canada, ed. Richard Allen (Regina: University of Regina, 1975), p. 318.7Chapter 1moral reform was the strong support Methodists gave to the temperance movement. Thecause was taken up in earnest by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, which wasactive in British Columbia, and focussed on influencing the school environment. Willissupported their work and urged the school trustees to support their cause. Williseventually carried the banner so far as to draft resolutions such as the one sent to theNanaimo trustees “deploring the increase in drinking and urging intensive instruction onthe matter in the high schools. “15 These women also sought to make schools clean,properly ventilated and well-lit. They encouraged establishment of school gardens andprovision of hot lunches for needy children. Their stated purpose was to establish aChristian world order -- one which was progressive in outlook, and ultimately humane.16In fact, the social gospellers did influence the government and society of their era. Allenassessed their influence as an all-pervasive and broad-based social phenomenon:In church and in secular society, in rural and urban life, in municipality andprovince, and progressively in federal politics, reformers were attempting theawesome task of reshaping Canadian society. When their work was done, both thestructures and social outlook of Canada were remarkably altered.’7Willis’ views were similar to those of his contemporary, Robert Falconer, who wasthen University of Toronto President. Falconer was described by his biographer assomeone for whom a unifying thread was “Christian idealism that was flexible enough toaccommodate other strands of truth.”18 Throughout his long and distinguished career,Willis exhorted students to aspire to solid character building, responsible citizenship and adeep sense of duty and loyalty. By doing so, he lent strong support to Christian idealism.15 The Vancouver Province, 14 January 1943, p. 16.16 Benjamin G. Smillie, Beyond the Social Gospel: Church Protest on the Prairies(Toronto: United Church Publishing House, 1991), pp. 101-107.17 Allen, The Social Passion: Religion and Social Reform in Canada 19 14-1928, p. 3.18 James G. Greenlee, Sir Robert Falconer: A Biography (Toronto: University of TorontoPress, 1988), Preface, p. xii.8Chapter 1For Willis, this duty was based in a firm commitment to these values. Willis addressedthese themes and took them to heart, applying first to himself the high standards he hopedto cultivate through the school system. An example of the language he used is contained inhis speech to the student body of Victoria High School on the occasion of the school’stwentieth anniversary, May 8, 1934. He spoke about integrity, consideration for one’sfellow man, and the courage and determination characteristic of the British race.19 He wasopen about expressing his code of conduct and loyalty to Christian values. Furthermore,he applied them in conducting his personal life and in his professional relationships.Willis’ outlook was in keeping with the social character of the British ColumbiaDepartment of Education’s men as described by Fleming.2° The Department’s recruitmentpractices were consistent in the tendency to gravitate towards a certain type of individual.They tended to be known to each other as former university classmates or fellowMaritimers, or had regimental connections from military service.2’ Around 1900, theexodus from the Maritimes became a subject of comment among Canadian newspapereditorialists. Greenlee observed that “people were leaving the Maritimes for points west innumbers sufficiently large to attract considerable comment from the worried press.”22Halifax papers began to feature regular articles on the subject of westward migration in thelast half of 1906.19 The Daily Colonist, 9 May 1934, p. 3.20 Thomas Fleming, “Our Boys in the Field’: School Inspectors, Superintendents, and theChanging Character of School Leadership in British Columbia,” in Schools In The West:Essays in Canadian Educational History, eds. Nancy M. Sheehan, J. Donald Wilson, andDavid C. Jones (Calgary: Detselig Enterprises Limited, 1986), pp. 290-29. Fleming notesthat many administrators in B.C. ‘s education system prior to 1929 had been born andeducated in the Maritimes, Ontario and the British Isles.21 Ibid., p. 291.22 Greenlee, Sir Robert Falconer: A Biography, p. 89.9Chapter 1In the period immediately preceding Willis’ appointment, the educational hierarchywas comprised of a group of classically-trained men, many of whom hailed from theMaritimes, were educated in central Canadian universities, and then joined the westwardmovement attracted by opportunities opening up in British Columbia. Once here, thisclique became established in public education, particularly in the senior managementpositions. Hiring of classmates, former students or proteges became the norm and helpedto solidify the “corporate culture” of the fledgling Department.23 This was a group of menwho were known to each other and who shared a common cluster of values andphilosophies concerning schooling, along with ideas about how it should be managed.Each took his job very seriously, for as Fleming puts it, “For many, the job became themost important thing in their lives.”24Allegiance to the notion of central authority was important in and to theDepartment. There was, therefore, consistency in the selection of officials who wereprepared to serve the department and to give their allegiance 25 Willis performed his dutiesas a civil servant not only according to his personal style, but also under the constraints ofthe conventions and influences of the times.23 This was reflected as common knowledge by historians John Calam and Peter W. Smithand in the recollections of former school Inspector Stewart Graham and former B.C.T.F.President Bernard Gillie in interviews with the author.24 Fleming, “Our Boys in the Field’,” p. 290.25 Willis’ background differed in that he had not done military service. Typically, leadersin British Columbia’s educational civil service from 1918 to about 1950 had commandexperience in the First or Second World War, according to the Department’s Field ServicesDivision card file on field personnel. At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914,Willis would have been 37 years old-- well above the typical recruiting age of 18 to 25years.10Chapter 1WILLIS CAREER PROGRESSION TO 1919Like his fellow educationists Alexander Robinson, J.D. MacLean, LemuelRobertson and virtually all other British Columbian school leaders before 1925, Willis hadcome west to establish his career.26 Smith resorted to a bit of hyperbole in describingWillis’ turn-of-the-century move as one which was “part of an invading army of PrinceEdward Islanders, who virtually controlled Education in British Columbia for severaldecades.”27 Historians such as Barman, Calam, Fleming and others have illustrated invarious ways the eastern-born connection.28 Barman describes this settlement pattern as aform of “chain migration” where family and friends of an adventurous person would beinduced to follow. In the case of teachers, they were also attracted by economicopportunity. “Lured by much higher salaries in the west ... many Maritimers came out toteach in British Columbia’s fledgling schools.”29Willis followed his friend Lemuel Robertson to British Columbia in 1900, andaccepted a teaching position at the Boys’ Central School in Victoria. He left after only oneyear to join the staff at Victoria High School. That school planned to expand into higherlearning. In order to qualify as an accredited programme of studies, the Victoria School26 All three began careers in British Columbia as school teachers. Robertson helped foundthe University of British Columbia and served as the first Head of Classics. MacLeanserved as Minister of Education from 1916-1928 and as Premier during his last year ofoffice.27 Peter Lawson Smith, Come Give a Cheer: One Hundred Years of Victoria High School.1876-1976 (Victoria: Victoria High School Centennial Celebrations Committee, 1976), p.39.28 For example, refer to discussions in Jean Barman, The West Beyond The West: AHistory of British Columbia (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991); John Calam,ed., Alex Lord’s British Columbia: Recollections of a Rural School Inspector. 1915-36(Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1991); and Fleming, “Our Boys in theField’,” pp. 285-303.29 Barman, The West Beyond The West, p. 130.11Chapter 1Board had applied to McGill University seeking affiliate status for Victoria High School.After receiving authority to offer first year Arts courses, “Victoria College” commenced inthe fall of 1903 with seven students, holding classes in the high school, with Edward B.Paul as Principal and Willis as one of the first faculty members •30Willis was offered a one-year lectureship at McGill University in 1905. The offerhad not been solicited by Willis, but came in recognition of his excellent academicrecord.31 The offer included an opportunity to do post-graduate work. Willis wanted toaccept the position, which was an honour similar to obtaining a “limited fellowship” at oneof the Oxbridge colleges. But he could do so only if leave were arranged with the VictoriaSchool Board from September 1, 1905 to May 1, 1906. This would have permitted him towork for Victoria High School the preceding August and during May and June, “asotherwise the monetary sacrifices would have been too great.”32At their June meeting, the school board decided to grant him leave only for theperiod beginning in August 1905 and ending in June 1906. The decision caused Willis to30 For so small a group -- seven students and a five member staff -- to earn affiliationstatus as a college of a well-established university as McGill was unusual. One author’sopinion is that two of McGill’ s star pupils were on the staff, Samuel Willis and RosalindWatson, gold medalists of 1900 and 1895 respectively. See Smith, Come Give a Cheer, p.40. Calam provides evidence of an even stronger connection in a note explaining howWillis was known to Lemuel Robertson. “A fellow New Brunswicker, Robertson had metWillis at McGill where they both honoured in Classics. Later, Robertson had becomeprofessor of Classics at Vancouver College and ‘while on a year’s study leave at McGill’suggested to Principal Peterson that, with adequate funding, Vancouver College couldbecome ‘a full-fledged college of McGill University.’ McGill agreed. Sir WilliamMacdonald promised $5,000 for three years, and in 1906, the British Columbia legislaturepassed enabling legislation.” Noted in Calam, ed., Alex Lord’s British Columbia, p. 175.31 The Victoria Times, 24 March 1908, p. 1. Evidence of Willis’ academic reputation iscontained in a career summary on the occasion of his appointment as Principal of VictoriaHigh School.32 The Colonist, 30 June 1905, p. 5. Remark attributed to Willis. This is the only sourceof information available about the offer. McGill University has no record of it, and theVictoria School Board reports that they have no records extant for 1905.12Chapter 1turn down the McGill posting. Although the Victoria School Board minutes from 1905have not survived, there is a strong possibility that the Board feared losing him to McGill.He was an extremely well-liked teacher whose administrative ability the Board had quicklyrecognized. Later that year, on December 27, when Willis married Victoria teacher ElinorNisbet, The Colonist published a wedding announcement describing Willis as “one of themost popular teachers of this city” and listing the tokens of regard bestowed upon thecouple by fellow teachers and students.33After teaching at Victoria High School for seven years, Willis was appointed tosucceed Edward B. Paul as Principal in 1908. He was the unanimous choice of thetrustees, and the only applicant considered. The Board approved its decision by recordingthe explanatory comment concerning “his long experience in educational work and hissuccess therein weighing strongly with the trustees.”34 Alex Lord remembered thereputation Willis earned as a teacher at Victoria High. He described how Willis, afterassuming the principalship, took the school’s reputation to new heights. Lord recalled,“Under his wise and able leadership over the next five years, no school in the province wasmore highly regarded.”35 Paul was promoted to City Superintendent of Schools. In the1908-09 Annual Report, Paul lauded Willis’ first year as Principal:On the whole, the results of the work of the College and High School have beenvery encouraging. Principal Willis and the teaching staff of the school are to becongratulated on its efficiency and on the high reputation which, largely throughtheir energy, the Victoria High School has acquired at the McGill University.36The Colonist, 29 December 1905, p. 5.The Colonist, 24 March 1908, p. 3.35 A.R. Lord on S.J. Willis, Calam, ed., Alex Lord’s British Columbia, p. 125.36 British Columbia, Superintendent of Education, Annual Report, 1908-09 (Victoria:King’s Printer, 1909), p. A3 3. Willis served as Principal until 1916.13Chapter 1Changing economic conditions in British Columbia were about to influence thecourse of Willis’ career. In the years just before the outbreak of the First World War in1914, a severe depression hit throughout the province. Declining fortunes were perhapsmost evident in Greater Vancouver and Greater Victoria where 60 per cent of thepopulation lived. With Canada’s entry into the war in 1914, public attention focussed onsupporting the Canadian troops in Europe. Provincial politicians exhorted the public tocontribute to the war effort by belt-tightening and by accepting rationing. Wartimeshortages eroded the provincial tax base and directly affected school board budgets.Among the first to decide to cut salaries was the Victoria School Board.37 When theVictoria School Board met on January 22, 1915 Willis and five other teachers put up aspirited defense of their case for leaving salaries intact. They were told that they shouldthink of the Board’s budget difficulties, reconsider the matter, and report again to theBoard the following week. This same meeting determined that any vacant teachingpositions were to be filled with candidates willing to accept the minimum salary. At theJanuary 27, 1915 meeting the Victoria School Board set in place its policy of a ten per centreduction of all school salaries. The minutes record:It was unanimously agreed that a sum representing at least 10% of the totalteachers’ annual salaries, based on the salaries of the teachers as they existed inDecember 1914, must be taken off the estimate in order to meet the exigency of thepresent financial situation.38Just prior to consideration of the budget estimates, a delegation from the VictoriaTeachers’ Institute, led by Willis as President, attempted to sway the Board against cuttingteachers’ salaries. Willis presented the association’s unanimous resolution that “TheA.R. Lord on S.J. Willis, Calam, ed., Alex Lord’s British Columbia, p. 125. “Moneywas scarce, tax collections were poor, and, following the acceptable policy of the day, theschool Board cut salaries, also early and hard.”38 Victoria School Board, Minutes of Meeting, 27 January 1915, p. S23.14Chapter 1Teachers are opposed to any refund of their salaries to the Board on principle.”39 Theirplea was unsuccessful. Although Willis possessed the fortitude and organizational capacityto become a union activist, he was evidently not drawn to such a role. Nevertheless, as anadministrator he remained sympathetic to teachers. Their regard for him, as expressedthrough the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation correspondence and minutes, bearwitness to mutual respect. 40The salary cuts considered at subsequent meetings were across the board -- andincluded high school teachers, janitors and office staff. All experienced a ten per centsalary reduction.4’ The decision produced teacher resignations. Many good teachers leftWillis’ school -- some to enlist in the armed services. As the school declined in stature,others sought employment with the new University of British Columbia (U.B.C.) With theestablishment of the university, Victoria College lost its McGill affiliation and could nolonger offer college-level courses. It became increasingly difficult to replace the teachingstaff who were resigning to teach at U. B. C •42‘ Ibid.40 B.C.T.F. Minutes and the B.C.T.F. publication, the B.C. Teacher, mention numeroustimes “cordial” meetings between Willis and B.C.T.F. delegations. The B.C.T.F.consistently described Willis as “sincere” and “fair”. Similar language was summoned upin their editorial tribute upon his passing. “Privileged indeed were those whose fortune itwas to have been associated in any capacity with him. His sympathetic understanding andcareful consideration of the many educational problems brought to him by federationofficers on various occasions has improved materially the status of the teaching professionin this province.” B.C. Teacher, 26, 8, (May-June, 1947): 322.4’ Victoria School Board, Minutes of Meeting, 29 January 1915, p. S27.42 Smith, Come Give a Cheer, p. 42.15Chapter 1In 1916, Willis himself reluctantly made the same move. He accepted a teachingposition just one year after U.B.C. began operation in 1915 and served there for twoyears.43 A contemporary, A.R. Lord, recalled:Each term Willis saw the standing and tone of his school drop a little lower until, insomething approaching despair, he accepted a position which he had declined a yearor two earlier, becoming in September 1916 [associate] professor of classics atU.B.C. under his old friend Lemuel Robertson.44Willis was popular as a Latin professor. The 1916-17 U.B.C. Annual described him askind and tolerant:Formerly most of us knew Mr. Willis only from his signature on ur High Schoolcertificates. This term, however, we who desire to lisp in Latin numbers have beengiven the opportunity of forming a more intimate acquaintance with him. Thosewho take lectures under him know him as a man at once just and considerate, and ifwisely exacting, only the more unsparing of his own efforts.45In 1918, Willis’ educational career took an important turn. The Vancouver SchoolBoard called for an inquiry into the efficiency of the city’s school system. The purposewas mainly to investigate reported problems in the management of King Edward HighSchool. Parents and some teachers were dissatisfied with the school’s first principal,Stanley W. Mathews. Although he had served since 1909, after nine years in office,complaints began to reach the Vancouver School Board. Staff morale was low, withteachers divided into cliques. Confidence in the principal was lost. Mathews managed toUniversity of British Columbia, Minutes of the Meeting of the Board of Governors, 11May 1916. Vol. 3, p. 385. Willis was appointed for three years at $2,750.00 per annum,effective July 1, 1916, replacing retiring professor Mr. Kemp. The term and salary paidWillis was identical to that offered the year before to Lemuel Robertson.A.R. Lord on S.J. Willis, Calam, ed., Alex Lord’s British Columbia, p. 125. LemuelRobertson was appointed Head of the Classics Department effective April 1, 1920, withoutterm. U.B.C. Board of Governors’ minutes. Vol.5, p.741.‘ U.B.C. Annual 1916-17, Appointments in the Faculty and Staff, p. 23.16Chapter 1contribute to his own undoing. When the investigation began, he gave conflicting reportsto the inquiry commissioners from those he gave to the school board.46The inquiry commissioners were the Reverend Principal W.H. Vance of theAnglican College and the Reverend Principal John Mackay of Westminster Hall.Appointed by the Vancouver School Board, they concluded that Mathews “was not capableof holding the office of principal of such an important institution.” Specifically, Mathews“had no proper grasp of the inter-relation of one department to another, and though he hada splendid staff, was not producing satisfactory results.” Commissioner Vance made bluntand damaging statements to the Vancouver School Board concerning Principal Mathews.In an account of the meeting published the following day, it was reported that Vancedeclared that the Principal “had a tremendous grasp of details, but they were details thatwere not material” and that he “did not seem ‘big enough for the job’. “fl Mathews’primary problem was an inability to manage his school and in particular to provideleadership to the teachers. The inquiry’s findings set up the expectation that a singularindividual had to be found to take over the principalship of the school. TheCommissioners’ immediate solution was a drastic one, calling for the resignation of notonly the Principal, but of the entire staff. Their reasoning was that the new Principalshould be free to appoint the staff, with the assumption that better assignments could bemade in re-engaging most of the teachers.British Columbia Archives and Records Service (hereafter BCARS), GR 0467 Vol. 1(1903-1019), pp. 205 - 206. “Would Ask King Edward Staff To File Resignation,”published 12 February 1918 in The Daily Province.BCARS, GR 0467 Volume 1 (1903-1919), Clipping Book pp. 205-206. Articlepublished in Vancouver World 12 February 1918, “Principal and Entire Staff ShouldResign.”17Chapter 1The Vancouver School Board now faced the task of finding a new Principal for theprovince’s largest high school. Although the trustees wanted to be fair about promotingteachers within their district as opportunities came available, they eventually agreed that astrong outside appointment would be the best choice. At the June 18, 1918 meeting,Trustee Long spoke in favour of Willis several times, and eventually made a formalsuggestion that Willis be asked to apply 48 Willis had been highly regarded in educationcircles, his reputation being established first as Principal of Victoria High School and thenas a popular faculty member at U. B.C. Because Willis was known as an excellent teacherand administrator, the Vancouver school trustees were confident that he was a person ofsuitable stature and ability to assume the principalship of King Edward High School.Trustee Lang assured the Board that “A number of leading men here have told me that Mr.Willis was probably the best type of man in the Province today for a difficult problem suchas we have to face. It is sometimes quite proper for the position to seek the man, ratherthan the man the position.”49 Trustee Lang read an unsolicited recommendation fromU.B.C. Classics head, Robertson, in whose Department Willis was teaching. The boardvoted at the June 24, 1918 meeting to hire Willis at an annual salary of $3,600.Willis was appointed Principal in September 1918 and, in one short year, hisreputation at that school was firmly established. His tenure as Principal was cut shortwhen a new challenge was presented to him. The school’s historians recorded:When in November, 1919, he was called upon to assume the position ofSuperintendent of Education for the Province of British Columbia, his resignationevoked universal regret.5°48 Vancouver School Board, Minutes, 18 June 1918, p. 250.‘ Vancouver School Board, Minutes, 24 June 1918, p. 269.5° History Club of King Edward High School, The First Fifty Years: Vancouver HighSchools 1890-1940 (Vancouver: Vancouver School Board, 1940), p. 76.18Chapter 1Willis’ former colleague, Lemuel Robertson, again played a signal role in theunfolding of Willis’ career. It is the stuff of legends, and a good story, how Willis cameto be chosen to replace Alexander Robinson as Superintendent of Education. As InspectorAlex R. Lord related in his memoir, a messenger arrived at Robertson’s home one eveningin mid-September 1919 with a letter from Education Minister J.D. MacLean. It containedthe question: “Which of these three5’ would be best as Superintendent of Education?Robertson wrote “S. J. Willis” at the bottom and the messenger returned with the sealedenvelope to Victoria.52 Days later a formal announcement was made to the press aboutRobinson’s retirement and Willis’ succession to the position. Inspector Lord commentedthat the common background shared by Robertson, MacLean and Willis as Prince EdwardIslanders, McGill alumni and former British Columbia teachers was “not a negligible factorat a time when most of British Columbia’s leaders in education had their origins in theMaritime provinces.”53 Willis and Robertson were Classics colleagues at McGill andbecame part of the large Maritime contingent who served within the EducationDepartment.The actual appointment as Superintendent of Education was made by an Order-In-Council passed by the cabinet November 3, 1919 and Willis assumed duties on November17. The position was defacto deputy minister to J.D. MacLean, Education Minister in theLiberal government of Premier John Oliver. The first use of the title “Deputy Minister”51 Although the names of the two people on MacLean’s list are not known, AlexanderRobinson considered that there were three others who were better qualified than was Willisto replace him. See The Victoria Times, 11 November 1919, p. 5 for an indication of whothey might have been. The newspaper published Robinson’s November 10 letter toEducation Minister J.D. MacLean. Robinson listed “Mr. Arthur Sullivan, Senior HighSchool Inspector; Mr. J.W. Gibson, Director of Elementary Agricultural Education; andMr. J.S. Gordon, Municipal Inspector of Schools” as more acceptable successors to hisposition.52 A.R. Lord on S.J. Willis, Calam, ed., Alex Lord’s British Columbia, p. 124.Ibid.19Chapter 1would appear in the press with Willis? appointment December 28, 1928 to assist EducationMinister Hinchliffe. It was reported “He will carry on the regular duties of superintendentof education as in the past with the added duties that go with the position of deputyminister.”54 The title Deputy Minister and Superintendent of Education carried forth inthe Department of Education annual reports from 193 1-32 on.THEMATIC OUTLINEThis thesis examines the Deputy Minister’s influence on the generation andimplementation of Education Department policies between 1919 and 1945. The extent ofSamuel John Willis’ opportunity and authority to act was expanded by the force of his ownambition and sense of duty but contained by the reality of government structures andsociety’s expectations respecting education. Although Willis was a creature of his era, acase can also be made that his personality, being the depiction of his organized behaviour,contributed to his perfonnance as Deputy Minister.The position Willis held as Superintendent and Deputy Minister implied bothleadership and authority. In an obvious sense, the Deputy Minster was the creator ofconvention, not just the embodiment of it. Because the Deputy Minister held the highestranking civil service office in education, he could directly influence policies andprogrammes. Rousseau’s study of Western Canadian Deputy Ministers during the late1960s found that the Deputy was responsible for the internal administration and supervisionof the Department, exercising powers putatively designated to the Minister.55 A similar“Dr. S.J. Willis Appointed to Aid Minister: Education Superintendent Promoted Deputyby Government.” The Morning Star 29 December 1928, p. 9.Joseph G. Rousseau, “Some Aspects of the Role of Selected Deputy Ministers ofEducation” (M. Ed. thesis, University of Alberta, 1968).20Chapter 1assumption of power is described in Woodrow’ s research findings on the statutoryprovisions for authority and power in the British Columbia education system. He arguedthat “all actions taken by the Deputy Minister are done with the presumed authority of theMinister.”56 But was this always so? This study demonstrates how far the aura of theDeputy’s influence reached under Willis, and argues that it was his consolidation of theoffice’s powers that made the Deputy’s influence so great.Granatstein presented the case that federal civil service mandarins were able tocreate mechanisms that allowed their Ministers to “shape, direct and control the course ofevents in Canada.” His study concluded that, concomitantly, the Deputies “created acentral government structure and system in which great power and influence flowed tothem.”57 In order to decide whether Willis managed his department in the same way, thisthesis examines his participation in curriculum design, bureaucratic functioning,operational structures, new program development, and the work of official commissions ofinquiry.This study is based on a comprehensive documentary record surviving in variouslocations. The British Columbia Archives and Records Service holdings on educationalpolicies are extensive, although filed variously according to the departments involved or,alternatively, in the records of specific officials. Other records pertaining to education arefound in the Premiers’ papers as well as in the files of the Ministers and Deputy Ministers.Minutes of the meetings of the Council of Public Instruction, the cabinet group thatoversaw education policy, are vital for establishing the record of educational policies and56 J• Woodrow, “Authority and Power in the Governance of Public Education: A Study ofthe Administrative Structures of the British Columbia Education System” (Ed. D. thesis,University of British Columbia, 1974), p. 76.J.L. Granatstein, The Ottawa Men: The Civil Service Mandarins, 1935-1957 (Toronto:Oxford University Press, 1982), p. xii.21Chapter 1programs. These, together with various correspondence files (originals and microfilm),Orders-in-Council, the Department’s Annual Reports and the reports of the Commissions,the Attorney General’s files on school laws, and the Department of Health’s filesconcerning school inspections offer a comprehensive evidence base. Original copies ofWillis’ correspondence are also housed in the Vancouver School Board archives. Recordsheld by the B.C.T.F. have also proven to be a valuable source.With respect to Willis’ records housed in the British Columbia Archives andRecords Service, Dunae noted that:With very few exceptions, all education records created prior to 1946 have beenaccounted for by the B.C. Archives and Records Service. Researchers mayassume, then, that departmental records (pre-1946) which do not appear in thisdocument are kept by School District offices or have not survived.58For the most part, details of Willis’ work can be discerned from the official Department ofEducation records, including microfilmed correspondence, despite the fact that muchrelevant documentation for the interwar years was destroyed.59Although the Department of Education’s files remain the principal documentarysource, the province’s leading newspapers commonly reported accounts of speeches almostverbatim, or at least by extensive quotation. Other particularly useful sources have beenS.J. Willis’ typewritten essay of 1934 housed in the British Columbia Archives and reportsof his speeches to annual teachers’ conventions reported in the B.C. Teacher. Interviews58 Patrick Dunae, Inventory of Government Records Relating to Public Education in BritishColumbia 1852 to 1946 (Victoria: BCARS, 1990), p. 4.Many administrative files from the 1920s were not preserved when the Department firsttransferred records to the Archives. Similarly, many records from the 1930s werediscarded in 1949 when the Department of Education moved from the West Annex of theParliament Buildings to new offices in the Douglas Building on Government Street.Fortunately, many of the original copies of Willis’ letters have been preserved in theVancouver School Board Archives.22Chapter 1with several of Willis’ contemporaries have added valuable personal dimensions andinsights.The following chapters present the life and times of the longest-serving DeputyMinister in British Columbia history. His career and its legacy form a significant part ofthis province’s education system. The social, political and personal circumstances help toexplain his career.23Chapter 2State of the School System and Department in 1919THE SCHOOL SYSTEMPhysical and human resourcesAs a benchmark of change, it is appropriate to consider the state of the provincialsystem at the time Willis assumed office. By the end of Alexander Robinson’s nineteen-year career as Superintendent, the British Columbia system provided schooling for 72,000pupils and employed 2,332 teachers. The teaching force was almost evenly dividedbetween urban and country postings. City schools employed 1,154 teachers, and 1,178teachers taught in rural areas. The 45 high schools collectively enrolled 5,806 pupils,taught by 197 teachers. A coterie of 12 inspectors reported on conditions in the fieldacross a vast province consisting of a land area of 360,000 square miles.’ Robinson hadalso overseen establishment of the normal schools. By 1919, the Vancouver NormalSchool enrolled 222 students in fall session and 209 in the January intake. At Victoria,131 student teachers enrolled in the fall, and the term continued into the next year due totime losses during closure because of the influenza epidemic. On February 7, 1919, 130students enrolled for the spring session.2Most schools in 1919 were small wooden structures built according to standardDepartment of Public Works plans. A school construction spurt just before the First1 School statistics from British Columbia, Superintendent of Education, Annual Report,1918-19 (Victoria: King’s Printer, 1919), p. A 9 Introduction to Report, Letter ofTransmittal to the Lieutenant-Governor.2 Ibid., p. A 46.Chapter 2 24World War occurred in response to a rapidly growing school age population both in citiesand rural areas. The Public Works Department had determined that the most favoured sizefor a classroom, in one-room to four-room schools, was 27 by 32 feet. This was the sizerequired to accommodate “an optimum number of 50 pupils per classroom.”3 In a sense,the rigidity of architectural practice hinted at invisible rigidities in the system’sadministration and curriculum. The choice of building plan and style of architectureaffected physical school layouts for decades following their construction. Franidin andFleming’s architectural history of British Columbia schools reveals “there is an indicationthat log schoolhouses were built as late as 1920, and were used until the 1 940s. “In the major cities of Vancouver and Victoria, most school construction between1900 and 1920 was brick. Such schools were infinitely more architecturally splendid thanthe simple structures in rural areas. In addition to special architectural effects and largewindows, the urban brick buildings were large and multi-storied, and featured specializedclassroom space for physical education, manual training and domestic science.5Traditionally, school districts were overseen by elected boards of trustees. By1919, the Education Office recognized that “the three man rural school boards of pioneerdays had reached the end of their usefulness.” Thereafter, the Council for PublicInstruction could appoint official trustees to replace rural boards which did not carry outtheir functions. Johnson considered that this was mainly “because it was becomingincreasingly difficult to find local residents with the education, time and interest for schoolDouglas Franidin and John Fleming, Early School Architecture in British Columbia: AnArchitectural History and Inventory of Buildings to 1930 (Victoria: Heritage ConservationBranch, 1980), p. 10.Ibid., p. 8.5lbid.,p. 117.Chapter 2 25board duties.”6 It is hard to believe that this had not been so in the 1870s, 1880s, and1 890s. Still, the pressure on the system in 1919 must have been enough to force politicalreorganization, or the contemplation of it.During autumn of 1918 and winter of 1919, the influenza epidemic disrupted theschool year. Illness took its toll on the teaching profession and many teachers lost theirlives. As soon as the epidemic hit, Inspector J.B. DeLong reported that many high schoolswere closed “for upwards of two months.”7 Inspectors of several districts reported losing aterm’s work. Social and physical circumstances thus added to the social and politicaldifficulty faced by the public education system.As Willis had himself witnessed first-hand, before widespread illness disrupted thesystem, the Vancouver school population was burgeoning and there was critical need forfunds to build more schools. Although some Vancouver schoolchildren had their classes intemporary buildings, attics and basements, the by-laws conducted in January 1918 andJanuary 1919 for school improvements were defeated both times.8 Vancouver schoolInspector Leslie J. Bruce felt compelled to remark in his report on the overcrowding. Hiscomments included a rebuke to the public that “classrooms in basements and attics are adisgrace to a modern city. That schools are handicapped by such conditions seems to be6 F. Henry Johnson, A History of Public Education in British Columbia (Vancouver:Publications Centre, University of British Columbia, 1964), p. 97. Although such powerexisted, in reality it only was exercised a few times. Replacement of local boards withofficial trustees was not a common practice.‘ British Columbia, Superintendent of Education, Annual Report, 19 18-19 (Victoria:King’s Printer, 1919), p. A 18.8 Ibid., p. A 23. J.T. Pollock, Inspector of Schools for Vancouver, reported that“Although existing conditions have been stated clearly to the public, and the demand forfunds was energetically supported by those interested in the progress of the school, the bylaws have been defeated twice.” See also Jean Barman, “Knowledge is Essential forUniversal Progress but Fatal to Class Privilege,” Labour/Le Travail 22 (Fall 1988): 9-66.Chapter 2 26due entirely to the attitude of the “9 Although that school inspector viewed theratepayers as unyielding and parsimonious, the fact remained that people had little money.The lack of sufficient operating funds added to the burden of overseeing the systemprovince-wide. The implications of inadequate funding -- inadequate certainly in the eyesof administrators -- were numerous and various, ranging from infrequent inspection to poor“productivity.”As a former principal, Willis was undoubtedly well aware that the job of overseeingthe schools, even those close to Victoria, was an overwhelming task for inspectors.Inspector H.H. MacKenzie put in a bid for more meaningful and frequent schoolinspections, fully cognizant that his comment meant an increase in personnel. Allowingthat school closures made visits to all 250 classrooms impossible, he alluded to the “dawnof the New Era” when “truly efficient inspection” would come. “Paying a flying annualvisit to rural schools presided over by young girls -- the majority of whom are still in their‘teens -- is not doing well the work of public school inspection.” MacKenzie also lamentedthat it was becoming more difficult to attract and retain qualified teachers:Women are entering other professional and commercial fields where value is givenfor value received, where remuneration is commensurate with labour and energyexpended, and bears a reasonable ratio to the cost of living.If school teacher salaries were too low for women, they were certainly no inducement tomen either. “The passing of the male teacher still continues to be the tragedy of theschools,” concluded MacKenzie at the end of his report. The education department and itsteachers continued to be constrained by lack of adequate financial resources.10Ibid., p. A 25.10 Ibid., p. A 26.Chapter 2 27The BudgetIn the 1918-19 school year, the government spent $1.8 million or 15 % of its $12.1million budget on the Department of Education. The total province-wide expenditure oneducation in that year was $4.2 million, of which more than half ($2.4 million) wascontributed by the cities, municipalities and rural and assisted school districts.’1Robinson’s last budget detailed various classes of expenditure. For the 1918-19 schoolyear, these included operating the Education Office at Victoria, including salaries, officesupplies and travel expenses; the Free Text-book Branch; Agricultural Education;Industrial Education; Inspection of Schools; the Provincial normal schools at Vancouverand Victoria; the Deaf, Dumb and Blind School; grants to libraries; erection, maintenanceand repair of school buildings; transportation of children to central schools; and grants andrent payments to school districts. These various line items show that in 1919, stateintervention in education had become more diverse than Ryerson would have expected, butthat it had not yet strayed from the central vision of the founder.THE DEPARTMENTThe Superintendent’s DutiesThe duties and responsibilities facing Willis upon assuming office had been set outin the 1872 Public Schools Act which had been amended and re-enacted six times by 1919.The 1872 allowed the appointment of a Superintendent of Education who would be exofficio Chairman of the Board of Education. He was to hold office at the pleasure of theLieutenant-Governor. The further stipulated that the Superintendent be “a fit and“Ibid., p. A 15.Chapter 2 28proper person” who was also “an experienced and successful Teacher of at least five years’standing, holds a first class certificate from some college, school, or Board of Examinationin some other Province or Country where a Public School System has been in operation. “12The Superintendent’s duties were spelled out in ten sections requiring him to visit allschools annually, to deliver a public lecture at least once a year on the object and principlesof practical education, and to resolve disputes occurring over the election of trustees.’3The Public School Acts of 1872 (amended in 1873 and 1874), 1876, 1879 and 1885had been repealed with successive legislation and the which was in force by the timeWillis assumed office in 1919 had been enacted April 20, 1891 as the Public School Act of1891.14 The language of the speaks to the range of responsibilities and the degree ofinvolvement and engagement with the system which was expected of the most seniorofficial. The duties of the Superintendent were listed in Section 8. “It shall be the duty ofthe Superintendent of Education:1. To take charge of and safely keep all apparatus that may be procured for school purposes,and to furnish, at his discretion, on the application of the Trustees of any district, such apparatus asmay be required for the schools in such district.2. To establish a separate school for females in any district where he may deem it expedient soto do; and such school, when so established, may be presided over by a female teacher or teachers,but otherwise shall be subject to the same obligations and regulations as Public Schools generallyunder this Act.3. To examine and enquire into, from time to time, the progress of the pupils in learning, theorder and discipline observed, the system of instruction pursued, the mode of keeping the schoolregisters, the average attendance of pupils, the character and condition of the buildings andpremises, and to give such directions as he may judge proper.4. To do all in his power to persuade and animate parents, guardians, trustees, and teachers toimprove the character and efficiency of the Public Schools, and to secure the sound education of theyoung generally.12 An Act Respecting Public Schools, April 1872, Section 4.13 Ibid., Section 8.14 British Columbia, Statutes, Public School Act, 1891.Chapter 2 295. To have, subject to the Council of Public Instruction, the supervision and direction of theInspectors and schools.6. To enforce the provisions of this Act, and the regulations and decisions of the Council ofPublic Instruction.7. To organize, under regulations framed by the Council of Public Instruction, a Teachers’Institute or Teachers’ Institutes.8. To grant temporary certificates of qualification, countersigned by the Provincial Secretary;which temporary certificates shall be valid till the next examination of teachers.9. To make annually, for the information of the Legislature, a report of the actual state of thePublic Schools throughout the Province, showing the number of pupils taught in each SchoolDistrict, the branches taught, and average attendance, the amount of moneys expended in connectionwith each school, the number of official visits made to each school, the salaries of teachers, thenumber of qualified teachers, their standing and sex, together with any other information that he maypossess respecting the educational state and wants and advantages of each school and district in theProvince, and such statements and suggestions for improving the Public Schools and school laws,and promoting education generally, as he may deem useful and expedient; which report shall be laidbefore the Legislature within fifteen days after the opening of the next succeeding session thereof.10. To be responsible for all moneys paid through him on behalf of the Public Schools, and togive such security as the Lieutenant-Governor in Council may require.11. To prepare suitable forms, and to give such instructions as he may judge necessary andproper for making all reports and conducting all proceedings under this Act.12. With due diligence, after any complaint shall have been made to him respecting the mode ofconducting any election of Trustees (as hereinafter provided for), to investigate such complaint, andreport the facts to the council of Public Instruction, who shall confirm or set aside such election; andin the latter case they shall appoint the time and place for a new election in such district.13. To close schools where the average attendance falls below ten.14. To cause copies of this Act, with regulations of the council of Public Instruction, to bepublished and furnished gratuitously to Trustees and teachers.This codification of duties had been inherited and adapted from those schoolsystems established in Canada West/Ontario, the United States, and Britain. The BritishColumbia school system was developed by borrowing from each of these. Willis was castin the role of preserver and beneficiary of tried and proven educational systems. He musthave felt some measure of responsibility to uphold and carry on many of the traditionaleducational practices.Chapter 2 30Borrowed Traditions From Other SystemsThe code upon which British Columbia’s non-sectarian education system wasfounded held that the system would be non-sectarian and that schooling would be fundedthrough general 15 The system was to be administered by locally elected schoolboards reporting to a Superintendent. In turn, the Superintendent would chair a ProvincialBoard of Education. The also called for publication of annual reports, and uniformtextbooks and department-administered examinations.’6 From its inception, the system washighly regulated and controlled.The province of British Columbia was only ten months old when the first educationlegislation was passed: An Act Respecting Public Schools, in 1872. The Act embodiedadministrative structures borrowed from the educational experience in Ontario, Britain andAmerica, but principally Ontario. Although future Superintendent of Education JohnJessop and Provincial Secretary Alexander Rocke Robertson drafted the Act, influences ofprior and contemporary Ontario educationists John Strachan and Egerton Ryerson helpedinspire it and determined the form British Columbia’s school system would take. SinceJessop had a formidable knowledge of and familiarity with Ryerson’ s public educationsystem in Ontario, he was resolved to transplant it. F. Henry Johnson described thislegislation as “obviously modeled on Ryerson’s school legislation of 1846 to 1871 inOntario.”7 After designing and putting the system in place, Jessop served asSuperintendent from 1872 to 1878.15 The first school legislation in what was to become British Columbia was passed in 1869.16 F. Henry Johnson, “The Ryersonian Influence on the Public School System of BritishColumbia, “BC Studies 10 (Summer 1971): 30.17 Ibid., p. 29. Also in the Annual Report for 1876-77, Jessop refers to “that admirableschool system upon which ours is founded.”Chapter 2 31Jessop believed that Ontario’s was a successful system, worthy of emulation andone also familiar to former Ontario residents settling in British Columbia. Gidney andfellow historian Lawr were among the first Canadian historians to focus on the motivationsand ideas of the major Ontario school promoters. Their research was based on thevoluminous correspondence received at the Education Department in Canada West/Ontario.They concluded that Ryerson, as Superintendent of Education, both responded to and ledpublic opinion.’8 Gidney described the system well-established by the 1840s in UpperCanada/Ontario, as government led. He contended that such a heavily centralized system,which included control over textbooks, curriculum and teacher certification, “would havebeen considered intolerable in England during the same period.”19 That such a centralizedsystem would be acceptable and become established in Canada is significant to the roleWillis eventually played. He inherited and ran British Columbia’s Department accordingto established patterns of central control.Gidney’ s interpretation is in contrast to revisionist historian Curtis who cautionsthat although there existed among early educational officials privileged and propertied menwho sought to exert their authority under such assumed “interests of education,”2°othersalso had agency. He asserts that workers were active participants and organizers of theirown educational activities and were not necessarily “repressed.”21 Instead, Curtis viewed18 Chad Gaffield, “Back to School: Towards a New Agenda for the History of Education,”Acadiensis 15, 2 (1986): 169-90.19 Robert D. Gidney, “Making Nineteenth-Century School Systems: the Upper CanadianExperience and its Relevance to English Historiography,” History of Education 9, 2(1980): 101. Gidney quoted an English observer, Reverend James Fraser, reporting to aRoyal Inquiry on Education, who opined that the Canadian system was even superior tothat in England -- more complete and practical -- according to his assessment.20 Bruce Curtis, True Government by Choice Men? Inspection. Education, and StateFormation in Canada West (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992), p. 198.Chapter 2 32educational reform as an essential process for state building.22 In a sense, both historicalinterpretations are correct. The establishment of school systems resulted from both forces -- leadership from educationists and growing support from parents eager to have schoolingprovided to their children.Conditions in British Columbia at the end of colonial government and theacquisition of provincial status encouraged high expectations for advancement ingovernment and in society. Jessop’ s personal ambition, coupled with the virtual absence ofany challenge to his authority, gave more power to the Superintendent of Educationposition than existed elsewhere.23 That British Columbia’s school system should be socentrally organized came about through Jessop’ s authority as Superintendent and because ofhis determination, as Egerton Ryerson’ s disciple, to replicate the school system Ryersonhad established in Ontario. But American and British influences were also present inBritish Columbia.The Ontario HeritageThe beginnings of Ryersonian public education in British Columbia can be traced toAugust 1861 when John Jessop opened the non-sectarian Central School in Victoria.24Jessop’s esteem for Ryerson’s educational philosophy, due in part to his having graduated21 Bruce Curtis, “Preconditions of the Canadian State: Educational Reform and theConstruction of a Public in Upper Canada, 1837-1846,” Studies in Political Economy 10(Winter 1983): 100.22 Ibid., p. 103.23 Robert M. Stamp, “Evolving Patterns of Education: English Canada from the 1870s to1914,” in J.D. Wilson, et al., eds., Canadian Education: A History (Scarborough:Prentice Hall, 1970), p. 328.24 Johnson, “The Ryersonian Influence in the Public School System of British Columbia,”:27.Chapter 2 33from Ryerson’s Toronto Normal School, was cause enough to incorporate most aspects ofthe Ryersonian system in his own school.25 Later, Jessop formally expressed in a letter toRyerson his ambition to create an Ontario-style common school system in BritishColumbia. He spoke of establishing a non-sectarian school in Victoria and revealed hisultimate ambition:My object is to establish its reputation, and when the city is incorporated, to fall inline with the common school system that will then be adopted, and place myself atthe head of the common schools of Victoria and Vancouver Island.26This system was characterized as tightly controlled with considerable power vested in theSuperintendent. Wilson describes how all-pervasive that style of control was to be:The essence of Ryerson’s Common School Act of 1846 was its provision for astrong central authority to prepare regulations and curricula, to authorize suitabletextbooks, and to improve the quality of teaching through certification, inspectionand the erection of a normal school.27Upper Canadian society was receptive to Ryerson’ s initiatives for reasons bothfinancial and moral. Gidney and Millar described a social-political situation ripe for“improvement.” Private and voluntary schools were thought not to be satisfactory bymiddle class parents who regarded such schools as inadequate and inefficient. Moralreasons included an acceptance of Ryerson’ s view that education could serve as “a vehicleto help man by the use of his reason to overcome ignorance and thereby, vice, crime and25 F. Henry Johnson, John Jessop: Gold Seeker and Educator: Founder of the BritishColumbia School System (Vancouver: Mitchell Press Limited, 1971), pp. 4-8.26 Johnson, “The Ryersonian Influence in the Public School System of British Columbia,”:28. This reference was cited from G. W. Spragge, “An Early Letter From Victoria, V.1.,”Canadian Historical Review 29 (1948): 54-56.27 J. Donald Wilson, “The Ryerson Years in Canada West,” in J. Donald Wilson, et al.,eds., Canadian Education: A History (Scarborough: Prentice Hall, 1970), p. 218.Chapter 2 34juvenile delinquency.”28 As well, it was in parents’ interest that government assume thecosts of education. Gidney and Millar argue that these various reasons “legitimizededucation as a fit subject for government policy-making and public investment.”29 Curtisrecognized similar expectations, in particular the incorporation of a Christian “ethic” andinculcation of values that would eliminate poverty and crime by shaping young people’sattitudes. He claims that this became “the basis and cement of the structure of publiceducation.”3°These notions concerning the aims of schooling and resulting benefits for societywere shared amongst scholars, clerics, and community leaders across the just-formingDominion of Canada. Expectations were certainly not bound by geography, but weresubscribed to widely. Westward migration by educationists brought Ontario’s influencedirectly and ensured that it would be planted firmly in British Columbia. The highlycentralized Ontario example would later be comfortable to Willis, both because it wasfamiliar to him from his early teaching experience in British Columbia and also because ofhis dedication to running an efficient, well-controlled system.The first government of British Columbia was assembled in November 1871. Byinvitation of Alexander Robertson, the Provincial Secretary, Jessop oversaw drafting ofBritish Columbia’s first education legislation.31 The Public School Act of 1872 providedfor schooling to be supported out of the province’s general revenues, thus eliminating the28 Ibid.29 R.D. Gidney and W.P.J. Millar, “From Volunteerism to State Schooling: The Creationof the Public School System in Ontario,” Canadian Historical Review 66, 4 (1985): 443.30 Curtis, “Preconditions of the Canadian State,”: 111.31 According to custom in Canada, the Provincial Secretary cabinet position includedresponsibility for education. The first person to hold the title “Minister of Education” inBritish Columbia was Hon. James Baker, appointed in 1892.Chapter 2 35necessity of tuition fees and local rates levies.32 The administrative structure wascomprised of a Superintendent, a Provincial Board and elected local school boards. Astandardized curriculum and textbooks, provincial examinations and submission of annualreports by inspectors were also stipulated.All of these provisions imitated Ontario legislation and embodied extensivecentralized control. Copying the Ontario model ensured that input from the public andmajor stakeholders would not be ignored. In their analysis of the beginnings of the Ontariosystem, authors Lawr and Gidney argue that the school bureaucracy was not entirelynegative in social effect. Its existence ensured mechanisms were in place for fair treatmentand an apparently even distribution of opportunity in the system.33 Neither was thebureaucracy a creature exclusively of the government’s own making. Pressures andrequests for conflict resolution from teachers and trustees also helped shape Ontario’ssystem. Their influence originated many rules and regulations and continued on into thefuture.34 Stamp’s study of a century of Ontario schooling concluded:In reality, there existed a strong reservoir of community power that shaped localand even provincial action for the full century after Ryerson’ s retirement.35This opinion was shared by Houston who concluded that:32 School construction costs, however, were not always provided.Douglas Lawr and Robert Gidney, “Bureaucracy vs. Community? The Origins ofBureaucratic Procedure in the Upper Canadian School System,” Journal of Social History13, 3 (1981): 438-457.Douglas Lawr and Robert Gidney, “Who Ran The Schools? Local Influence inEducation Policy in Nineteenth-Century Ontario,” Ontario History 72, 3 (1980): 132.Robert M. Stamp, The Schools of Ontario. 1876-1976 (Toronto: University of TorontoPress, 1982), introduction.Chapter 2 36The foundation of the provincial school system between 1846 and 1850 was thedeliberate creation of Upper Canadians who shared a common outlook and commonaspirations.36Houston asserted that schoolmen’s motivation was social control for the purpose ofmaintaining order. School promoters stressed the value of schools to taxpayers by arguingthat schools would become a positive force for crime prevention and morality.37 Thepositive aspects of social control were acceptable to Willis, who regarded inculcation ofmoral values and development of citizenship skills as responsibilities of the schools.Other historians downplay the agency of schoolmen and parents, explaining insteadthe motivations of school promoters as a quest for some means of controlling and shapingtheir societies. As one of the main proponents of social control theory applied to theestablishment of education systems in Canada, Prentice decried the notion of a schoolmovement motivated by democratic and humanitarian impulses as a myth. She challengedthe efficacy of education as a means to improve society or nineteenth century claimsthereto. Her analysis argued that the privileged classes sought to protect the social orderthat kept them comfortable and she accused them of needing to control the workers toaccomplish this. She contended that these motives superseded concern for pedagogicalprinciples in designing the education system.38 To a classically educated schoolman likeWillis, such an analysis would be foreign. By virtue of his earnings and position, he had36 Susan E. Houston, “Politics, Schools and Social Change in Upper Canada,” CanadianHistorical Review 53, 3 (1972): 28. By 1867, the region had become known as CanadaWest. When the British North America Act was signed that year, the region became theProvince of Ontario and one of the four original (Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, NewBrunswick) provinces of the Dominion of Canada.‘ Ibid., p. 35.38 Alison Prentice, The School Promoters: Education and Social Class in Mid-NineteenthCentury Upper Canada (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1977), pp. 14-15.Chapter 2 37become one of the privileged members of society. Willis saw maintaining the status quo asa normal function.Upon appointment on April 17, 1872 as British Columbia’s first Superintendent ofEducation, Jessop became the enactor of the Public School Act. His tenure lasted over aseven-year period between 1872 and 1878. During this time, Jessop was unencumbered bya civil service and so could have considerable influence as effective Department head inshaping policies and defining curriculum. When he assembled the 1872 Public School Act,he incorporated features of the centrally-controlled Ryersonian system familiar from histraining and teaching experience in Ontario. However, there was one significantdeparture. The provision that British Columbia schools be non-sectarian was differentfrom legislation in the rest of Canada and in England. This happened largely due to theleadership of Jessop and Colonist newspaper editor Amor de Cosmos who actuallyconducted “a rigorous campaign against any sort of state aid to religious bodies.”39The American Experience and InfluenceThe non-denominational character of British Columbia schools showed the effectsof American influence. In the mid-nineteenth century, the rise of common schooling in theUnited States was similar to that in Upper Canada, with important distinctions. TheAmerican experience sometimes paralleled -- and at times preceded -- educational theories,organization and teaching methods espoused in Ontario and then in British Columbia.Frank A. Peake, The Anglican Church in British Columbia (Vancouver: The MitchellPress, 1959), p. 47. Interestingly, British church influence was long-lasting. Initiallyreferred to as the Colonial Church or Church of England in British North America, theChurch of England in Canada retained that name until the General Synod at Edmonton(19th Session), August 30 - September 8, 1955.Chapter 2 38In North America at the beginning of the nineteenth century, free schooling wasassociated with pauper schools, and thus a form of charity. Mid-nineteenth century schoolcrusaders had to mobilize support and acceptance for free schooling as a public good. Theeffort was assisted by the childraising literature produced in America between the 1 820sand 1830s which promoted the notion and influenced Canadian opinion that educatingchildren would improve society. The public gradually came to accept and uphold whatKatz has described as “the grandiose and unrealistic expectation that schools can solveAmerica’s social, economic, cultural, political and moral problems.”4°By the late 1830s, the common school promoters had succeeded in introducing free,universal, non-sectarian public schooling at the elementary level in the industrializednortheastern United States. This success was predicated on a widely held belief that “ademocratic government depended upon an educated citizenry.”41 There was alsorecognition of workforce requirements in a country shifting from an agricultural to anindustrial economy. The same belief influenced the British Columbia public schoolsystem, albeit to a lesser degree owing to the province’s geographical isolation and mainlyagrarian-based economy. As in the United States, public schooling in British Columbiawas to be non-sectarian.American school promoters were driven by a missionary zeal. They believed in thework of creating a Christian nation, but one which was pan-Protestant as presented throughthe school. Tyack and Hansot described this in these terms:40 Michael B. Katz, Reconstructing American Education (Cambridge: Harvard UniversityPress, 1987), Chapter 4, “History and Reform.”41 H. Warren Button and Eugene F. Provenzo, Jr., History of Education and Culture inAmerica (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall Inc., 1983), p. 84.Chapter 2 39Many of the public school promoters of the mid-nineteenth century were convincedthat America was literally God’s country; the land He had chosen to bring about theredemption of Mankind.42School promoters had clout in that they were usually prominent citizens of Protestantbelief. There was generalized agreement that the nation’s success depended upon acommon vision. Schools were promoted as keepers of the social order and providers of themeans to gain opportunities -- both individually and collectively:In their vision the common school was to be free, financed by local and stategovernment, controlled by lay boards of education, mixing all social groups underone roof, and offering education of such quality that no parent would desire privateschooling. The common school was meant to be moral and religious in impact butit was not to be sectarian; it was to provide sound political instruction, withoutbeing partisan.43Tyack and Hansot place the spread of schools and churches in the same nationwidesocial movement of institution-building. Both types of institutions were regarded asvehicles to ensure maintenance of a moral order and hope for a prosperous future. At atime when America was a decentralized and, compared with modern state organization, aminimally-governed country, the public education system helped to achieve national unity.The situation for British Columbia was tempered somewhat by its geographical isolationfrom the rest of the Canadian provinces. For many teachers, there was actually a strongerlink with Washington, Oregon, and California whose universities attracted them to degreeprogrammes and summer courses.One fundamental difference in the two nations’ accommodation of culturaldifferences had far-reaching impact on the political histories of Canada and the UnitedStates. From the beginning, there was no tolerance in the American common school42 David Tyack and Elisabeth Hansot, Managers of Virtue: Public School Leadership inAmerica 1820-1980 (New York: Basic Books Inc., 1982), p. 5.Ibid., p. 30.Chapter 2 40movement for languages other than English. Newcomers to America were expected toaccept the English language and adapt themselves to the evolving American culture. Therewas no room for difference:Biculturalism was seen as being un-American, and was felt to represent a potentialthreat to the political stability of the nation.44This contrasted with the attitude in Canada, but not necessarily British Columbia, thatbilingualism and biculturalism should be embraced as advantages, not separate from goodcitizenship .‘Canadian education leaders continued to be alert to the American system’scurriculum and organization. Indeed, prior to the offering of degree credit courses toteachers at U. B.C. in 1922, teachers who attained degrees were likely to have studied atAmerican universities 46 Skolrood notes that up until 1901 if teachers had any training orexperience they “came chiefly from Great Britain, eastern Canada, and the UnitedStates.”47 Patterson also acknowledged that “As more Canadians pursued advancedstudies, they looked to the more widely heralded institutions offering graduate study ineducation which were in the United States.” The majority of foreign students at ColumbiaUniversity from 1923 to 1938 were Canadian. Canadian teachers also attended in largeButton, History of Education and Culture in America, p. 94.See the discussion on “Canadianization” in Neil Sutherland, Children in English-Canadian Society: Framing the Twentieth-Century Consensus (Toronto: University ofToronto Press, 1976), Chapter 13, “From Proposals to Policy: The ‘New’ EducationEnters the Main Stream, 1910-1920.”46 Arthur Harold Skolrood, “The British Columbia Teachers’ Federation: A Study of ItsHistorical Development, Interests and Activities From 1916 to 1963” (Ed.D. thesis,University of Oregon, 1967), p. 104. The first two teachers to graduate from U.B.C. ‘sB.A. degree programme finished in 1929.‘‘ Ibid., p. 20.Chapter 2 41numbers at Chicago, California and Stanford.48 British Columbia educators did notfunction in isolation but looked out to what was happening in the world. Willis himselfattended conferences in eastern Canada despite his aversion to travel. The world ofeducation was becoming international, and there was genuine interest in foreign educationsystems.‘British Traditions of Civil ServiceA third influence on British Columbia educationists was Great Britain, particularlyin terms of bureaucratic and civic styles. British Civil Service traditions were transplantedto Canada through the Foreign Office and diplomatic service in Canada as a colony andlater as a member nation in the British Commonwealth. By the late nineteenth century, aBritish-style bureaucracy was ensconced.Much of the distinctiveness of the British Civil Service derived from therecommendations of the Report on the Organization of the Permanent Civil Service (theNorthcote-Trevelyan Report) of 1853, published in 1854. Its recommendations were giventhe force of law by an order-in-council passed by the British Parliament in 1855.°48 R.S. Patterson, “The Canadian Response to Progressive Education,” in Essays onCanadian Education, eds. N. Kach, et al. (Calgary: Detselig Press Limited, 1986), pp. 72-73.‘ An example is the attendance of Indian philosopher Sir Rabindranath Tagore at theNational Council of Education Conference in Victoria April 26, 1929. His address waspublished in the B.C. Teacher 8, 5 (June 1929): 4-11 and 11, 1 (September 1929): 13-16.5° Richard A. Chapman, The Higher Civil Service in Britain (London: Constable & Co.,1970), p. 32. The Civil Service Commission of Great Britain is the oldest public servicecommission in the world.Chapter 2 42Acceptance of the report is thought to mark the beginning of the modern civil service inBritain.There is a sense in which there was no Civil Service in Britain until after the middleof the nineteenth century; there were many officials but they would not haveregarded themselves as belonging to a service. There were no common principlesof recruitment, control, or organization in the various departments of the centralgovernment. 1855 is generally taken as the beginning of the Civil Service as weknow it.’The report recommended recruitment by open competition and examination, a divisionbetween intellectual and routine clerical tasks, and incremented salaries and opportunitiesthrough the ranks. Creation of a formal civil service was necessary to replace the existingpatronage system. Although Queen Victoria feared that filling posts on the basis ofcompetitive examinations would open the civil service to “low people without breeding,”Chapman explains that higher standards was thought essential to ensure competency in theposts •52 Appropriately qualified public servants were to be recruited, examined andpromoted on the basis of ability.The ideal civil service was conceived as a body of university-trained men, schooledin analytical thinking, who had “an inner determination to find out the right answer at allcosts,” who were not swayed by personal prejudices and who were non-political and thusable to “serve Government of all parties with equal loyalty and obtain their confidence.The personal qualities of candidates were also regarded in determining their fitness forappointment. Those considered ideal were enumerated in Kelsall’ s analysis of51 Ibid., p. 21. This was also concluded by Sir Edward Bridges, “The Reforms of 1854 inRetrospect,” Chapter 3 in William A. Robson, ed. The Civil Service in Britain and France(London: The Hogarth Press, 1956), pp. 25-33.52 Chapman, The Higher Civil Service in Britain, p. 28.Bridges, “The Reforms of 1854 in Retrospect,” p. 31.Chapter 2 43“efficiency.” Kelsall acknowledged that the administrative class “have often been praisedfor their incorruptibility; their willingness to subordinate personal interest to that of theService, their loyalty to Ministers, their conscientiousness and industry, their tact, personalcharm and literary facility.”54 All of these pertained to the privileges of middle-classupbringing and British public school education.British civil servants were meticulous record keepers. They were capable ofmanaging deployment of vast numbers of bureaucrats throughout the Empire and devotedattention to complex accounting systems to record trade and resource acquisition forBritain. Ultimately, their records provided a basis for evaluating the economy andefficiency of Colonial government practices. Already established world-wide as leaders inbureaucratic management, these British notions of public accountability, together withmodern principles of scientific management emanating from Frederick W. Taylor andHarvard University, were quickly applied to North American schools. “Efficiency”became the byword, and as Callahan acknowledges:And school administrators, already under constant pressure to make education morepractical in order to serve a business society better, were brought under evenstronger criticism and forced to demonstrate first, last and always that they wereoperating the schools efficiently.55British influence on the British Columbia population in the mid- to late- nineteenthcentury was such that “it was natural that early government and early school leaders wouldadopt a management model based on imperial traditions of public service.”56 BritishR. K. Kelsall, “The Social Background of the Higher Civil Service”, Chapter 12 inWilliam A. Robson, ed., The Civil Service in Britain and France, p. 152.Raymond E. Callahan, Education and the Cult of Efficiency: A Study of the SocialForces That Have Shaved the Administration of the Public Schools (Chicago: Universityof Chicago Press, 1962), p. 18.56 Fleming, “Our Boys in the Field”, p. 54.Chapter 2 44Columbians agreed that they would follow British statutory practices. The executivecouncil was patterned after the British Privy Council.57 British ideas and forms of conductwere “proper” and gained broad acceptance. Reasons for this are several, prominentamong them being the fact of sheer numbers since Britons comprised the dominant ethnicgroup. The 1921 Census recorded the zenith of British descendants, 387,500 peoplerepresenting 74% of the total population.58Appropriation of British bureaucratic and civic styles was assisted through theprofessions and elite social, fraternal and service organizations. In the educationalbureaucracy, British theories and practices were transferred through movement ofcountrymen in teaching and administration. Rogers noted that British educational ideaswere espoused, promoted and sustained in British Columbia well into the 1950s, long afterthey had been set aside or abandoned altogether in Britain. He explains that this happenedat the behest of a “predominantly British educational establishment” in the province.59Transfer was also accomplished with assistance from patriotic organizations such as thelODE:Reinforcement of imperial nationalism and anglo-conformity in the schools waspromoted by the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire (lODE), an elitegroup of women mostly of middle class British origin, united under the motto “OneFlag, One Throne, One Empire.6°Patrick Dunae, Archivist, Historical Records, Public Archives of British Columbia.Dunae observed that the reason why British Colonial civil servants could move sointerchangeably throughout the Empire was that their training and administrative structureswere consistent.58 Figures for 1871 are estimates based on Colonial records. The 1921 figures are fromCensus data. Cited as Table 5 in Jean Barman, The West Beyond The West: A History ofBritish Columbia (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991), p. 363.Anthony William Rogers, “W.P. Weston, Educator and Artist: The Development ofBritish Ideas in the Art Curriculum of B.C. Public Schools” (Ph.D. thesis, University ofBritish Columbia, 1983), p. iii.60 George S. Tomkins, A Common Countenance: Stability and Change in the CanadianCurriculum (Scarborough: Prentice-Hall Canada Inc., 1986), p. 145 The lODE influenceChapter 2 45The idea of nobility of service came in part from Britain, along with a certain styleof administration. Robson remarked on the social stature once held by civil servants:Another and more subtle factor which has contributed to the success of the BritishCivil Service is the high social esteem in which it had been held. To serve the Statewell and faithfully is regarded in England as one of the highest callings to which aman can devote his life.”6’In British Columbia’s early governments, some key players were men of British descent,anxious to serve the Empire. Willis upheld this belief in addresses throughout his career.On the twentieth anniversary of the opening of the Victoria High School, where Willis hadbeen Principal when the building opened in 1914, he exhorted:This High School exists to build character among the youth of today so that theymay assume the responsibility of citizenship tomorrow, and whatever economic orscientific changes are brought about in the system of govermnent, I want you toremember that the requirements of character are the same--loyalty, integrity, a deepsense of duty, consideration for your fellow man, and a wealth of tradition that hasmade the British Empire what it is today.62These sentiments were also embodied in his communications within the educationbureaucracy.was prevalent into the early 1950s. Dr. Bernard Gillie recalled in a May 24, 1991interview that flag parades were staged in the auditorium while he served as Principal ofthe S .J. Willis School in Victoria.61 Robson, The British System of Government, p. 25.62 The Colonist, 9 May 1934, p. 3.Chapter 2 46Alexander Robinson’s Organizational LegacyWillis benefitted from and built upon the organizational legacy he inherited fromRobinson. Though vastly different in temperament and style, each was passionatelycommitted to the good of the Department. Both had reputations as competent, dedicatedand loyal civil servants.Together, Robinson and Willis influenced and helped shape the educationalenterprise in British Columbia for forty-six years. Their collective impact, by dint of yearsof tenure, was profound.The Department Willis inherited from Robinson in November 1919 had beenshaped by Robinson since April 1899. Its evolving management system and schoolorganization were based on British Civil Service traditions copied by many governmentswithin the Commonwealth. In FlemingTs view, these embody such features as trust inhierarchical authority and faith in the values of law, traditions, loyalty and seniority,consistent with the British Empire notion of the efficient management ideal as a “politicallyled but neutral civil service.”63Historical studies of education by Alexander Robinson’s contemporaries offerinsights into the significance of the Superintendent’s place in the educational hierarchy.63 For a discussion of these notions see Thomas Fleming, “Letters from Headquarters:Alexander Robinson and the British Columbia Education Office, 1899-1919”, unpublishedmanuscript, University of Victoria, 1992. Also “In the Imperial Age and After: Patternsof British Columbia School Leadership and the Institution of the Superintendency, 1849-1988,” BC Studies, 81 (Spring 1989), pp. 51-54.Chapter 2 47“The supreme control of education”64 was vested in the Council of Public Instruction, abody constituted of members of the government’s executive council or cabinet. WilliamBurns, principal of the Vancouver Provincial Normal School from its establishment in1901 until his retirement in 1920,65 described the two top positions:The Minister of Education ... takes direct control of Educational affairs. To assisthim in this, and to direct more especially the professional side of his work, aSuperintendent of Education is appointed, who has control of all the variousdepartments, and whose additional duty it is to frame the Annual Report to theLegislature containing information regarding all expenditures and other detailsrequisite for their information.66Notably, both the Minister and the Superintendent were to exert control, as the formalhierarchy was bifurcated at the highest level. The division of responsibilities, and thedecision which of the two would make official pronouncements, was made not according toany established policy. In the examples quoted or discussed in subsequent chapters, eitherthe Minister or the Superintendent/Deputy would take charge of the communication inresponse to incoming correspondence or issues raised by deputations. Sometimes,marginalia or covering memos indicate a formal transfer of correspondence from one toanother on a particular issue. The Superintendent/Deputy had both the opportunity and theimplied responsibility to influence decisions, policies, and direct management.Other contemporary accounts from the early twentieth century describe theSuperintendent’s duties in exact and specific terms as the person “upon whose ability anddiligence the success of the school system largely depends”:64 William Burns, “The Education System of British Columbia,” in British Columbia fromthe Earliest Times to the Present, Vol. II, eds. F.W. Howay and Ethelbert Olaf StuartScholefield (Vancouver: S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1914), pp. 623-644.65 Donald Leslie MacLaurin was appointed Principal of the Victoria Normal Schoolestablished in 1915.66 Burns, p. 639.Chapter 2 48He, assisted by a board of examiners, examines and issues certificates to teachers,examines candidates for entrance to the High schools, examines and issuescertificates in the different grades of the High schools, draws up the school report,frames courses of study, authorizes text books, answers the thousand and onequestions daily sent to him by teachers, trustees, and parents, and in factsuperintends the education of the province in all things from matters concerninggeneral policy to the most minute details.67George Hindle’ s 1918 thesis provides valuable insight because it is one of the fewcontemporary analyses of the Robinson era. Hindle credited Alexander Robinson as beingthe major force behind organization and management of the provincial education system:The consensus of opinion among inspectors, school principals and legislators, withwhom the author has discussed the matter, is that credit for the excellences of thesystem -- and they are not a few -- is due mainly to the Superintendent.68Robinson’s control of the system was organized within his authority as outlined bythe Public School Act. He supervised and directed the work of inspectors in the field andof teachers in the schools; enforced provisions of the , including unpopular ones likeclosing schools where average attendance fell below ten in organized districts and beloweight in assisted schools; directed the teachers? institutes; and supervised trustee elections.How finnly and thoroughly the central office controlled the schools was illustratedby an incident in 1911 culminating in the resignation of Vancouver City Superintendent,W.P. Argue, who had served since 1903. Argue and the trustees had proposed to relieveprincipals in large schools of their teaching duties to concentrate on administrative work.The Education Office69 rejected the plan and sent two inspectors to Vancouver to ensure67 E.B. Paul, “The Educational System of British Columbia,” Victoria Times, RoyalSouvenir Number, 1901, p. 41.68 George Hindle, The Education System of British Columbia: An Appreciative andCritical Estimate of the Educational System of the Mountain Province (Trail: Trail Printand Publishing Co. Ltd., 1918), p. 28.69 Officially defined in legislation as the Office of the Council of Public Instruction, inHindle’ s thesis and in newspaper accounts this title was commonly used.Chapter 2 49the principals resumed ordinary class instruction. Argue resigned in protest, and Hindleargued the circumstances of this event illustrated “why trustees and city superintendents aswell as the rank and file of teachers have come to regard the Education Office as a speciesof benevolent despotism.”7°Despite this criticism, Hindle thought Robinson’s control hadproduced an excellent system. He agreed with the main stakeholders in the educationalenterprise -- namely the inspectors, school principals and legislators -- that the system wasbeing run efficiently and was effective. The main measure of progress was pupils’ abilityto pass exams and to progress through the grades.As the examples which follow indicate, from his early years in the post, teacherssaw Robinson as an adversary.71 In February 1901, they protested to the EducationMinister over Robinson’s decision to postpone a meeting with the Teachers’ Institute for ayear on the grounds that he had too much work to do with the House in session that yearand the preparations for opening the new normal school in Vancouver. The excuse waslikely valid, but he may simply not have been interested. When Robinson finally met withthe Provincial Teachers’ Institute in 1903, he proposed to them “that the President of thisAssociation should not be continually himself -- the work being too much.”72As Superintendent, Robinson believed control of the Department and its teachingstaff were his responsibility. He objected strongly to the teachers’ decision to bypass hisauthority and to seek the Minister’s attention. He summoned their leaders and cautionedthem to be careful in approaching the Minister on matters pertaining to the70 Ibid., pp. 31-32.71 See newspaper articles: The Province, 23 February 1901, p. 1, “Trouble Among TheTeachers”; The Province, 22 June 1901, p. 11, “Mr. Robinson Backs Down”; and TheColonist, 22 June 1901, p. 6, “Trouble In The Schools.”72 Minutes, Provincial Teachers’ Institute, Revelstoke, April 14-16, 1903, p. 113.Chapter 2 50Superintendent’s office. The teachers refused to accept this admonition, and they “insistedthat when they thought fit to do so they would lay matters of interest before theminister.”73 This insistence on deference to his position marked the begirming of hisuneasy relationship with the field staff. Challenges to his authority ultimately caused hisundoing.In 1906, attacks on the Education Department became attacks on Robinson. TheLegislature had passed a new Education that year which enlarged the Superintendent’spowers to grant him more authority in the selection and employment of teachers .74 Thishad been broadly interpreted amongst the public to mean that school board authority, andwith that the wishes of the public, would be disregarded by the Superintendent.Newspaperman W.C. Nichol sprang to Robinson’s defense in a spirited editorial:He has long been an object of dislike to every incompetent teacher and everyincapable trustee in the province. It is readily understandable that in thus pursuinghis policy of elevating the educational standard in the province he should excite theenmity of all those who cannot reach the requirements he sets and unfortunately theanimosity thus created is taken advantage of by many of his opponents who havepersonal ends to serve and who are not unwilling to serve them to the detriment ofthe public interests.“Trouble Among The Teachers,” The Vancouver Province, 23 February 1901, p. 1.‘ As early as the 1871-72 Public Schools , authority for hiring was vested in localschool boards.“Attacking The Education Department,” The Vancouver Province, 23 March 1906, p.6. Robinson’s problems were reminiscent of those which Egerton Ryerson faced as UpperCanada’s Chief Superintendent of Schools from 1844 to 1876. For a full and revealinginsight into the problems and issues raised by taxpayers and trustees, see Douglas Lawr andRobert Gidney, “Bureaucracy vs. Community? The Origins of Bureaucratic Procedure inthe Upper Canadian School System.” Journal of Social History, 13, 3 (1981: 438-457.These historians examined the incoming correspondence to Ryerson’ s office and discoveredthe “recurring problems and complaints.. .which largely consumed the time of EgertonRyerson.” The authors cite examples of how the educational enterprise was confounded by“inexperienced trustees or those indifferent to record-keeping.”Chapter 2 51These comments reveal the degree of opposition Robinson engendered. He managed afteronly six years to establish himself as a lightning rod for public suspicion about theeducation system. For the rest of his career, it became moot whether the policies or theman proposing them was the actual basis for public disfavour. Robinson blamed “politics”as the reason for being removed as Superintendent in 1919 and remained bitter over theexperience for many years later.76 Unnamed Education Department officials, reflecting onthe dismissal two years afterwards, commented to Victoria reporters that the reasonRobinson had been retired from the Department was that the work had become too muchfor him. As a person devoted to practicing strong central authority, he was unable to adapthis administrative methods to a burgeoning department and increasing school population.Specifically, Robinson wanted to continue to do and be responsible for everything himself,and thus was unable to delegate work to subordinates.77Robinson had organized the Department according to his personal requirements forauthority and control. Inspector Lord declared:Robinson was the Department of Education. There was never any doubt about that.Ministers of education came and went, but they had the additional portfolio ofprovincial secretary, and were content to allow a man considered to be bothcompetent and economical to carry on, wishing only to be kept informed. As theyears passed, Robinson came to know every detail of the education system; hemight delegate responsibility to a subordinate but the final authority was his. Hedetermined changes in policy and, where these affected the School Act, drafted thenecessary amendments and briefed the minister who had to present them to thelegislature for approval. Changes in curriculum, major review of textbooks, andrequirements for teacher certification were made on his initiative 7876 Recalled by family friend, Stewart J. Graham, who as a guest at the Robinson homeheard him discuss this subject. Interview July 31, 1993 by Valerie Giles with StewartGraham.Victoria Daily Times, 30 July 1921, p. 7.78 A.R. Lord on Alexander Robinson, John Calam, ed., Alex Lord’s British Columbia:Recollections of a Rural School Inspector. 1915-36 (Vancouver: UBC Press, 1991), pp.120-121.Chapter 2 52What Robinson considered to be the significant accomplishments in his career werelisted in a letter written November 10, 1919 to the Hon. J.D. MacLean, Minister ofEducation. Robinson had been delivered notice of his dismissal as Superintendent.Robinson recounted:In reply to your charge that I am not sufficiently progressive, may I remind youthat during the past twenty years the courses of study for Public and High Schoolshave been revised, enriched, and amplified; that the Public School Act has beenmodernized and now embraces principles in some respects in advance of thosecontained in the school statutes of any Province in Canada; that Instruction inManual Training, in Domestic Science, in Elementary Agriculture and in theelements at least of Technical Education has been introduced into our schools; andthat two excellent Normal Schools with adequate teaching staffs have beenestablished.79A political event became a factor in Robinson’s undoing. That was the organizedstrike of Victoria’s teachers in 1919. Although the strike lasted only a week, it was thefirst time an organized withdrawal of teaching services had ever taken place “in the BritishEmpire, if not the whole Universe,” according to Harry Charlesworth, the B.C. T. F. ‘s firstGeneral Secretary 8OControversy had constantly punctuated Robinson’s career as Superintendent. Thesecontentious events were rooted in Robinson’s strong personal conviction that his civilVictoria Daily Times, 11 November 1919, p. 5. Robinson complained of theunceremonious way he had been dismissed. The Minister’s secretary delivered the letter at3:50 p.m. on November 3. Robinson replied “after slightly more than twenty years’ andsix months’ service as Superintendent, you dismissed me without cause and gave me onehour and ten minutes in which to vacate my office.”80 Cited in Johnson, A History of Public Education in British Columbia, p. 241. Thecomment was made in a paper entitled “Teachers’ Institutes”, B.C. T. F. Archives andRecords. Although the 1919 strike was the first one organized across a district, it waspreceded by an event a half century earlier. In September 1870, John Jessop and hisfellow teachers withdrew their services for lack of payment and closed the Victoria Cityand District public school for two years. Technically, that was the first strike.Chapter 2 53service function was to uphold the “common good.”81 His positions and decisions werenot always popular, and his confrontational style and renowned temper eventually led to hisremoval from the job in 1919.According to Fleming, Robinson’s era was as tumultuous as his personality. Hisexperience as Superintendent was affected by both his personal characteristics and thepolitical climate in which he functioned. The situation changed with new leadership underWillis:Until the 1920s, when the reins of the educational civil service were steadied in thehands of S. J. Willis, the vulnerability and political turmoil characteristic of themodern local superintendency equally described the organizational culture in whichthe province’s chief schoolmen worked.82It is in this context of inherited traditions and confrontational circumstances thatWillis assumed his role at the head of the educational bureaucracy in British Columbia.The following chapter discusses Willis’ experience during the first five years of hisSuperintendency.81 See “Attacking the Education Department,” The Vancouver Province, 23 March 1906,p. 6 and “Dr. Alexander Robinson,” The Colonist, 5 November 1919, p. 4, for editorialcomment on Robinson’s goals for the Education Department.82 Thomas Fleming, “In the Imperial Age and After: Patterns of British Columbia SchoolLeadership and the Institution of the Superintendency, 1849-1988.” BC Studies, 81(Spring 1989): 60.54Chapter 3Managing a Traditional System: 1919 - 1925We believe sincerely that there is not a single teacher in the whole provincewho does not hold Dr. Willis in profound respect. 1CHANGES IN THE SOCIAL ORDER, 1919 - EARLY 1920sFrom the turn of the century, labour unrest and widespread unemployment resultingfrom the depressed economy of the 1 890s were powerful inducements for social reform.2These forces manifested themselves in two ways: the search for order and the lateVictorian fascination with institutional solutions to social problems. Dominant opinion hadit that schools and teachers should instill sound lifetime ideals and habits-- functionsformerly served chiefly by churches and to a lesser degree in apprenticeship training.3 Ifthe goal of creating responsible, well-trained worker/citizens was to be achieved, practicalchanges in the delivery of education had to be made. The challenges facing authoritieswere enormous.Industrialization indirectly had the effect of popularizing the twin themes ofefficiency and economy both in business and in government. Vancouver’s industrializationcan hardly be compared to that of Toronto, Chicago or Montreal. Yet Vancouver’seconomic history, along with evolution of public opinion in the city, led to demands forimprovement through “efficient” education.1 The B.C. Teacher, 25, 2, (November 1945): 45.2 Michael B. Katz, Michael I. Doucet and Mark J. Stern, The Social Organization of EarlyIndustrial Capitalism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982). See especiallyChapter 7, “Youth and Early Industrialization,” for a discussion about the impact of workavailability on social relationships, pp. 242 - 284.W.A. Bruneau, “Towards a History of Moral Education: Some FundamentalConsiderations and a Case Study,” Paedagogica Historica, 15 (1975): 356 - 378.Chapter 3 55As a port city, Vancouver gained importance as a distribution centre on the westcoast.4 North Americans agreed that if skillful management was essential to business, so itwas to schools. Callahan studied the reasons why, between 1900 and 1930, urbanAmerican school administrators adopted the values and practices of the business world.His investigation convinced him that it was due to “the extreme vulnerability of ourschoolmen to public criticism and pressure.?! They identified with and emulated thelanguage and management style of the most powerful and influential group-- the businessleaders -- and the notions of scientific management and efficiency.5 Dunn notes that, inthe 1920s, educators began to recommend that schools be re-organized along businesslines. Eventually, “a rationalized, professionalized and specialized administrative structureemerged to deal with spiralling enrolments and soaring costs. “6 Vancouver school leaderswere not immune from this North American affinity for borrowing from business practices.They likely saw and liked the rewards of business-like management and the potential toalign their educational and social interests with those of successful industrialists.During the period preceding the First World War, Western Canada experiencedrapid population growth through immigration. Successive governments in BritishColumbia, as in the rest of the country, had to consider and react to waves of publicJean Barman, The West Beyond the West: A History of British Columbia (Toronto:University of Toronto Press, 1991), pp. 112-113.Raymond E. Callahan, Education and the Cult of Efficiency: A Study of the SocialForces That Have Shaped the Administration of the Public Schools (Chicago: Universityof Chicago Press, 1962), preface. A similar conclusion was drawn by Timothy A. Dunn,“The Rise of Mass Public Schooling in British Columbia 1900-1929,” in Schooling andSociety in 20th Century British Columbia, eds. J. Donald Wilson and David C. Jones(Calgary: Detselig Enterprises Limited, 1980), pp. 23-51. He concluded that the BritishColumbia school system reflected what was going on in the larger society. Overall, therewas a search for order and efficiency. People came to expect that this would also apply toeducation.6 Dunn, p. 38.Chapter 3 56opinion about learning and the purpose of schooling. The bureaucracy found that it had toaccommodate or otherwise take account of various social and educational movements. Anumber of developments influenced the schools and involved the administrative structure.Some of these have been identified by Jones as:(1) the public health movement, “which sought perfection of the race and theelimination of mankind’s plagues”;(2) the rural life movement, “which pictured the farmer as the symbol ofnational greatness and durability”;(3) the social gospel movement, “which sought to solve the nation’s problemsby applying the principles of Christian living”;(4) the school expansion movement, “which idealized a broader, reconstructedschool under which dedicated leadership could inspire communities toenlightenment and self betterment.”7Whether or not these were all movements, they did give rise to health inspections inschools, introduction of agricultural subjects and school gardens, daily Bible readings, andextension of course offerings to adults. Additionally, schools felt the influence of the childsaving movement which sought to remove children from unsanitary and unsafecircumstances, the temperance movement to counsel against the evils of alcohol, and thelabour movement which supported ending child labour in factories. Willis was ahumanitarian, and the record of his work shows that he behaved consistently in promotinghuman welfare. As such, he would have upheld, or at least have been receptive to, ideasor movements which improved social life and social relations. Many of these, as will berevealed in examples of his actions and decisions described in these chapters, had influenceon education in British Columbia. As a Christian, he would have accepted Bible reading inschools as appropriate, although he had no public comment on the issue. Bible readingwas sincerely promoted from 1928 to 1933 during Hinchliffe’ s ministry.David C. Jones, “The Zeitgeist of Western Settlement: Education and the Myth of theLand.” in Schooling and Society in 20th Century British Columbia, eds. J. Donald Wilsonand David C. Jones (Calgary: Detselig Enterprises Limited, 1980), p. 72.Chapter 3 57The Department also began promoting values associated with rural life, such asspiritual renewal, closeness to the land, neighbourliness, optimism, and belief in therewards of simple, decent living. Central education authorities introduced practical coursesin agriculture and began consolidating country school districts into larger districts to makepossible a greater variety of course offerings 8When Willis assumed office a year after the First World War ended, economicprosperity was coming back in British Columbia, but life was not returning to normal. Asalready noted, dramatic social changes were occurring. The province had rejectedprohibition,9and the political arena became open to women. 10 The First World War hadreduced suspicions of American ideas,11 most notably of Progressivism. American andBritish concepts of Progressive education were borrowed, but not “bought” entirely.8 John Wesley Gibson served as Director of Elementary Agricultural Instruction in BritishColumbia from 1915 to March 1929. He oversaw beautification of school grounds andestablishment of school gardens.Government-controlled outlets for the sale of alcoholic beverages dotted the province.They became known as “John Oliver’s drug stores”. See a description of the Premier’sperspective in S. W. Jackman, Portraits of the Premiers: An Informal History of BritishColumbia (Sidney: Gray’s Publishing Ltd., 1969), p. 193.10 Mary Ellen Smith was first elected in 1918. When Oliver appointed her to the cabinet in1921, she became the first woman in the history of the British Commonwealth to hold acabinet position.11 Robert S. Patterson, “The Canadian Response to Progressive Education,” in Essays onCanadian Education, eds. N. Katch, et al. (Calgary: Detselig, 1986), p. 72. Pattersoncited reliance by Canadian teachers on American publications and universities. He quotedH.J.T. Coleman’s Report of the National Conference on Character Education in Relationto Canadian Citizenship (Winnipeg, King’s Printer, 1919), p. 128, wherein he reported“All of our up-to-date information practically comes to us from the United States. We usethe bulletin of the United States Bureau of Education to know what is going on in thewestern provinces even.”Chapter 3 58Rather, there was conditional support. Canadian educationists claimed to be selective andcautious in their adoption of educational reform.12The rigorous mental discipline approach characterized by rote learning anduniformity gradually softened in the 1920s. Schools were expected to make subjects“meaningful” to the child and to relax rigid codes of conduct, thus permitting more activityand self-expression in classrooms. Although adaptation of “new education” methods wasuneven and had mixed success depending upon the teachers’ ability and understanding ofthe concepts, at least attempts were made. Patterson argues that implementation ofProgressive principles emphasized classroom methodology more than underlying theory.’3As Superintendent, Willis had almost at once to face a controversy about highschool examinations. Until 192 1-22, students had been promoted to high school on therecommendation of their teachers. Problems arose when not all recommended studentsdeserved to be promoted. A teacher lobby for the return of entrance exams began. Thenotion that a concerted effort could succeed in making a major policy change was a novelone. Yet this early attempt at lobbying did produce the desired results. School boards andhigh school teachers succeeded in convincing Willis that existing admission standards werenot uniform, nor were pupils sufficiently prepared. Willis’ remedy was to recommend“only the more studious and advanced pupils” and to require the rest to pass a high schoolexamination with an average of 60%. The push for change succeeded, and Willisannounced changes to the rules for high school admission in the 1921-22 Annual Report.Departmental examinations were set in arithmetic, geography, grammar and composition,12 Robert S. Patterson, “The Implementation of Progressive Education in Canada, 1930-1945,” in Essays on Canadian Education, ed. N. Katch, et al. (Calgary: Detselig, 1986),pp. 86-87.13 Robert S. Patterson, “The Canadian Response to Progressive Education,” p. 71.Chapter 3 59drawing, penmanship, dictation and spelling.’4 Grounding in these basic subjects wasnecessary for the advanced studies of high school. The Annual Report further set outstandards:Candidates, in order to be successful, must obtain an average of 60 per cent, onexamination, and also produce a statement from their teachers certifying that theyhave completed satisfactorily the work prescribed for Entrance classes in Britishhistory, Canadian history, English literature, nature-study, and hygiene.’5Interestingly, Progressive-style subject matter lay ahead, but one had to prove grounding intraditional subjects to get there.The ascendency of public opinion through organized attempts to influencegovernment policy were forces Willis eventually had to recognize. The public was nolonger a voting block to be swayed or enthused at election time by the political parties.The correspondence files contain many examples of communications from concernedcitizens and teachers written directly to Willis. He was evidently well known and, in thepublic perception, the “head” of the education department, ahead of or apart from thestring of elected politicians who held responsibility for the Education portfolio.WILLIS’ ADMINISTRATWE STYLEWillis had the authority to summon advice and intelligence from any part of thesystem and also the opportunity to make changes. That he sought to do so was a departurefrom the authoritative decision-making that had been established practice. Willis made adifference with this approach that affected the provincial education system. In the period14 British Columbia, Superintendent of Education, Annual Report, 1921-22, (Victoria:King’s Printer, 1922), p. C9.‘ Ibid.Chapter 3 60just prior to Willis’ appointment as Superintendent, the prevailing attitude of those at thetop of the educational hierarchy was imperial.’6 It was not their practice to look forguidance from the teaching ranks. Teachers had opinions and yet their resourcefulness andexperience was rarely called upon, save for a few whose performance attracted approval ofthe inspectors and Department officials. Skolrood acknowledged that “Occasionally a fewteachers who had been noticed by authorities because of their outstanding work, or whohad cultivated the favor of administrators, were consulted by the Department.”7Outstanding teachers would occasionally be recruited for the public service, or forpromotion within their districts. The majority had no outlet for their initiative. Skolrooddiscusses how this began to affect morale:Teachers felt that they could offer much in the form of suggestions forimprovement in education instead of having to be content with the status quo -- toremain silent, to interpret direction, and to obey orders. Any Departmentreceptivity to teachers’ suggestions would surely have resulted in the morale of theteaching body being higher than it was.’8Campbell also found little evidence that teachers were encouraged to contribute to schoolmanagement or policy formation prior to the establishment of the B.C.T.F.:Certain teachers who because of their outstanding work, or for some other reason,were popular with the administration, occasionally were consulted or their opinionsasked concerning proposed changes in the system. The general attitude, however,was that the officials of the Department of Education were experts chosen for theirability to administrate, and that it was their duty to decide any educational problemwhich might arise.’916 Thomas Fleming, “In the Imperial Age and After: Patterns of British Columbia SchoolLeadership and the Institution of the Superintendency, 1849-1988.” BC Studies, 81(Spring 1989): 50-76.“ Arthur Harold Skolrood, “The British Columbia Teachers’ Federation: A Study of ItsHistorical Development, Interests and Activities From 1916 to 1963” (Ed.D. thesis,University of Oregon, 1967), pp. 47.18 Ibid., pp. 47-48.19 Claude Lane Campbell, “The British Columbia Teachers’ Federation” (M . A. thesis,University of Washington, 1930), p. 16.Chapter 3 61Teachers were left in the professionally uncomfortable position of following departmentaldirectives or obeying orders from trustees or inspectors. For any group of professionals,such circumstance eventually become untenable. In an era when communications withrural areas was difficult, if not impossible, due to the vagaries of climate and the postalservice, the logistics ensured that such an effort to involve teacher opinion would beimprobable. Teachers were geographically and professionally isolated.One of the first indications of a change in administrative style from AlexanderRobinson’s era is revealed in the recollections of Inspector Alex R. Lord. He wrote aboutthe experiences that he and his fellow inspectors encountered in their tours to visit schools.Lord remembered Willis as being concerned more with the broad picture of what was to beaccomplished than with dwelling on lesser, trifling matters. Concerning the inspectors’tours, Lord recalled:Up to 1919, expenses occurred during their official wanderings underwent thepiercing scrutiny of Superintendent Alexander Robinson himself, though hissuccessor, S.J. Willis, seemed less attracted to that level of accountability.20Administratively, schooling had entered a different world. Along with less pettiness insupervision came a broadening acceptance of expertise from outside the departmentalbureaucracy. Teachers and other citizens were becoming more actively involved in helpingto shape the future of education in British Columbia.Beginning in January 1923, a committee of teachers and laymen assembled underthe auspices of the High School Teachers’ Association of the Lower Mainland of British20 John Calam (ed.), Alex Lord’s British Columbia: Recollections of a Rural SchoolInspector, 1915-36 (Vancouver: U.B.C. Press, 1991) p. 17.Chapter 3 62Columbia to begin a study of school administration in the province. Their final report,edited by Committee chairman Norman Fergus Black, was submitted in December 1925and published in 1926, closely following the May 30, 1925 publication of the government-commissioned inquiry conducted by Drs. J. Harold Putman and George Moir Weir.The Association’s report, Peace & Efficiency in School Administration, was writtenfor a broad audience. Education Minister J. D. MacLean lent stature to therecommendations by writing an introduction wherein he called the report “a valuable aid indeveloping educational policies in this province and elsewhere.”21 The introductionrecognized the originality of carrying out a study of such magnitude, encompassing expertopinion on education from Britain, Canada and America. The report’s wide-rangingrecommendations included Progressive notions that there should be recognition of the valueof extra-curricular activities, student participation in school administration, improvedmeans other than written examinations to assess pupil progress, and more efficientfunctioning of local school boards •22 One of the proposals called for a superintendent tooversee educational and business interests in each school district. In districts with only oneprincipal, most superintendent functions were to be assumed by him. The committeeplainly advocated a basic division of authority whereby “in general, the superintendentshould supervise the principals and the principals should supervise their own schools.”23Although the idea may have been practical, the Department under Willis was not ready tosurrender official authority or control to that extent.2421 Norman Fergus Black, Peace & Efficiency in School Administration (London &Toronto: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd., 1926), p. x.22 Ibid., pp. 185-196. A total of 88 recommendations is listed.23 Ibid., p. 192.24 The district superintendency was created thirty-three years later, in 1958.Chapter 3 63All the activity in the field, and the expectations raised among the public and in theschool system by the spate of studies and surveys of the early 1 920s, invites questionsabout the Deputy Minister’s administrative style. How much of what was happening in thefield was known in Victoria? Was information transmitted directly to the department andto Willis, or was it collected and stored without being seen by the highest-rankingadministrators?As one example, the problems of teachers trying to cope in remote postings werecarefully recorded in individual reports sent to the Teachers’ Bureau. Clearly there wereproblems, but it is not so obvious that they became known to Willis or the Minister. TheTeachers’ Bureau files25 reveal that, although teachers in the 1920s and later their RuralTeachers’ Welfare Officer constantly recommended that various posts be designated “menonly” due to the trying nature of social and living conditions, the modal teacher continuedto be a young, single woman. Stortz argued that the bureaucrats actually were unaware ofhow appalling conditions were in remote communities. He proposed that the highestofficials may never have been privy to the Teachers’ Bureau reports and also thatinspectors sought to present accounts as positively and inoffensively as possible.2 6This argument is plausible for several reasons. First, given their desire for futureadvancement, it was in the inspectors’ interests that everything appear to be “going well”in their districts. Secondly, to be critical of the teachers’ level of preparedness wouldreflect poorly on their colleagues teaching in the normal schools, and likely would havebeen interpreted as hostile comment. Thirdly, in practical terms, inspectors’ visits wereinfrequent. When they did arrive, they spent their time primarily in administering the25 BCARS, GR 461, Teachers’ Bureau, “School District Information Forms”.26 Paul James Stortz, “The Rural School Problem in British Columbia in the 1920s”(M.A. thesis, University of British Columbia, 1988), p. 50.Chapter 3 64Department’s tests of pupil progress and intelligence rather than in active trouble-finding.It was not until 1934 that emphasis shifted towards a new approach for the work of theinspectorate. At that time, Willis would laud the change in the inspector’s role from criticto giver of advice and good counsel:The point of view of inspection has changed considerably. Now perhaps more thanat any time, the Inspector is the teacher’s guide, helper and friend. He is notchiefly a person sent to appraise and perhaps criticize the teacher’s work. I waspleased that at the last session of the Legislature an amendment was made wherebyan Inspector is required to give one report only each year.27This and the following examples are presented to indicate the scope of Willis’responsibilities and how he dealt with other major lobby groups in the educationalenterprise: the Minister and cabinet, the B.C. T . F., and the public.RELATIONSHIPS WITH TEACHERSOne of the main constituent groups in Willis’ constellation of contacts was theBritish Columbia Teachers’ Federation (hereafter B.C.T.F.) Although the B.C.T.F. wasstill a fledgling organization when Willis assumed office, the reasons for its creationmirrored the lot of teachers across the country. Conditions throughout Canada contributedto the creation of teachers’ organizations in every province between 1916 and 1921. Theseconditions included “low pay levels, lack of adequate tenure protection, depressed standingon the social scale; the rise and success of the trade union movement in improving theworking conditions of their members; the sharp inflation of the post-war economy; and thegeneral condition of unrest in society.”2827 BCARS, GR 0139. That file contains a short essay by Willis typewritten in 1934.28 Jerry Bruce Roald, “The Pursuit of Status: Professionalism, Unionism, and Militancy inthe Evolution of Canadian Teachers’ Organizations, 1915-1965” (Ed. D. thesis, Universityof British Columbia, 1970), Foreword.Chapter 3 65Teachers’ Institute meetings had been held occasionally, at the call of thegovernment, as a forum to update teaching skills. Teachers had no input into theorganization or content of the presentations at its annual meetings. Consequently,enthusiasm lessened along with motivation to attend the government-dominated sessions •29The lack of interest led to the organization’s demise. It disbanded entirely when the FirstWorld War began. The fifteenth and last of the Provincial Teachers’ Institutes was heldApril 14-16 at King Edward High School in Vancouver. Willis called the last specialmeeting, held March 29, 1921, at which a resolution was passed to close the Institute andto hand their funds over to the B.C.T.F. In December 1926, the B.C. Teacher publishedexcerpts from Teachers’ Institute records in an article entitled “Voices From the Past.”“The Teachers’ Federation decided that it was fitting that these funds should be placed in areserve fund, to be used only in connection with the expenses of the special speakersengaged for future conventions, and this policy was adhered to until the money had beenall .“0 B.C. T. F. executive minutes of April 17, 1920 record that this wasdiscussed with Willis. “Mr. Willis was favorable to the idea of turning over the work andthe funds of the Provincial Institute to the Federation, and promised to take steps toprovide for such a transfer, if he had the necessary authority to do so.”Isolated local associations continued to carry on. Independently, they were unableto achieve their aims. However, the existence of these associations was generative; theywere precursors of the B.C. T.F.31 British Columbia became the first Canadian province to29 Claude Lane Campbell, “The British Columbia Teachers’ Federation”, p. 8.3° B.C. Teacher, 6, 4, (December 1926).31 A detailed description of early Provincial Teachers’ Institute activity and the transition tofederation is available in a typewritten manuscript by Stanley Heywood, “The EarlyHistory of the B.C.T.F.” (Undated), B.C.T.F. Records and Archives.Chapter 3 66create a federation. It resulted from decades of uncertainty concerning what form such anorganization should take. One of the early B.C.T.F. leaders, Harry Charlesworth, helpedtransplant the British National Union of Teachers (hereafter N.U.T.) policies andorganizational practices. But he was by no means alone. British immigrants looked to theN.U.T. as a model for establishing a teachers’ organization in British Columbia. Also,teachers moving west from Ontario had been familiar with Teachers’ Institutes andAssociations since the 1870s. The B.C.T.F. was formally voted into being at the firstofficial meeting October 28, 1916, with the first Annual General Meeting held January 4,1917.The modest status of the profession was symbolized by teachers’ limited financialmeans, for their salaries had not kept pace with rising living costs. The outbreak of warcaused even more turmoil, and in some districts, salary schedules were suspendedaltogether.32 U.B.C. Professor Sedgewick, in a 1919 speech to Vancouver teachers,remarked that:the basic cause to which low status of the teaching profession must be ascribed wasan economic one -- an insufficient salary. ‘But there is one lesson Labour hastaught us -- that there is a time when patience will not do, and must be replaced byforce. ‘33By individual effort, the teachers’ situation was not likely to improve. Most teachers wereisolated in rural communities and had to negotiate their salaries independently with theirschool boards .“ In small communities the financial position of everyone in the district32 It was not until 1927 that a province-wide teacher salary scale became established.Cited in Roy Archibald North, “The British Columbia Teachers’ Federation and theArbitration Process” (M. A. thesis, University of British Columbia, 1964), p. 28.Arthur Harold Skoirood, “The British Columbia Teachers’ Federation: A Study of ItsHistorical Development, Interests and Activities From 1916 to 1963” (Ed.D. thesis,University of Oregon, 1967), p. 66. Author cites a B.C.T.F. survey conducted in 1921which revealed “a complete lack of uniformity in payment of salaries.” Teachers did notgain a provincial salary schedule until 1929.Chapter 3 67would be known to all, and in hard times there was little prospect of maintaining regularsalaries, let alone the chance to consider raises In contrast, teachers in cities had theopportunity to meet collectively, there was a larger tax base to support schooling and theirnumbers made a stronger voice.Looking back, it is evident that the formation of the B.C.T.F. did empower theteachers. From its earliest years, resolutions passed at the B.C. T. F. convention wereforwarded to the Education Department. Many suggestions were acted upon, such as therecommendation that more than one examiner mark the same subject, due to increasingstudent numbers. Once in office, Willis responded by calling for the names of specialiststo be submitted so he might call upon their expertise.36 Resolutions brought for ratificationfrom the annual meeting normally were generated three ways: they were brought directlyfrom local associations, they arose from sectional meetings, or they were submitted by theB.C. T. F. executive. Willis consistently was receptive to the B.C. T. F. ‘s concerns, and theB.C. T. F. executive meeting minutes record a very cordial, albeit formal, relationship withthe Superintendent. Apart from the growth and complexity of the school system, aplausible explanation for their frequent interaction and mutual positive regard was Willis’genuine concern for teachers. Willis never viewed the B.C.T.F. as a union, and wouldhave considered it unseemly for teachers to be lumped in with common labourers.As teachers banded together country-wide to create formal associations, theirmovement fit with the times for, as Roald explains, “It was also an era of socialPaul James Stortz, “The Rural School Problem in British Columbia in the 1920s”, p. 2.Stortz analyzed the statistical tables in the Department of Education annual reports for the1920s and concluded that “the majority of schools in British Columbia were situated in thehinterland, far away from urban areas.”36 Claude Lane Campbell, “The British Columbia Teachers’ Federation,” p. 20.Chapter 3 68reconstruction, and as such, perhaps the best of times to organize the teachingprofession. “ The lack of a formal continuously-operating teachers organization meantthere was no reliable forum in which to voice teachers’ demands for better conditions,including living wages, appropriate housing, freedom from harassment by local boards andsolutions to problems encountered in doing their jobs. The need for change had becomeimperative.The first teacher strikes in CanadaOrganized and collective teacher action had occurred only nine months beforeWillis assumed office. The background to the 1919 strike originated with an event at thebeginning of the First World War in 1914. The Victoria School Board suspended its salaryschedule. Then, in January 1915, it reduced all salaries by 10%. The aim was to retrenchcosts while the war was on, with the understanding that teachers’ salaries would berestored at the conclusion of the war. After peace returned, and economic conditionsbegan to improve, teachers asked that the salary schedule be restored. It is noteworthy thatthey did not seek retroactive pay for the previous four years. They asked only that theprior schedule be restored and made more equitable. The Board agreed to restore theschedule and began meeting with the teachers to discuss creation of a new schedule for1919-1920. The teachers had proposed a 10% across-the-board increase, retroactive toJanuary 1, 1919, and also proposed more increments in the scale -- thereby raising themaximum salary. Teachers believed raises were necessary to keep pace with post-warinflation. Coming from the position of high school principal, Willis was acutely aware ofteachers’ salary scales.Roald, “Pursuit of Status: Professionalization, Unionism, and Militancy in theEvolution of Canadian Teachers’ Organizations, 1915-1955,” p. 1.Chapter 3 69After an impasse in negotiations with the Victoria School Board, the teachersthreatened to strike on Monday February 10, 1919. That morning, 157 teachers went onstrilce.38 The school board sought the advice of the Department of Education. OnTuesday, the Minister responded with a detailed arbitration arrangement. This was deemedacceptable by the teachers, and ended their strike a week later on February 17.Negotiations resumed on February 26. The following month, the government amended thePublic Schools Act to include the following arbitration procedure: “The Board of SchoolTrustees of any school district may enter into an agreement with one or more teachers byarbitration in such a manner as may be determined by agreement.”39 At their conclusion,teachers had realized some important victories. They received the long-sought salaryincreases which were eminently important. The greater gain was securing the right toparticipate in negotiations with their board.The 1921 New Westminster strike was caused, in part, by teachers’ discontent withsalaries lower than those of teachers in neighbouring districts. Following the lead of theirVictoria counterparts, the New Westminster teachers drafted a new salary schedule forconsideration by their board and presented it at the November 1920 meeting.4° At the endof January 1921, the board countered with its own schedule -- at half the amount theteachers’ proposed. After trying to re-open negotiations, the teachers requested arbitration,and waited for the Board to reply. Budget estimates had to be submitted to the Legislatureby February 15. Time was almost up when the Board announced it considered the matterclosed and refused further negotiation. Officially, the dispute appears to have been38 Victoria School Board Minutes, Friday February 7, 1919, S.J. Willis School, Victoria.Statutes of British Columbia, 1919, Chapter 75, Section 116A.4° Roald, “Pursuit of Status: Professionalism, Unionism, and Militancy in the Evolution ofCanadian Teachers’ Organizations, 1915-1955,” p. 90.Chapter 3 70regarded by the Department of Education as a local issue because there was no attempt tointerfere.Valentine’s Day 1921 saw the beginning of the New Westminster strike.Steadfastly, the Board refused offers of arbitration. Community groups and unions puttheir support behind the teachers. Lengthy negotiations produced a settlement, and schoolsreopened after only a week-long strike, on February 21. The local teachers’ associationwon formal recognition and the right to become a party in salary negotiations. The Boardultimately reneged on payment of the negotiated salary awards.41 After protracted debate,which engaged and enraged the public, teachers eventually resigned en masse effective atthe end of 1921. The dispute was settled with the intervention of the Board of Trade,which suggested that the $11,000 arbitration award won by teachers be reduced to $5,000paid with $4,000 from the school board and $1,000 from the city council. The teachersaccepted this as winning in principle and were willing to forego the rest of the money duethem. According to one analysis, “the central issue from the outset had been the right offriendly negotiation with the board. In short, the teachers believed that co-operation andrecognition, essential ingredients in an improved occupational environment, were worthmore than money.”42 Within a month, the teachers enjoyed the defeat of theunsympathetic school board in the January 22, 1922 election. In both strikes, teachers sawtheir employers, the local boards, as adversaries and did not direct their ire towards Willisor the Department. Although curriculum and other pedagogical concerns wereadministered by Victoria, provision of teachers’ salaries and living accommodation weredetermined by local boards.41 The New Westminster Council’s referendum to raise the funds failed to pass. Theschool board was then left in the awkward position of having insufficient budget to supportthe large salary increases granted under arbitration.42 Roald, “Pursuit of Status: Professionalism, Unionism, and Militancy in the Evolution ofCanadian Teachers’ Organizations, 1915-1955”, p. 94.Chapter 3 71Although Willis would have been sympathetic to the teachers’ issues, he remainedaloof from the dispute which was viewed from Victoria as an issue to be resolved locally.Willis made no attempt publicly to move the issue towards resolution. Instead, he sat backas did the provincial politicians and let local officials devise a solution. Willis’ laissez-faire approach succeeded because it was appropriate for the times when provincialgovernment intervention would have been regarded as unexpected and intrusive. In thisinstance, the dispute was a local issue, and a political one. Neither of these features wouldrequire provincial government action, particularly from Willis. Nor was it expected. Inthe extensive coverage of the strike in the B.C. Teacher, there is no reference to theDepartment of Education, save for one New Westminster Trustee’s suggestion that theirBoard resign in favour of the Department appointing an official trustee.43The B.C. T.F. ‘s professional interestsTeaching was a profession entirely controlled by the provincial educationalbureaucracy. Indeed, Roald’ s thesis is that organizations formed because “teachers haveattempted to escape from or at least to modify the bureaucratic environment whichprescribed the conditions of their vocation.”44Although the profession had adopted a new demeanor and internal agenda, teacherswere not yet overtly political. Stewart Graham spoke about efforts educators made toavoid political affiliation. He said “Dr. Willis stated repeatedly that teachers must beB.C. Teacher, 1,3 (November 1921): 2-12.‘ Roald, “Pursuit of Status: Professionalism, Unionism, and Militancy in the Evolution ofCanadian Teachers’ Organizations, 1915-1955”, abstract.Chapter 3 72neutral.”45 This applied particularly when teaching about government. Teachers wereexpected to give both sides without indicating any personal bias. The job of the teacherwas to teach, not to proselytize. This was another social code applied to teachers, partlyby society, partly by themselves. They were not expected to be active politically any morethan were other civil servants 46Although precedent was established from the time of the Teachers’ Institutes that“the Superintendent of Education was almost invariably elected president,”47 Willis wellunderstood the appropriateness of holding himself to a politically neutral position separatefrom government officials. When he was offered, along with Minister MacLean, anhonorary membership in the B.C.T.F. in 1922, both declined.48 No explanation is givenin the B.C.T.F. minutes concerning why the offer of membership was made. TheConstitution adopted at the October 28, 1916 meeting expressly excluded departmentofficials, school trustees and officers of boards of school trustees. It is curious, therefore,why such offers were ever made, and, for the same reason, not surprising that honorarymembership was declined.‘ view of teachers in the 1920sShortly after becoming Superintendent, as a fair gesture Willis ensured teacherswould thenceforth be provided with copies of the reports inspectors made about them.Interview July 31, 1991 by Valerie Giles with Stewart Graham in New Westminster.46 This official reserve was held until the 1 970s. Such caution was set aside forever in1972 when the B.C.T.F. organized the Apple campaign. Teachers worked actively todefeat the Social Credit government. B.C.T.F. support for the opposition was integral inelecting the first New Democrat government in British Columbia.Ibid.48 B.C.T.F. Minutes, Executive Meeting, January 7, 1922. MacLean later had a changeof heart and allowed himself to be admitted as an Honorary Member April 12, 1928.Chapter 3 73From 1919 on, inspectors’ reports were to be submitted in triplicate. One was given to theteacher, one to the school board and one to the Superintendent.49 More than merely a steptowards centralized and bureaucratic control, this was a significant step toward due processin teacher evaluation. This action is also indicative of Willis’ sense of fairness and hisadherence to Christian ethics. He had once been a teacher, and the decision to makeinformation critical to the teacher’s career available was more than a courtesy.However, not all treatment was so positive and fair. Teachers had to contend withcriticism and complaints about their work from outside the Department. Perhaps mostserious was that geographically isolated teachers were without much shelter from trusteeand parent criticism, making a challenging job even more difficult. Although reprimandsfrom the Department were rare, on one notable occasion, teachers were chastised forfailing to stress the virtues of legible handwriting! The stern critic was SuperintendentWillis himself. Annual reports from the late 1 800s contained lamentations about poorpenmanship. The 1921-22 report is singular in acknowledging “marked improvement”owing, according to Willis, to the introduction that year of a booklet entitled The MacLeanMethod of Muscular Movement Writing. Willis remarked, “There is, of course, a largenumber of teachers who have not yet made any serious effort to master the new system andwho, in consequence, are not getting good results.”5° At the May 1922 B.C.T.F.convention, Willis protested:I do not wish to give you the impression that I wish to lay undue emphasis on thesubject of writing. I do not at all. But I take the view that what is worth doing isworth doing well: and it will take no more time from the rest of our studies to dothat subject in the right way than it will to do it in the wrong way, which obtainedin the past.51F. Henry Johnson, A History of Public Education in British Columbia (Vancouver:University of British Columbia Press, 1964), p. 92.5° British Columbia, Superintendent of Education, Annual Report, 1921-22, (Victoria:King’s Printer, 1922), p. ClO.5’ B.C. Teacher, Convention Number (May 1922): 9.Chapter 3 74Teachers were expected to respond to criticism and to perform according to expressedexpectations such as these. Under the Putman-Weir Report’s recommendations, Willisworked to apply newly learned scientific principles to a curriculum which was expected tochange according to life conditions and utility. Weir expounded the view that “Scientificstudies, still in their infancy, in the field of curriculum-making seek to discover thatcontent which possesses the greatest functional value as determined by specific educationalobjectives and life activities.”52 Influences from psychology, like the “hand-eyemovement” made an impact on the way such subjects as art, technical education, domesticscience and handwriting were taught.One cannot consider Willis’ view of teachers without recognizing that he hadempathy for their low salaries and gave priority to improving teachers’ financial position.From personal experience as a former teacher and out of his principled sense of fairness,he also had empathy for the insecurity of tenure they faced. Through the 1920s andthroughout his career, Willis wrote many memoranda concerning provision for ruralteachers’ salaries. In a May 14, 1936 memo to the Minister, Willis defended the salaryrequests of Prince Rupert teachers, remarking at the beginning of his communication, “Itappears to me that the teachers in Prince Rupert have been treated rather shabbily.”53 Eachyear he worked out the budget and made proposals for means to raise their salaries. Hiscampaign on their behalf would continue right up to the last year of his service.54 Hetravelled east in the fall of 1926 to study teachers’ pension schemes in effect for teachers inQuebec and Ontario, and in Manitoba on his return. He returned with “exhaustive data52 B.C. Teacher, 6, 3 (November 1926): 5.3 BCARS, GR 1222, Box 8, File 3.BCARS, GR 1222, Box 47, File 9 contains numerous examples of Willis’ budgetsubmissions to the Minister and to the Assistant Deputy Minister, Finance.Chapter 3 75collected in the expectation that British Columbia will adopt a system of pensions forteachers in the next few .“55Teachers made financial and legislative gains in the 1 920s. They looked to theirteachers’ organizations for help in resolving disputes and for more balance in what Roalddeclared was “a traditional master-slave relationship” between teachers and trustees. Thisview may have been justified in some extreme cases, but not all trustees were abusive ofteachers •56 There were various ways teachers had been set upon by trustees includingbeing held to low salaries, required to board at a certain trustee’s home rather than a placeof one’s choosing, and subjected to invasive scrutiny of one’s personal life.The B.C. Teacher showed teachers’ reciprocal regard for Willis as a fellow teacherand an honoured education official. During his trip to consult with education officials inOntario and Quebec, McGill University conferred an honorary LL.D. degree upon Willisat the October 1926 convocation. The B.C.T.F. congratulated him and paid tribute:Dr. Willis was a member of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation previous to his presentappointment, and since then he has shown himself most willing to co-operate withthe teachers in all matters of educational interest, and, on all occasions, a delegationis certain of a cordial and sympathetic reception.In managing the system, Willis was equally concerned with teachers’ preparation,classroom performance and content of the curriculum.Victoria Times, 15 October 1926:1.56 Roald, “Pursuit of Status: Professionalism, Unionism, and Militancy in the Evolution ofCanadian Teachers’ Organizations, 1915-1955,” p. 154.B.C. Teacher 6, 2 (October 1926): 6.Chapter 3 76The quality of schoolingWillis early made clear his wide-ranging interest in the quality of schooling acrossBritish Columbia. Formal teacher training in British Columbia was provided by thenormal schools in Vancouver (established 1901) and in Victoria (established 1915). In1919, the principals of Western Canada’ s normal schools met to standardize the trainingtheir institutions offered. They decided Grade 11 completion would be the minimumprerequisite for entry58 and voted to standardize the normal school session at thirty-sixweeks Willis endorsed this decision in one of the first speeches he made as the newly-appointed Superintendent of Education to the Vancouver Teachers’ Association at a dinnerin his honour. Willis spoke of changes he wished to make as Superintendent, particularlyin rural districts which tended to hire inexperienced teachers. Willis said he preferredstudent teachers to arrive at normal school more schooled and older:I am of the opinion, from observation, that the preparation for school teaching isnot in this Province as extended as it should be. The students of the Normal Schooldo not graduate with sufficient preparation for this important work, and I wouldlike to have the question settled whether the work is not entered upon in many casesat too immature an age.6°As an adjunct to normal school courses, the University of British Columbia beganregular summer sessions for teachers in 1920. Initially, these non-credit courses weregeneral and merely informative. Two years later, U. B.C. introduced standard courses insummer session, making it possible for teachers to earn degrees through part-time study •6158 Johnson, A History of Public Education in British Columbia, p. 78. Johnson explainedthat normal school faculty were the first arbiters of admission, and later an examinationwas set for potential students who did not have any “educational certificate orqualification.”Ibid., p. 86.60 The Colonist, 7 December 1919:2.61 British Columbia, Superintendent of Education, Annual Report, 1921-1922, (Victoria:King’s Printer, 1922), p. C12.Chapter 3 77The Department of Education authorized four classes of teaching certificates (granted on apermanent, interim or temporary basis). By 1922, the minimum qualifications to obtaineach were completion of teacher training plus:Academic University degreeFirst Class Senior MatriculationSecond Class Junior MatriculationSpecial Certificate (no academic requirements asthese applied to commercialsubjects, domestic science, manualtraining)62Since remuneration was tied to individual teacher’s levels of academic achievement,encouraging them to raise their qualifications was one way Willis could justify salaryincreases.During the 1920s, the Department encouraged teachers to move away from teachingby the rote method and instead to concentrate on more active learning experiences. Thiswas a direct consequence of the child-study movement and the ascendancy of experimentalpsychology worldwide. New understandings of children and their developmentalrequirements guaranteed introduction of such new learning methods as the project methodof instruction in the classroom.Willis’ annual report for 1923-24 announced completion of the curriculum revisionfor elementary schools,63 and the following year Willis turned his attention to assessing62 British Columbia, Superintendent of Education, Annual Report, 1922-1923, (Victoria:King’s Printer, 1923), p. F 11. This report contained the announcement that normalschool tuition would no longer be free. A tuition of $40.00 was imposed with theexplanation “It has been the practice in nearly all other Provinces and countries to requirestudents to contribute to the cost of the maintenance of the schools at which they receivetraining for the teaching service.” The Department calculated that this tuition wouldrecover about thirty per cent of the cost of maintaining the normal schools.63 British Columbia, Superintendent of Education, Annual Report, 1923-24, (Victoria:King’s Printer, 1924), p. T10.Chapter 3 78pupils’ preparedness for high school entrance. The subjects normally covered in the highschool admission examination previously had been confined to Arithmetic, Grammar,Composition, Geography, Drawing, Penmanship, Dictation and Spelling. Willis had hisinspectors administer additional special tests to 5,000 pupils during March and June. Thesubjects covered were Canadian History, British History, Hygiene and Nature Study. Thetesting had been prompted by inspectors’ reports to Department officials that these areas ofthe curriculum were not receiving adequate attention. It was deemed that schools whichscored an average number of correct answers per pupil of 50% in the four areas weredoing fair work. In the tables provided with the annual report, only 24 of the 114 schoolslisted fell below the passing grade of 117 correct out of 235 questions.64 The Departmentwas open to curriculum enrichment and expansion. This received particular attention fromWillis who actively took on curriculum development as its helmsman.CurriculumWillis’ reputation as a curriculum reformer was well established even before hisappointment November 3, 1919 as Superintendent of Education. This was demonstratedwhen the B.C. T. F. ‘s executive committee met July 17, 1919. Curriculum was one matterunder consideration. They had to respond to then- Superintendent Alexander Robinson’srequest for B.C. T. F. representatives to join committees appointed to revise the publicschool and high school textbooks. The minutes record that “Mr. S.J. Willis, of Vancouverand Mr. A.G. Smith, of Victoria, were appointed.”65 There was no extended discussion.The nominations implied that these two educators were the “reigning experts” in each city.64 British Columbia, Superintendent of Education, Annual Report, 1924-25, (Victoria:King’s Printer, 1925), pp. M16 - M19.65 B.C.T.F. Minutes, Executive Committee, 17 July 1919, p. 3, B.C.T.F. Archives andRecords, Vancouver.Chapter 3 79A few months later, Willis was at the top of the education bureaucracy and ideallysituated to act on his concerns for the curriculum. The Department introduced newsubjects. Of these Tomkins argued that “manual training, domestic science, agriculture(including nature study) and health and physical education were the most important.”66The first technical courses offered in British Columbia high schools had been introduced inthe 1916-17 school year. Domestic science, the application of scientific methods tohomemaking, was introduced in tandem to keep girls occupied while the boys wereinvolved in shop classes. The training proved popular, and Willis carried on making thistraining available. By 1920, twenty-nine domestic science centres had been established inthe province.67 Even Agriculture was being transformed from a theoretical subject to anactive, practical course. All the while, such studies were to inculcate “a positive viewpoint concerning country life, the recognition of virtues immanent in the work of the soiland the acknowledgement and application of the individual’s power over nature.”68Eventually, the agriculture course was not a success, mainly because of the rapid turnoverof teachers, who were not necessarily equipped to teach the subject. Its desirability as aschool subject was also diminished by the objections of parents who thought that a ruralcurriculum would narrow opportunities for their children that they hoped urban-orientededucation would provide.Willis took a direct part in British Columbia’s curriculum review. B.C.T.F.representatives met frequently to bring their curriculum issues to the Superintendent’sattention. B.C.T.F. executive meeting minutes regularly featured reports on how Willis66 George S. Tomkins, A Common Countenance: Stability and Change in the CanadianCurriculum (Scarborough: Prentice-Hall Canada Inc., 1986), p. 115.67 Ibid., p. 120.68 Ibid., p. 122.Chapter 3 80had received their suggestions. One example concerns a report on a January 16, 1926meeting between Willis and G.W. Clark. This time the subject was a new course outlinefor English, together with the B.C.T.F. ‘s recommendations for replacing textbooks. Clarkreported that the plan “was cordially received by the Superintendent.” Characteristically,though, Willis had practical interest. The minutes record that the Superintendentexpressed appreciation for the suggestions and (gave) the assurance that if thesuggested books will be in print in September, in all likelihood they will beprescribed as requested. He demurred at some of the minor changes requested withregard to Supplementary Reading, on the score of the possible difficulty of securingcheap enough editions of the suggested books, but expressed his willingness toinvestigate and make the changes if practical.”69Willis was committed to upholding the aims of Progressivism, and was well positioned inthe educational hierarchy to ensure that appropriate curriculum choices would be made.Willis was willing to adapt courses of study, but as the quote illustrates, with an eye to thecost implications of any such change. There were no obvious or consistently recurringcurriculum policies emanating from the B.C. T. F. Rather, their recommendations appearto have been carefully worked and plans arrived at through consensus at each annualconvention.After the 1928 election, the Reverend Canon Joshua Hinchliffe was appointedMinister of Education. Teachers had been negotiating since 1920 for a pension plan. InOctober 1928, Premier Tolmie met with a delegation from the B.C. T. F. to discuss thequestion of superannuation. Although sympathetic, he said the government did not have alarge sum of money to commit, but promised to take it up in Cabinet.70 By December, the69 B.C.T.F. Minutes, Executive Meeting, March 13, 1926, p. 5.70 B.C. Teacher, 7, 8 (April 1928): 37. The B.C.T.F. expressed gratitude to MinisterHinchliffe and “to the Government officials also we are deeply grateful for their splendidassistance in the detailed work involved in the preparation of the Bill” in the B.C. Teacher,7, 7 (March 1929):3.Chapter 3 81B.C. T. F. had ready a draft “Teachers’ Superannuation Bill”. The Teachers’ Pensions Actwas passed by the provincial Legislature in March 1929, coming into operation April 1,1929.Rural ConditionsAlthough there is ample evidence that Willis was sensitive about and committed toimproving rural teachers’ salaries, it is questionable whether he was truly aware of theirplight. Two files of Teachers’ Bureau records from 1923 and 1928 survive in the BritishColumbia Archives and Records Service, containing teachers’ original handwritten reports,together with photographs of most of the schools. Although some responses are cautiousand vague -- designed not to offend -- many teachers availed themselves of the opportunityto make candid replies to the survey concerning the conditions they faced. Both sets ofrecords have been carefully analyzed by Wilson, who enumerated teachers’ problems:“Loneliness, isolation, difficult and unfriendly trustees, parents, and landlords confrontedmany teachers. “71 Their inescapable reality was geographical isolation. An added burdenwas the problem of housing, usually requiring teachers to board miles away, necessitating adifficult daily journey to the schoolhouse. Psychological isolation sometimes derived fromsocial and political factions created by parents and trustees. This could be compounded byassignment to any of the ethnic communities where schools were attended predominantlyby children who spoke little or no English, being variously of Finnish, Japanese, Russianor other descent. The province’s population was so thinly scattered that, as a consequence,71 J. Donald Wilson, “I am here to help if you need me’: British Columbia’s RuralTeachers’ Welfare Officer, 1928-1934,” Journal of Canadian Studies 25, 2 (Summer1990), p. 97.Chapter 3 82many school rosters were small. Throughout the 1920s, about twenty per cent of BritishColumbia! s school children attended small, typically one-room schools 72Descriptions of classrooms survive in teachers’ diaries, correspondence to theDepartment, and in local histories. A particularly graphic depiction was provided by MissE. M. Bruneau who began teaching at Bouchie Lake in the Cariboo district in 1922. Sherecalled opening the school with seventeen pupils in a small log building:There was very little equipment in the school. . .just one small piece of blackboard.The stove in the centre of the room kept us all cozy. Whoever arrived first had thechore of lighting the fire. The children had long distances to walk, and oftenbrought their dogs with them. I allowed these dogs to be inside out of the cold.This, I remember, was strongly disapproved of by the Inspector. In summer therewere no screens on the doors or windows, and when the mosquitoes were bad, wehad to keep a smudge burning in the room.73Discouraged, many teachers sought to move on to a new school. Turnover wasregarded as a detriment to efficient operation of the schools, and was lamented byinspectors. One example is found in the comments of Inspector Matthews who contrastedthat disrupting experience with schools which enjoyed the continuity of the same teacherover several years. He detected higher quality work and marked progress wheneverteachers remained long enough.74 This did not go unnoticed by Willis who saw fit toinclude mention of this in the 192 1-22 Annual Report. It no doubt firmed his resolve tomake rural teaching attractive and thus to extend the average length of tenure.72 Stortz, “The Rural School Problem in British Columbia in the 1920s,” p. 2. Informationwas calculated from statistical tables.‘ Marion Booth, ed., Pioneers of Bouchie Lake (Bouchie Lake: Bouchie Lake Women’sInstitute, 1975), p. 31.‘“ British Columbia, Superintendent of Education, Annual Report, 1921-1922 ((Victoria:King’s Printer, 1922), p. C3 3.Chapter 3 83The conditions for teachers were as varied as the people accepting those positions.Not all places were unwelcoming and confrontational. The Cariboo district was renownedfor being pleasant and inviting. Many teachers who came there between 1919 and 1925stayed on in the area. Former teacher and community activist Hazel Huckvale recalled thatteacher turnover was due more to marriage in an era when women were expected to retireand leave their jobs to others needing work:Teachers were treated like royalty. A teacher in the Cariboo was treated with thegreatest respect and consideration. . . . There was always a great deal of teacherturnover. The local ranchers’ Sons married the teachers, so we had turnover aboutevery two years2The unevenness of the teaching experience throughout the province likely caused Willisand other officials to regard the living conditions as local issues-- and allowed them toabdicate responsibility for alleviating teachers’ hardships. There was a benign neglect ofunfavourable local conditions.Willis seldom got the opportunity to see local conditions first-hand. Apart from theconstraints of the job, this was due to his aversion to travel. Graham explained: “Dr.Willis just would not leave Victoria. He didn’t go out at all. Now, I was told that he hadnever gone to open a school or anything like that.” Graham did manage to convince Willisto open the Creston Valley High School. It was a positive experience for him, and theteachers tried hard to impress him:I said to the Commercial teacher, “You take Dr. Willis’ speech down inshorthand.” We didn’t have tape recorders in those days. “Get it transcribed asquickly as you can, and I’ll stall the conclusion of the ceremonies.” Which I did.As the platform party with Dr. Willis and myself leading it, marched down with theband playing, we marched down the aisle and out the door from the auditorium.The Creston Highlights was handed to Dr. Willis with the headline in his speechthere. He was flabbergasted. I think that’s what made me the Inspector ofInterview August 1, 1983 by Valerie Giles with Hazel Huckvale.Chapter 3 84Schools! He just couldn’t believe it! As far as I know, that’s the only time he leftVictoria.76The Teachers’ Bureau reports demonstrated that teachers’ living accommodationsvaried widely. Literally any available structure became the teacher’s home -- “afarmhouse, ranchhouse, old school, teacherage attached to the school, hotel, post office,railroad station or section house, cook shack, remodelled warehouse, or hospital.”77 Thepoor accommodation largely contributed to teacher turnover.78 Prominent educator andauthor of the 1923 survey of high schools, Norman Fergus Black, described rural schoolproblems in a 1924 essay for the B.C. Teacher. He discussed and described the“calamitously frequent change of teachers” as a major problem.79 Acknowledging lowsalaries as one of the confounding factors in keeping teachers in rural postings, Blacklooked beyond that for another explanation. He concluded from teachers’ comments thatthere was indeed a profound underlying reason for the problem. It was simply that“teachers of our rural schools were never trained for rural school teaching.”8°Although sympathetic towards rural teachers, as in his attempts to improve theirsalaries, Willis was constrained by lack of resources. Through the 1 920s and 1 93Os, evenbasic instructional materials were in short supply. A school could afford only what theDepartment provided. Most of the rural schools were classified as assisted which meantthat the costs of the school building, supplies and equipment and even the teacher’s salary76 Interview July 31, 1993 by Valerie Giles with Stewart Graham.Ibid., p. 42.78 BCARS, GR 461, Teachers’ Bureau, “School District Information Forms.”‘ The B.C. Teacher, 3, 10, (June 1924), p. 226.80 Ibid.Chapter 3 85came from government funds. More prosperous areas, incorporated into municipalities orcities, had a tax base from which to draw taxes to support schools.* * *The first five years of Willis’ service as Superintendent should then be understoodin light of social circumstances and professional trends in education. At the beginning ofthe interwar period, educators and politicians faced expectations for a bright future andincreasing economic opportunities. Teachers were aiming to control their workingconditions and to influence curricula. They became organized and sought to have more sayin developing policies and management procedures in schooling.Willis was receptive to input from teachers. He responded annually to therecommendations passed at B.C.T.F. conventions and met regularly with their executive.He was willing to change text books or curricula in response to good arguments for doingso, and thus accorded teachers’ leaders a very real opportunity to influence curricula. Allof this input helped the public perception of the Department and Deputy as responsive, butit meant no lessening of the central control Willis maintained.The evidence cited previously shows that Willis sought to be kind in his dealingswith teachers and the B.C. T. F., but remained somewhat unaware of, or hesitant toacknowledge, the distress of teachers serving in the far reaches of the province. That thesituation was never truly remedied presents consideration that Victoria officials wereoblivious or unconcerned. Despite this, Willis managed to establish a solid foundation ofrespect among the teaching profession in his first half-decade.86Chapter 4Social and Educational Change: 1925 - 1939the changing systems required by the times...1THE MEANING OF PROGRESSIVE EDUCATIONIn the late nineteenth century, curriculum was shaped to a considerable degree bytheories of mental discipline, thought to have both practical and moral value for learning.Among other influences on the curriculum were the imperatives of cultural survival,economic needs, and such Victorian values as temperance, loyalty to the monarch, thework ethic and social restraint.2 From another perspective, Curtis opined that capitalistsand the professional class became concerned that public regulation was needed to preserve“respect for property, political authority and Christian religion.” Those groups looked tothe school system as the venue for the type of public instruction they deemed necessary.3All of these influences combined to form the context in which Willis operated asSuperintendent and Deputy Minister. They deserve scrutiny because of their influence oneducational issues and expectations.Proponents of Progressive education had children study a broad general curriculumin the lower grades, switching to concentration on classical subjects at the high schoollevel. The classics were considered suitable for those planning to attend college, or toassume a teaching career. For others, it was thought that a basic education was all thatVictoria Times, 27 February 1947:4. Editorial tribute on the occasion of a receptionorganized to honour Dr. Willis on February 23, 1947.2 George S. Tomkins, A Common Countenance: Stability and Change in the CanadianCurriculum (Scarborough: Prentice-Hall, 1986), p. 29.Bruce Curtis, True Government By Choice Men? Inspection, Education, and StateFormation in Canada West (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992), pp. 34-35.Chapter 4 87was “requisite for the ordinary duties of life.”4 Within a few decades, the influence ofpsychology -- then emerging as a new academic discipline -- rivaled formalism in dictatingacceptable learning styles.Anglo-Canadians worried, however, that American influence was threatening theCanadian economy and culture. American periodicals outsold Canadian ones and wereinfluencing patterns of speech and expression. Across the country new immigrants of“alien stock” were required to adopt Anglo-Canadian ways, and schools were expected tosupplant foreign language and culture with majority norms. Tomkins noted that Angloconformism was at its height during the First World War.5Another growing concern was children’s health, and health officials influencedcurricula by making health instruction and physical education compulsory subjects inschools. This involvement in children’s health opened the way for the mental healthmovement and the institutionalization of mental measurement practices in schools.Pressure for curriculum reform also came from various groups settling in ruralBritish Columbia, many of them farmers, who wanted better formal education for theirchildren -- at least equal to that offered in urban centres. On the prairies, populations ofcentral and eastern Europeans resisted notions that their children needed to be educated.But once they agreed, they demanded instruction in their native languages rather than inEnglish. They also wanted their culture and family traditions emphasized.6 ImmigrantsTomkins, A Common Countenance: Stability and Change in the Canadian Curriculum,p. 35.Ibid., p. 99.6 J• T . M. Anderson, The Education of the New-Canadian: A Treatise on Canada’s GreatestEducational Problem (London and Toronto: J.M. Dent & Sons (Canada) Ltd., 1918), pp.217-221.Chapter 4 88overcame apprehension about having their children taught by “outsiders” and began toregard learning as valuable for their children’s future benefit. Establishment of schools inreligious communities like the Mennonites also received attention from Willis untilacceptance of schooling was certain. This transformation among immigrant populations toaccept school and tolerate the dominant culture was assisted by rising Canadiannationalism. Stamp quoted comments from a 1910 speech on “The Canadianization ofWestern Canada” wherein the speaker announced that schoolchildren “sing the patrioticsongs of Britain and Canada and the reading books are full of patriotic selections. There isno honour more regarded by these young foreigners than to be called Canadian.” Turn-of-the-century school curricula were influenced by introduction of patriotic activities andthemes such as “allegiance-pledging, and patriotic song-singing and poetry-reading.”7Progressive education was variously a concept, a movement, and an identifiableperiod in educational history. One American historian pointed out the definitionalproblem. The word “progressive” fell into common parlance as a flattering term forinnovations with which one agreed or approved. With some humour, Zilversmit mused:According to this defmition any change can be seen as “progressive” if it accordswith someone’s sense of the direction of historical development, and the term hasoften been used in this broad sense. Thus, the installation of flush toilets in schoolbuildings is a “progressive” step.8Instead, Zilversmit subscribed to a narrower definition which became prevalent amongstschoolmen of the 1920s and 1930s. A progressive school was identified as one thatfollowed a child-centred rather than a subject-centred curriculum; allowed children to play‘ Robert M. Stamp, “Education and the Economic and Social Milieu: The EnglishCanadian Scene from the 1870s to 1914,” in J. Donald Wilson, ed., Canadian Education:A History (Scarborough: Prentice-Hall of Canada, Ltd., 1970) p. 305.8 Arthur Zilversmit, “The Failure of Progressive Education, 1920-1940,” in Schooling andSociety: Studies in the History of Education, ed. Lawrence Stone (Baltimore: The JohnsHopkins University Press, 1976), p. 254.Chapter 4 89an active role in determining the content of their education; was concerned with meetingthe needs of the “whole child” -- emotional, physical and intellectual, in the belief thatproducing happy and responsible people would enhance the larger society.Interest in Progressive education was nation-wide across Canada, and Canada’seducators, including Willis, were influenced by pronouncements of prominent Americaneducators. In Canada an organization calling itself “The Progressive EducationAssociation” was founded in 1919. Its tenets included that pupils should develop naturally;the motivation for all work undertaken should be interest; teachers should act as guides,not task masters; pupil development should become a more scientific study; and thateducators should pay attention to discover the influence on a child of his environment.9Cremin’ s pronouncement that Progressivism meant “different things to differentpeople”° was as true for British Columbians as it was elsewhere in North America. Ineducational terms, Progressivism had a quicksilver quality -- rising and falling insignificance over time and place throughout the province. For most of the period thatWillis served as Superintendent he coped with issues and problems concerningProgressivism. Willis had come into the Superintendent’s office at a time when theProgressive movement created great expectation for change in education. He was himselfa Progressive and supported the movement. Willis and the teachers were eager to seeRobert S. Patterson, “Society and Education During the Wars and Their Interlude 1914 -1945,” in Canadian Education: A History, ed. J. Donald Wilson (Scarborough: Prentice-Hall of Canada, Ltd., 1970), p. 373.10 Lawrence A. Cremin, The Transformation of the School (New York: Alfred A. Knopf,1961), p. x. See also Jean Mann “G.M. Weir and H.B. King: Progressive Education orEducation for the Progressive State?” in Schooling and Society in 20th Century BritishColumbia, eds. I. Donald Wilson and David C. Jones (Calgary: Detselig EnterprisesLimited, 1980), pp. 91-92. Mann describes Progressivism as a “Many-faceted movement”each wave of which “was intimately and intricately related to the economic, political andsocial conditions of its time and place.”Chapter 4 90improvements to the school system, new and expanded curricula, provision for vocationaleducation, establishment of junior high schools and greater options for high school studentsgenerally, but especially for rural students.The annual reports show a sequence of attempts at Progressive innovation in BritishColumbia. The year 1921-22 saw introduction of new textbooks, replacing those in usesince the turn of the century. Manual training was being conducted in 79 centres anddomestic science in 51.11 A school for the deaf and dumb was opened at Oak and 24thAvenue in Vancouver. In 1923-24 there was a revision of the Elementary School course,involving production of a manual with detailed suggestions for teaching each subject. TheSurvey of the education system was announced. Putman and Weir were given a mandate“to look into questions of school finance, school administration, training of teachers,courses of study, as well as all other phases of our educational system.”2 Production ofthe manual was important in imparting notions of what was involved in varying theteaching approach away from basic learning from the textbook.In the next year, 1924-25, music became an elective subject in high schools withthe proviso that students “may now select music as an optional subject in lieu of geometry,botany, agriculture, physics or chemistry.” Students had to receive lessons privately andbe possessed of sufficient talent “to make success probable,” but now had the opportunityto study one of the creative arts.1311 British Columbia, Superintendent of Education, Annual Report, 1921-22, (Victoria:King’s Printer, 1922), p. ClO.12 British Columbia, Superintendent of Education, Annual Report, 1923-24, (Victoria:King’s Printer, 1924), p. T10.13 British Columbia, Superintendent of Education, Annual Report, 1924-25, (Victoria:King’s Printer, 1925), p. Mb.Chapter 4 91THE PUTMAN-WEIR REPORTCanadian reactions against the academic fonnalism imposed by a centrally-administered system had begun to appear at the end of the nineteenth century in the popularpress and newspaper articles. Proponents of an educational experience that would engagechildren and inspire their abilities and interests -- the Progressives -- were beginning tohave impact. During the last decade of the nineteenth century, they were supported bychild psychologists and other major forces in the Progressive movement. 14It was time to make an assessment of the education system in British Columbia,where schools were then a half century old. In 1924, with Willis as Superintendent, J.H.Putman and George Weir were commissioned to undertake a thorough survey of the schoolsystem. This was timely, not only because of increasing public concern about the cost ofsupporting the education system, but because of the school system’s tremendous growth.Between 1902 and 1922, the school population had almost quadrupled.15The idea of conducting a system-wide school survey arose from the B. C. T . F. ‘S1922 convention, and the Department implicitly acknowledged teacher leadership inannouncing the survey at their 1924 convention. The government kept back theannouncement until June 1924 to benefit from the publicity during the election campaign.This survey was designed to be an exhaustive one. Willis would have played a major role14 Douglas Lawr and Robert Gidney, eds., Educating Canadians: A Documentary Historyof Public Education (Toronto: Van Nostrand Reinhold Ltd., 1973), p. 179.15 British Columbia, One Hundred Years: Education in British Columbia (Victoria:Department of Education, 1971), Table; British Columbia Public School Enrolments 1872-1971, p. 68.Chapter 4 92either in recommending or approving the choice of commissioners.16 Both commissionerswere educators with national reputations -- and obvious choices to give the workappropriate cachet and clout. The commissioners had to be government and departmentoutsiders to keep the appearance of impartiality.At the beginning of the fall 1924 school term, the B.C.T.F. urged its localassociations to prepare submissions to the Putman-Weir survey on such professionalconcerns as living conditions, tenure, and pensions.17 Teachers were aware of Americanexperiments with child-centred learning techniques, the international fascination with “theNew Education,” and the efficiency movement. With the provincial government’sencouragement, the whole education system was to be opened to review. The B.C.T.F.even urged teachers to say whether the Department of Education should be centrallyadministered. The government had extended an invitation to rewrite the entire educationalenterprise. If nothing else were certain, there would be change. When completed, it wasto Willis that the report was presented in 1925.Putman and Weir made recommendations about the entire system, including asignificant one on administration: that local superintendents be appointed, ostensibly as ameans of decentralizing school administration. Practically, it meant the government wouldbe able to exert more control in those districts large enough to warrant superintendentappointments. Tomluns described the survey’s proposed bureaucratic model as “a kind ofcentralized decentralization that became the standard Canadian pattern.”18 The Survey16 F. Henry Johnson noted that “Dr. Putman’s name had been proposed to the Minister ofEducation by J.W. Gibson, the Director of Agricultural Education, who had known him intt”17 B.C. Teacher 4, 1 (September 1924): 1.18 Tomkins, A Common Countenance: Stability and Change in the Canadian Curriculum,p. 252.Chapter 4 93expressed strong support for the application, system-wide, of the principles ofProgressivism.The child should be taught, as a child, in terms of the life about him, in which he isan active and interested participant. . . Education is life, not a mere preparation forlife consisting in the memorization of facts and principles and the mastery of aformal curriculum.’9American philosopher and educational theorist John Dewey’s “learning by doing”approach to curriculum design had become the watchword of the Progressive educationmovement. Curiously, Putman and Weir did not quote directly from Dewey’s writings,nor did Willis mention Dewey. Instead, as Mann observed, they “freely acknowledgedtheir debt to American theory and practice”2°and produced “essentially a conservativedocument.”2’ The authors expressed traditional views about the proper aims and objectivesof education. Specifically, they believed education should contribute to a carefully plannedand controlled social progress and provide moral guidance to the younger generation,thereby enabling them to become productive moral citizens. The authors were especiallycognizant of the place education had in society. Their view of progressivism did notemphasize individualism at the expense of others. Both authors saw themselves asProgressive, and their suggestions aligned with the tenets of child-centred learning.Putman’ s biographer acknowledged that, although he embraced and promoted Progressive19 British Columbia. Education Survey Commission. Survey of the School System,Chairmen, J.H. Putman and G.M. Weir. (Victoria: King’s Printer, 1925), pp. 40 and 44.20 Jean Mann, “G.M. Weir and H.B. King: Progressive Education or Education for theProgressive State?,” in Schooling and Society in 20th Century British Columbia, eds. J.Donald Wilson and David C. Jones (Calgary: Detselig Enterprises Ltd., 1980), p. 93.21 Ibid.Chapter 4 94reforms, he was philosophically a conservative whose sensibilities were rooted in Britishvalues, Christian idealism, and pragmatism.22Any departure from familiar methods and curriculum implied an increase indepartment size was needed. Sheer logistics dictated that more inspectors be appointed.At the time of the survey, the full complement of school inspectors for British Columbiawas merely twenty-two. They oversaw 3,000 teachers, 92,000 students and 12% of theprovincial budget.23 Besides, more civil servants and inspectors could help create a poolfrom which to draw official trustees and otherwise to provide strong local leadership.School officials had to cope with providing the educational, counselling and socialservices promoted by the Putman-Weir Report. Equally, personnel had to deal with anincreasingly professional teaching force. On the subject of the new role for inspectors,24Willis declared:The point of view of inspection has changed considerably. Now perhaps more thanat any time, the Inspector is the teacher’s guide, helper and friend. He is notchiefly a person sent to appraise and perhaps criticize the teacher’s work. I waspleased that at the last session of the Legislature an amendment was made wherebyan Inspector is required to give one report only each year. The common practice isfor the Inspector early in the term to visit the schools of the younger andinexperienced teachers to help them with such advice and good counsel as theirtraining and experience enables them to offer.2522 B. Anne Wood, Idealism Transformed: The Making of a Progressive Educator(Kingston and Montreal: McGill-Queen’ s University Press, 1985). See especially ChapterEight, “Putman-Weir Survey”.23 British Columbia, One Hundred Years: Education in British Columbia, passim.24 Inspectors performed a supervisory role, and the traditional title was used up until 1958,when the Public Schools Act was amended and the title changed from “Inspector ofSchools” to “District Superintendent”. The role of the District Superintendent became apurely administrative one with the 1973 legislative changes which permitted local hiring ofthe Superintendent in each District.25 BCARS, GR 139, File 76-G-69, Vol. 4.Chapter 4 95Logically, providing such intensive supervision would point to the necessity of increasingthe inspectorate.If the Putman-Weir survey were indeed the “roadmap” Willis declared it to be inthe 1925-26 Annual Report, then it was necessarily instructive in the form of itsimplementation. Putman and Weir were strong advocates for new education aims andpractices. They supported the concept of child-centred practices. The programmesrepresented contemporary innovations in the United States of America with less emphasison academics and more on civics, current events and projects.Overall, Putman and Weir exhorted educators and the public to allow moderneducational theories to supplant the doctrine of formal discipline. Specifically, Putman andWeir wanted more emphasis on sewing, manual training, civics, physical education andhealth, including sex education for adolescents.26 All of these initiatives enjoyed Willis’support.Callahan’ s “cult of “27 had taken hold, and education was being operatedin a style more closely resembling a business. The Putman-Weir survey was extensive andthe commissioners had received input from all educationists and interested lobby groups.For British Columbia’s education system, there was now a fresh challenge. Willis and thepoliticians respectfully accepted their report and began implementing, at least at the officiallevel, many of the recommendations.26 British Columbia, Survey of the School System, p. 42.27 Raymond E. Callahan, Education and the Cult of Efficiency: A Study of the SocialForces That Have Shaped the Administration of the Public Schools (Chicago: Universityof Chicago Press, 1962), preface.Chapter 4 96Willis’ response to the Putman-Weir ReportWillis supported the Putman-Weir report’s Progressive recommendations reflectingacceptance of “new education” goals. A hint that not all relations with the Department ofEducation were consistently cordial or co-operative is contained in the motion passed at theB.C.T.F. ‘s May 29, 1926 executive meeting:That this Association would deem it a favour if the Department of Education,before introducing changes in curricula or in matters of internal administration ofthe schools, could see its way clear to consult with representative teachers of theB.C.T.F. who might be willing to assist the Department in introducing suchchanges to the best possible advantage.This concern was likely a reaction to fear that wholesale change would occur following thePutman-Weir survey recommendations. A note followed the motion, indicating that it wasfavourably received with a notation “It is in practice now to a large extent.”28Although not in the habit of making political statements, Willis defended thegovernment’s education budget in a speech to the B.C. T. F. ‘s eighth annual convention in1926. Speaking on the interminable subject of educational finance, he told the audiencethat he looked forward to the introduction of the Putman-Weir Report proposals that wouldrelieve the municipalities and rural districts from what he described as “excessive” schooltax rates. He spoke further to inform them that the monies allocated to educationcomprised 18.4% of the province’s overall budget. While admitting that was a largeamount, he declared that “when the people of the Province found no handicap fromexpenditure of $13.5 million for alcoholic beverages, no complaint should be made at anexpenditure of $8 million on education.”2928 B.C.T.F. Minutes, Executive Meeting, May 29, 1926, p. 12.29 Victoria Times, 19 April 1927:3.Chapter 4 97Willis remarked to the 1927 B.C.T.F. convention that he had been aware of thepublic’s call for more scientific study of education to which appointment of the PutmanWeir commission was the government’s response. In the 1924-25 Public Schools ReportWillis wrote a section on the Putman-Weir Survey, heralding their report as “a chart ofprogress for the next decade. “30 The tenets of Progressivism thereby had gained high-levelapproval from Willis and the government.Acknowledging that many recommendations had already been effected, Williscontinued his annual report comments by indicating that he anticipated the imminentadoption of proposals which would benefit rural areas “to give financial relief to municipaland rural districts where the tax rate for schools is now excessive.” Willis expressedawareness of the instructional needs of rural teachers and their schools. Throughout hiscareer, he spoke enthusiastically about enriching the curriculum and making schools morerelevant and appealing. In the same 1927 convention speech just mentioned, he expressedpersonal satisfaction that recently introduced curriculum changes had resulted in a 40%increase in school attendance overall, and fully 47% in rural areas in the seven years sincethe 1919-20 attendance figures were recorded. He was pleased at the great increase in highschool student numbers, “notable especially in the rural districts. “31 Since it was part ofWillis’ agenda to implement the Putman-Weir recommendations, he was naturallyconcerned that public support be behind the cause.The Department also paid attention to schooling at the lower levels. The PutmanWeir Report recommended that junior high schools become one of the Progressives’solutions in British Columbia. This was particularly favoured by Willis, who believed30 British Columbia, Annual Report, 1924-1925, p. Mb.31 Victoria Daily Times, 19 April 1927, p. 1.Chapter 4 98creation of separate junior high schools was well worth the added cost. The Victoria DailyTimes reported:Dr. Willis advocated early and general adoption of the Junior High School system,considering that municipalities would be justified, by results, in increasing theexpenses involved.32In 1926-27, the first junior high schools were established. A programme of studieswas prepared during the year and four junior high schools were in operation; the first atPenticton opened in September 1926, followed by three in Greater Vancouver at Kitsilano,Templeton and Point Grey. The programme was developed by a committee, acting withthe Superintendent of Education, and comprised the principals of the four new junior highschools and the high school inspectors. Technical schools offering training were opened atVancouver, New Westminster, Victoria and Point Grey.Willis hailed establishment of the junior high schools in the 1926-27 Annual Reportas “a change fraught with great possibilities for the future.” The previously existing eight-year elementary and four-year high school programme allowed for no transition betweenthose schools. The junior high school was to be the end point of schooling for some, andto prepare better those going on to secondary studies. Although Willis supported thischange, and continued to advocate junior high schools as an important organizational andpedagogical change in the school system, he was cautious that, wherever attempted, theirestablishment should be done well. They should not merely fall in with the current trend.He emphasized this in the report’s summary remarks:It is well, however, that Boards of School Trustees should not rush hurriedly intothe establishment of junior high schools. They should make sure that they alreadyhave in their service or can secure principals and teachers who understand the juniorhigh school ideal and are sympathetic with the aims and purposes of the school, and32 Ibid.Chapter 4 99are also conversant with the organization and administration of successful juniorhigh schools in other places.The establishment of two levels of secondary studies had a direct influence on theteaching profession. In the spirit of Progressivism teachers began to adapt and to retrain.At mid-decade, the Putman-Weir Report also urged changes in the normal schoolprogramme. The authors believed emphasis should be on “the psychology of schoolsubjects and educational measurement rather than on methods of teaching.”34 TheDepartment under Willis responded to the Putman-Weir recommendations and the normalschool curriculum was expanded over the next five years. Johnson records that:New appointments were made to provide more competent instruction in the fields ofeducational psychology, measurement and history of education. A course forwomen students in Nutrition and Home Economics was offered at both normalschools.35Although adoption of the new fields was accomplished administratively, the actualadaptation to the classroom was slow. The main reason for resistance was the familiarityof formalism which carried on well into the “Progressive era.”36These modifications in teacher training became noteworthy enough to prompt Willisto mention in the 1928-29 Public Schools Report “the gradual strengthening of theacademic qualifications of teachers-in-training at the normal schools. Over 54 per cent ofthose in attendance at Victoria last year had considerably more than the minimumBritish Columbia, Superintendent of Education, Annual Report, 1926-27, (Victoria:King’s Printer, 1927), p. M12.F. Henry Johnson, A History of Public Education in British Columbia (Vancouver:University of British Columbia Press, 1964), p. 109.Ibid., p. 213. These additions as well as new normal school courses in hygiene, folkdancing and organized games were mentioned in the Annual Report for 1926-27, p. M13.36 Neil Sutherland, “The Triumph of ‘Formalism’: Elementary Schooling in VancouverFrom the 1920s to the 1960s.” BC Studies 69-70 (Spring-Summer 1986): 175-210.Chapter 4 100requirements for admission.”37 Some had two years’ university credits and many hadsenior matriculation standing. Willis upheld the importance of improving teacherqualifications because, apart from the obvious beneficial effect better-prepared teacherswould have on the system, it would also cause their salaries to increase.The Department was particularly concerned with strengthening high schooleducation because it formed the basis of future academic work and teacher training. By1927-28, Willis reported that “the majority of the School Boards are doing everythingpossible to provide modern and adequate facilities for classroom service.”38The next year, 1928-29, the Department announced a revision of the high schoolcurriculum. This was an extension of the work already begun in previous years to enrichthe elementary and junior high school programmes. In his report Willis declared thatstudents were being overwhelmed by the number of subjects and were either leaving schoolearly or having to repeat the grade. The Department announced the revision would beready by Easter 1930, and then printed and distributed it to all high schools. Prominentamong the reasons Willis had for revising the high school curriculum was that theuniversity and the normal schools considered entry-level students were too immature andinsufficiently prepared in three years of high school. At the June 1929 meeting of theCouncil of Public Instruction (a body, comprised of the Premier and cabinet, charged withsetting policy for education), Education Minister Hinchliffe read a memorandum fromWillis presenting the case for a four-year high school course to follow Grade 8. Thedesirability of extending the course was obvious to teachers who believed the workload wasBritish Columbia, Superintendent of Education, Annual Report, 1928-29, (Victoria:King’s Printer, 1929), p. Ru.38 British Columbia, Superintendent of Education, Annual Report, 1927-28, (Victoria:King’s Printer, 1928), p. V18.Chapter 4 101“altogether too heavy for the conscientious student” in three years. The Council approvedunanimously the Willis proposal for a four-year high school course.39 Bright students whowished to accelerate quickly were to be allowed to graduate in three years.The considered changes to high school curricula did not go unnoticed outside theprovince. One early measure of the success that “Progressive” techniques and curriculumchanges were making as they were applied in British Columbia high schools had come inthe form of external approval. Approbation of the value of this education came in 1927when Oxford University accepted British Columbia junior and senior matriculationcertificates. This meant that British Columbia high school graduates would be able to enterOxford without special examinations. Education Minister MacLean declared Oxford’srecognition as “one of the most striking tributes ever paid to the British Columbiaeducation system.”4° Teachers were getting desirable results; they were being “effective.”The recognition also represented yet another demonstration of the close imperial linkswhich persisted between British Columbia and the United Kingdom. In no small way, itwas a compliment to Willis and his ability to balance traditional and Progressive offeringsin the provincial school system.Willis also took on the cause of revamping the curriculum. Championing the four-year high school programme in 1929 was a major change, but he was also involved inapproving choice of textbooks. Willis had been invited to serve as the B.C.T.F.Minutes of Meetings of The Council of Public Instruction, 17 June 1929. The minuteswere handwritten, recorded by Willis as Secretary of the Council. The Willis memo is notextant. However, Willis mentions this event later on in speech notes written in 1934. Heacknowledged that the first 4-year graduates matriculated in 1933. Willis noted that “Asyet a High School Graduation Diploma obtained on a principal’s recommendation is notaccepted as a certificate of qualification for admission to the local university or to one ofthe Provincial normal schools.” Record located in the British Columbia Archives andRecords Service, File GR 139, 76-G-69, Vol. 4. (October 1934), p. 3.4° BCARS, File GR 0467, Vol, 2 (1920-1931), p. 101. December 1927.Chapter 4 102representative to the Education Department in 1919 for consideration of high school texts.Once he became Superintendent, the B.C.T.F. ‘s concerns respecting curriculum andtextbooks continued to be directed to him.41 The February 1930 edition of B.C. Teacherannounced that the subject of Willis’ address to their convention would be “CurriculumChanges.”By 1929, Willis let it be known that he was taking a strong stand to protect teachersfrom unfair treatment at the hands of rural school board trustees. Willis mentioned to acommittee of M. L.A. s meeting to discuss public accounts that “it had become the settledpolicy of the Department of Education that, should a rural school board indulge inimproper criticism of a teacher, the board would be removed and an official trusteeappointed.” He commented further that this “had been found the best way to deal withsuch cases. “42Former B.C. T. F. President, Bernard Gillie, remembers that in the late 1 920s therewas concern about young female teachers being posted alone to remote rural schools. Herecalled one teacher was murdered in a small community outside Prince Rupert. Wilsonand Stortz also mentioned this case in their study of teacher isolation. The murder of MissChisholm occurred in May 1926. The case was never solved, nor was the motive everknown.43 Another teacher in the Cowichan Lake district committed suicide after beingcriticized and harassed by her trustees. A strong outcry followed, both from the public andfrom the teaching profession. Both of these incidents drew dramatic attention to thevulnerability of young women teaching and living alone. The direct result was the41 B.C.T.F, Minutes, 13 March 1926.42 Morning Star, 20 February 1929, p. 2.“ J. Donald Wilson and Paul J. Stortz, “ May the Lord Have Mercy on You’ The RuralSchool Problem in British Columbia in the 1920s,” BC Studies 79 (Autumn 1988), p. 42and note.Chapter 4 103appointment of Miss Lottie Bowron as the Rural Teachers’ Welfare Officer in late 1928.Gihie believed the inspiration for this appointment was S.J. Willis and that it was Willis’doing. “I would bet, although I couldn’t prove it, that Willis was behind it. He certainlyapproved j•”44Miss Bowron’s responsibility was to travel throughout the remote regions of theprovince to act as a companion, advisor and helpmate to young women teachers. As travelwas arduous, and since it was not physically possible for one person to reach all of theteachers in a year, there were many who never had benefit of her counsel. For her visit tocoincide with any crisis would be even more to chance. This was, at best, a very hit-and-miss gunshot approach which could not have been of much help to teachers or to thecentral administration. Stortz and Wilson assessed that, in practical terms, her appointmentwas an inadequate response to the seriousness of the teachers’ plight. No evidence ofimprovement exists from Bowron’ s efforts, and Stortz and Wilson therefore concluded thatthe Department administrators and inspectors remained either apathetic about or helpless toameliorate the problems in remote one-room schools.. In reality, there never was anyexpectation that real change would be brought about by her work. Wilson concluded thatBowron “had little long-term effect on the state of rural schooling in the province” and thatshe and Education Minister Hinchliffe understood her function as “pastoral, not reformistin nature. “u Because hers was a political appointment, Willis had to accept that her joband function were that of a supernumerary.Interview May 24, 1991 by Valerie Giles with Dr. Bernard Gillie. For a detaileddescription of Lottie Bowron’ s career, see J. Donald Wilson, “I am here to help if youneed me’: British Columbia’s Rural Teachers’ Welfare Officer, 1928-1934,” Journal ofCanadian Studies 25, 2 (Summer 1990): 94 - 118.J. Donald Wilson, “I am here to help if you need me’: British Columbia’s RuralTeachers’ Welfare Officer, 1928-1934,” p. 112. Also see Thomas Fleming, et al., “LottieBowron Within Organizational Realities and Bases of Power: British Columbia 1928-1934,” Journal of Educational Administration and Foundations, 5, 2 (1986): 7-31.Chapter 4 104Willis focussed on reports from his men in the field and would not necessarily havereceived or seen Bowron’s reports. The sheer number of school districts would haveoverwhelmed even the most dedicated report reader. Stortz pointed out that Departmentofficials depended almost exclusively on inspectors’ reports to become informed. Thesewere unlikely sources of information about local problems. Inspectors had personalinterest in presenting their districts in a positive light:A positive report of one’s own district meant that good work was being done, a finereference to have when a position opened up in the Department administration, anormal school, or a less remote inspectorate.andThe administrators’ information about isolated communities came from theinspectors, the majority of whom spent only a few hours in each school, largely forthe purpose of administering the Department’s new intelligence and achievementtests.46When Bowron returned to Victoria on March 9, 1934 from one of her excursions tovisit teachers, she found waiting a letter from Education Minister Weir informing her thather job was being terminated. There had been no warning. Immediately, she sought anexplanation and met the next day with Superintendent Willis. The only comfort he couldoffer was to inform her that he was aware the decision to retire the position had been madeby cabinet. Bowron recorded in her diary that Willis had “no complaint of any sort againstmy work.”47 Her departure had been handled as one would expect any patronageappointment of a previous government. The Liberals had finally gotten around to undoinghers, likely for no other reason than they would no longer brook a political ally and formeraide of Premier McBride. Although Willis had supported her appointment initially, after a46 Paul James Stortz, “The Rural School Problem in British Columbia in the 1920s” (M.A.thesis, University of British Columbia, 1988), pp. 49-50.‘‘ BCARS, Additional Manuscripts, 44, Bowron Daily Journal, March 9-10, 1934.Chapter 4 105change of government from Conservative to Liberal, there was little he could do to blockher firing. This was an instance where he had to maintain the detached stance of theimpartial civil servant. The limits of the position of Deputy Minister were clear. Willisdid not participate in partisan politics. For those who did, it was then, and continues tobe, that those favoured hold their appointments or privileges “at pleasure.COPING WITH PROGRESSIVE EDUCATIONThroughout the 1920s and 1930s the concepts of “Progressive education” enjoyedprominence in North America. The Progressives expounded to the public the concept of“efficiency” for the schools as an admirable and achievable goal. Stortz defined“Progressive education” as a two-pronged concept that conjoined images of “financialexpediency” (whether schooling was being provided economically) and of “pupil academicsuccess” (whether students passed the exams).48 But, as Sutherland demonstrated, mostschools were run by young, neophyte teachers whose training and life experience left themonly marginally prepared to cope with the existing curriculum, let alone any of the new“child-centred” approaches being touted by educational theorists. Formalism, traditionallearning based on rote memorization, the textbook as curriculum, and conformityprevailed.49 Progressive notions of flexibility in learning rates and physical classroomarrangement, group activity and subject integration remained elusive ideals in mostschools. Willis and his Department may have hoped for an advanced system, but they48 Stortz, “The Rural School Problem in British Columbia in the 1920s” (M.A. thesis, p.3.“ Neil Sutherland, “The Triumph of ‘Formalism’: Elementary Schooling in VancouverFrom the 1920s to the 1960s.” BC Studies 69-70 (Spring-Summer 1986): 175-210.Chapter 4 106must have suspected the limitations of the financial and human resources they were able todeploy.In his first year as Education Minister, Hinchliffe published an open letter “Tothose parents who have boys and girls growing up in the outlying rural districts of BritishColumbia.” His was a policy of inclusion, as he declared on behalf of the provincialgovernment that “How to arrive at the goal of equal educational opportunity for all of theboys and girls of British Columbia is our present concern.”50 Although more money wasbeing spent on education, it was never enough. After a decade in office, Willis could notethat the education budget in 1929-30 had almost doubled to $10 million (of which thegovernment contribution was $3.7 million) and the teaching ranks had swelled almost to3,800 from 2,557 in 1919-20. The impact of the Great Depression would heightenconcern about public expenditures of all kinds. Education -- ever the convenient target --was in the cross hairs as enriched curricula and anything departing from “the basics” weredisparaged as “frills.By 1927-28, Willis wrote in his annual report that “the majority of the SchoolBoards are doing everything possible to provide modern and adequate facilities forclassroom service. “51 The next year, 1928-29, the Department announced a revision of thehigh school curriculum. This was an extension of the work already begun in previousyears to enrich the elementary and junior high school programmes. In his report Willisdeclared that students were being overwhelmed by the number of subjects and were eitherleaving school early or having to repeat the grade. The Department announced the revisionwould be ready by Easter 1930, and then printed and distributed to all high schools.50 B.C. Teacher, 8, 5 (June 1929), p. 43.51 British Columbia, Superintendent of Education, Annual Report, 1927-28, (Victoria:King’s Printer, 1928), p. V18.Chapter 4 107Successive annual reports during the 1930s continued to implement the PutmanWeir survey recommendations. Overall, there was general satisfaction among the publicthat the school system was functioning as it should.52 Whether or not teachers shouldencourage children’s development was not the issue with Progressives. Harries regrettedthat:this idea is fogged by dissertations on methods, on curricula selection, intelligencetests, achievement tests, curves of distribution, systems of finance, and the wholecheckerboard of whims of would-be theorists, until the child’s interests are quitesecondary to the justification of someone’s pet theory.53In the midst of the Depression, British Columbia teachers still sought to improveschooling. By 1930, school teaching conditions differed little from those of 1920. Part ofthe cause could well have been that reports from inspectors were kept more positive thanthey should have been. Theirs was an unfortunate duplicity, for it likely caused teachers inthe field to endure hardships much longer than they would have been tolerated had theproblems been appropriately flagged and addressed by Department officials. This type ofreport writing was motivated by inspectors’ desire to be transferred out of difficult anddesperate situations -- the very ones that their hapless teachers longed to escape! In linewith this ambition, there was also concern that inspectors’ colleagues at the normal schooland in the Department not be offended or made to feel lacking. The Department hadTeachers’ Surveys of 1923 and 1928. They also had reports from Bowron as the Teachers’Welfare Officer. Yet, no indication of urgency on the part of the Department to make52 My own investigation of newspaper coverage of education in the late 1920s revealedlittle controversy. Jean Mann’s research supports this, and she noted “Whatever criticismsthe public voiced of the innovations occurring in education in the late twenties, they failedto reach the ear of the press. In fact, education did not appear to occasion much publiccomment during those years.” Ibid., p. 96.S.0. Harries, “Has Progressive Education Failed?” B.C. Teacher 27, 4 (January1948), p. 147.Chapter 4 108changes was apparent. Realistically, what could be done? Although there was no suchadmission, the Department was helpless to assuage the basic discomforts of weather,geography, social isolation and poor living quarters. The formal response to assist teachersinstead came more in attempts to improve their salaries and to protect them from beingbullied by local trustees.Former Inspector Graham recalled examples of very spare teaching conditionswhich continued to be tolerated even as late as 1940. On becoming Principal of the newPeace River High School in 1932, he discovered there was no jelly pad for duplicatinghandout material. They did have an abundance of chalk. He used to drive out to the ruralschools to give chalk to the teachers who did not have any. Later, in 1940, as Inspector ofSchools in Chilliwack, Stewart came across very large and poorly housed classes. Heexclaimed, “I found a Grade One class in the Chilliwack East Elementary School in asemi-basement room with four bare bulbs as the only light. There were 52 students!”54Willis was not properly aware of the actual material and social circumstances surroundingteachers in rural areas.Up until that time, decisions taken by the educational bureaucracy to change thecurriculum often meant simply changing the text book. Even with official approval,exhortations from the Department and the normal schools concerning the introduction ofProgressive, efficient or effective learning styles still relied upon individual teachers tomake change happen. For inexperienced teachers to whom the curriculum was thetextbook, introduction of innovative teaching techniques or the new activity methodsdepended upon how much imagination or enthusiasm teachers could muster. Yet, it wasInterview July 31, 1991 by Valerie Giles with Stewart Graham in New Westminster.Chapter 4 109the nature of Canadian teachers to be generally “conservative and cautious in adopting newideas. “Recommendations of the Putman-Weir report took a long time to realize, held backby resistance to change from the teachers, from inside the Department, and sometimesfrom the public. The intent to “make haste slowly” became the watchwords of cautiouseducationists. While Willis favoured and supported Progressive education, he was, at thesame time, someone who approved of gradual change.As the province’s fortunes dwindled with the onset of the Depression, the yearsahead became difficult ones. Willis and his Ministers were put on the defensive abouteducational expenditures.F. Henry Johnson, A Brief History of Canadian Education (Toronto: McGraw-HillCompany of Canada Limited, 1968), p. 136.110Chapter 5Struggling Schools: The Depression Years, 1930 - 1938The way out of the Depression does not lie in scuttling youth by cuttingdown educational expenditures.1BACKGROUND TO THE DEPRESSIONThe Great Depression, together with changes of provincial government, hadsubstantial effects on British Columbia’s education system. The economic crises theDepression precipitated affected directly the province’s revenues and, in turn, the budgetsand plans of the Education Department. From 1930 on, Willis faced fiscal restraint as theschool population steadily grew. Support for education from the provincial governmentfaltered and teachers came under attack in the 1 93Os. Teachers’ salaries became just onemore possible source of savings as governments sought to reduce spending. Concern forprovincial expenditures overall, including the cost of education, set in motion a chain ofevents which resulted in appointment of the Kidd Committee and, ultimately, the defeat ofthe Tolmie government in 1933.The province’s roller-coaster economy between 1918 and 1939 has been describedby Barman in Dickensian terms as “The Best and Worst of Times,”2 representing the goodlife interrupted by the Depression years. In the 1920s, peace became equated with1 The Vancouver Province, 3 April 1934, p. 1. Excerpt from Education Minister GeorgeMoir Weir’s remarks to the annual B.C.T.F. convention.2 Jean Barman, The West Beyond the West: A History of British Columbia (Toronto:University of Toronto Press, 1991.) This description is used as the title for Chapter 11covering the 1920s and the Depression years.Chapter 5 111prosperity, but by the end of the 1930s, relief from the Depression came with the return toa war economy.Immediately following the First World War, the population of British Columbia,along with the rest of Canada, was optimistic for the future. To judge by the language andarguments of politicians and journalists, people expected better opportunities once thefederal government and businesses nationwide were relieved of wartime commitments andrestrictions. The country’s economic base was changed by the war, as industrializationopened the way for secondary industries, and as export markets expanded for forestry andmining industry products. The federal government undertook to fund technical educationto match Canada’s workforce skills with industry needs. However, that programmebecame a victim of cutbacks when the federal government stopped funding technicaleducation in the province in March 1929. When Willis announced the change, he wasasked whether the provincial government was willing to take over funding. He respondedthat the question “was a matter of policy on which he was not prepared to speak.”3 Thestatement came within a month of the federal government’s termination of the programme,and it is likely that negotiations were still underway. Since British Columbia’s governmenthad yet to learn about the funding decision, Willis rightly demurred when asked aboutalternative funding.The good times of the 1920s were celebrated in the province’s rejection ofprohibition, and the opportunity was taken up by the provincial government whichmaintained a monopoly on the sale of alcohol.4 By 1924, liquor stores opened around theVictoria Daily Times, 20 February 1929, p. 10.Martin Robin, The Rush for Spoils: The Company Province 1871-1933 (Toronto:McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1972), p. 181. Robin describes the October 20, 1920prohibition referendum in which Attorney-General J. Wallace deBeque Farris had voterschoose between complete prohibition or sale by government control.Chapter 5 112province, popularly dubbed for the premier as “John Oliver’s drug stores.”5 PremierOliver presided over stable times. The government even decreased taxes while spendingmore on social welfare and on building the provincial road system. No doubt some of theproceeds went to public education.In 1925, Putman and Weir contemplated suggestions for restructuring educationalfinance. They proposed that the prevailing school tax on property be reduced and anincome tax instituted. They also suggested that an equalization fund be established to assistdistricts with low tax bases. Both these suggestions would be included in King’s 1935report. King’s and Putman-Weir’ s approaches differed, however, in two other aspects.Putman and Weir proposed that the provincial government not assume the full cost ofeducation and upheld the authority of school boards regarding determination ofexpenditures for schools. King took the opposite tack. He proposed that schools befinanced by the central government and that school boards then be eliminated onceeducation was funded from Victoria. There is no record of public comment from Willis onthis subject. However, he did approve of, and operated with, strong central control. Thiswas particularly apparent in his willingness to appoint official trustees to replace boards ashe deemed necessary.The 1920s boom had been felt in all sectors of the resource-based economy.Because manufacturing and retail trades had grown, the tax base was dramaticallyincreased. There was now less reliance on the province’s primary industries. When thePremier campaigned for re-election, he used this as proof of his ability to manage theprovincial economy. During the campaign, “Oliver repeated that the major sources ofgovernment revenue shifted under his regime from the resources sales to direct taxes.”65 S.W. Jackman, Portraits of the Premiers: An Informational History of British Columbia(Sidney: Gray’s Publishing Ltd., 1969), p. 193.Chapter 5 113This claim was important in his campaign to win the December 1, 1920 election.Government revenue in 1920 was double the figure four years earlier. Children attendedschool with increasing regularity by the 1920s, no longer bound by the turn-of-the-centurynecessity “to perform household tasks, farm chores, or work for pay to assist the familyeconomy.”7 The changing economy was beginning to have a direct impact on education.and public expectations of improvement led to demands for school reform. Premier Oliverhad appointed Putman and Weir to conduct an educational survey, thereby subscribing tothe ambitious goals of the educational reformers and the public. An optimistic populacepinned hopes for future prosperity and better opportunities for their children on plannedchanges to school programmes. Oliver also needed to show leadership and garner publicsupport for the Liberal party in the 1924 election. A demonstration of concern for publicschooling would help align political support which was badly needed since the temperanceforces had gathered behind the Conservatives.Political leadership changed twice in quick succession. After learning from theMayo Clinic that he was dying of cancer, Oliver passed the workload to his EducationMinister, John Duncan MacLean, naming him Premier-designate. Oliver remainedPremier in name, but relinquished virtually all his duties to MacLean. He died August 17,1927 and MacLean became Premier for just one year, suffering both personal and partydefeat in 1929. Fortune had run out for the Liberal party, in office for twelve years.86lbid.,p. 182.‘ Barman, The West Beyond the West, p. 227. Barman observes that this was particularlytrue in urban centres, but was not necessarily the case in some remote regions of theprovince.8 Robin, The Rush for Spoils, p. 241. Robin contends that the Conservatives won“virtually by default.” The Liberals lost despite attracting 45% of the ballots cast. Thedistribution of votes was not in the Liberals? favour, thereby allowing the Conservatives awin by dint of riding arrangement.Chapter 5 114By the end of the 1 920s, the “worst of times” had arrived. Canada s westernmostprovince was hard hit, suffering a staggering Depression-era unemployment rate of 27.5 %,involving 140,000 individuals in a total population of a half million people.9 In such aflattened economy, jobs were practically non-existent and British Columbia’s governmentrevenue -- normally comprised of taxes and modest federal government transfers-- wasconstrained by the inability of corporations and individual landowners to remit taxes due.When the provincial Conservative party wrested power from the Liberals in 1928, itpromised to run the province like a business, a workable plan in buoyant times. TheDepression that followed on the heels of the 1929 stock market crash meant any semblanceof economic policy was difficult to apply in a much altered, non-functioning economy.Recognition by the Department of Education that education had such a role to play ineconomic recovery came in official pronouncements by Ministers and SuperintendentWillis and through initiatives to improve educational offerings in the hinterland throughsuch means as correspondence courses.The Kidd ReportAs Premier, Simon Fraser Tolmie established work camps with the double-edgedpurpose of providing employment and removing men from cities and the influence ofsocialist agitators. It was not much of a response, and the public began to sense thegovernment’s inertia. In the view of one provincial historian, “Fundamentally, Tolmiewas completely out of his depth in the crisis that he had to face.”1° Eventually, theIbid., p. 235. Data were extracted from the 1931 Census of Canada. Robin explainedthe high unemployment rate occurred as British Columbia became a “magnate for theunemployed of other provinces” and thus endured the highest unemployment rate in thecountry.10 Jackman, Portraits of the Premiers, p. 213.Chapter 5 115Vancouver business community stepped in to offer leadership and assistance with a groupled by H. R. MacMillan, a forestry industry leader and Vice-President of the VancouverBoard of Trade.Tolmie received ill-fated advice from the power brokers of the province:The hammer that would smash his administration appeared one morning on thesteps of the legislative building. A deputation from twenty-two organizations hadcome to ask the premier to appoint a committee to investigate the whole field ofgovernment finances. Tolmie had to listen, for they represented the VancouverBoard of Trade, the Canadian Manufacturers’ Association, the Victoria Chamber ofCommerce, the Retail Merchants’ Association, five Vancouver service clubs -- inshort, most of the money in the province.11The group convinced Premier Tolmie to allow them authority to investigate and proposesolutions to the problems of provincial finance. The promise of political support was likelyan influencing factor. MacMillan wrote to the Premier that the “business community isready to give their full support to the man who shows the courage to make prompt drasticreductions in public expenditure. “12 Since one of the largest financial expenditures was onEducation, it was a department bound to come under their scrutiny. Tolmie allowed themto proceed. A democratically elected government surrendered its direction, and ultimatelyits fate, to a five-man committee.In mid-April 1932, George Kidd, former B.C. Electric president, was appointedhead of the committee,13 and the government promised to publish the report within six11 Roger Keene and David C. Humphreys, Conversations With W.A.C. Bennett (Toronto:Methuen, 1980), p. 23.12 Quoted from the Tolmie Papers, Box 7, File 12, Special Collections, U.B.C. November25th, 1931; cited in David C. Jones and Timothy A. Dunn, “All of Us Common People’and Education in the Depression,” Canadian Journal of Education, 5, 4 (1980): 42.13 The Committee was comprised of George Kidd, W.L. Mackenzie, Austin Taylor, A.H.Douglas and R.W. Mayhew -- all prominent businessmen. They were chosen by PremierTolmie after requesting the deputation offer him a list of eight nominees.Chapter 5 116weeks of its completion, although it gave no hint whether it would accept or act upon anyof its recommendations. Practical support for the committee’s work came in the form ofseconded government employees and open access to all government departments and theirrecords.The Kidd Committee presented its report to the government on July 12, 1932. Thecontent of its recommendations reputedly shocked Premier Tolmie. Cognizant of howpolitically damaging the report could be, he tried to suppress its publication and evenrefused the Leader of the Opposition any knowledge of the contents.14 Eventually, theVictoria Daily Times obtained a copy and printed the entire report in its August 30, 1932edition. The report’s tersely-written 52 pages and three pages of summaryrecommendations laid out a plan of budget-slashing which affected all government servicesand offended most people. The recommendations affecting education were:limitation of free schooling to children under fourteen, the imposition of feescovering 50% of educational costs of school children from fourteen to sixteen and100% of the cost of children over sixteen, the raising of Normal School fees tocover the whole cost, withholding of the University grant of $250,000, abolition ofschool boards, the cutting of teachers’ salaries by 25 % in aggregate15Education appeared to bear the brunt of the T s attack. No level of the systemwent unscathed. The recommendations reflected the values of well-off members of societywho would not have been personally affected in their lives or business affairs.As one might expect from a seasoned bureaucrat, Willis refrained from makingpublic his own reaction to the committee’s recommendations. He would no doubt have14 Jackman, Portraits of the Premiers, p. 213.15 Robin, The Rush for Spoils, p. 240.Chapter 5 117been as horrified as the government members and shared Premier Tolmie’ s discomfort.Because it was professional and appropriate to do so, and actually risky to do otherwise,Willis maintained a position of neutrality throughout the controversy. Instead, he allowedthe teaching profession to speak through the B.C.T.F. what most likely reflected his ownsentiments.The B.C.T.F. responded with a strong editorial denouncing the elitist andreactionary attitudes behind the recommendations. Twenty-six pages of the October 1932edition of the B.C. Teacher were given over to editorial comment, a report by a B.C.T.F.Committee paper analyzing the report, a reprint of the Kidd Report paragraphs 150 to 176concerning education, a sampling of government comment on half the report’s paragraphson education, and an economic analysis of the report’s implications by Henry F. Angus,Head, Department of Economics at U.B.C. Angus had written a popular manual of civiceducation for public secondary schools, Citizenship in British Columbia, in the 1920s, so itwas not unexpected that he would defend the schools against the Kidd Committee. Hisanalysis strongly argued that the report was biased against universal, free education.16 TheB.C.T.F. Committee also pointed out that the Kidd Report authors were essentially self-appointed and represented the interests of the privileged members of the businesscommunity.’7 The B.C.T.F. response upheld the importance of education as a right and asthe means of creating good citizens, and as the way of forming leaders to develop theprovince’s natural resources.16 The manual was published in 1926 by the C.F. Banfield Press in Victoria.17 Robin, The Rush for Spoils, p. 240. Robin discussed the committee’s formation in hischapter “Business Government: 1929-1933.” The Vancouver businessmen who suggestedthe study provided the government with a list of eight names, of which five were to bechosen to form the committee. Claiming no formal political allegiance, the KiddCommittee’s pronouncements and language of the report declared to both Government andOpposition parties that they would put their political support behind the party whichaccepted their recommendations. Refer to pages 239 - 243.Chapter 5 118Angus decried the report’s recommendations as propaganda, not advice fromexperts. His objections to the report were sixfold: (1) it was unfair to the government; (2)it made no estimate of the province’s taxable capacity and thereby dismissed the possibilityof increasing taxation; (3) it contained misleading statements on the cost of education; (4)it used financial reasons to advance the committee’s notion of acceptable social policy; (5)it gave too little consideration to moral considerations (e.g. “Can closing the University beconsidered without considering the vested interests which have arisen, the houses built atthe site, the apartment houses, the commercial development of West Point Grey?”; and (6)it neglected the opportunity to appeal to moral sentiments (social conscience) in the broadercommunity.’8 Although no record of his reaction exists, Willis must have been impressedby the fighting stance taken by his fonner U.B.C. colleague.There were obviously other, less Draconian ways to solve the province’s financialproblems. Angus had faith in the public’s will to help the cause and believed that BritishColumbians would acquiesce to sacrifices if they perceived the purpose as worthwhile.Believing that, he offered his opinion of the most prudent course for the government tofollow in clearing the deficit: increase income taxes. As a leading economist, heconsidered this to be the only means to accomplish the aim of alleviating the province’sdismal financial position. He faulted the report’s authors for lack of vision, declaring “TheKidd Report is at best one-eyed. As men and as citizens we need the other eye as well --that of the economist. We need the advantages of bifocal vision.”19The Report’s recommendations were also soundly and vociferously denounced byU.B.C. Education professor George Weir. He lashed out at the report’s callousness,18 B.C. Teacher, 12, 2 (October 1932), pp. 20-24.19 Henry F. Angus, “The Economics of the Kidd Report.” B.C. Teacher 12, 2, (October1932): pp. 20-26.Chapter 5 119claiming that it “supported the revival of the Red River Ox Cart era of public education.”2°Public support for Weir’ s sentiments translated into strong political encouragement to runfor public office. Weir headed the poii in his riding in the 1933 provincial generalelection, becoming the Liberal M.L.A. for Vancouver-Point Grey.21 This was a near-perfect riding for a candidate like Weir. He had lived there for ten years and was aprofessional in a largely professional neighbourhood.The Kidd Report had come under strong attack also by Duff Pattullo while Leaderof the Official Opposition. Pattullo declared that, since Tolmie had not thrown out thereport entirely, he had thereby betrayed the public trust. The November 2, 1933 electionunseated Tolmie in his Saanich riding and brought back the Liberals under Pattullo.Tolmie’ s Conservatives suffered defeat because they were bankrupt both in ideas and inpublic confidence.British Columbians, like most North Americans, wanted a change in politicalleadership, something which was anticipated continent-wide for sitting governments.America had the beginnings of a “New Deal” under Roosevelt and in Canada the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation was newly-organized, gaining ground, and poised tooffer voters a socialist option. Pattullo’s Liberals used the campaign slogan “work andwages” in their appeal for electoral support. It paid off when the Liberals captured 42% ofthe popular vote, while the C.C.F. pulled a strong 32%. The change of government was20 Ibid., p. 242.21 Weir was re-elected in 1945, and was named Minister of Education in the Johnsongovernment. He served until failing health caused him to retire in 1947.Chapter 5 120about to have a direct effect on Willis’ career. He would certainly have anticipatedPattullo’ s choice for Education Minister.22WEIR BECOMES MINISTER: DEPUTY’S ROLE DECLINESForming the government with 34 of the 47 seats, Pattullo appointed G.M. Weir asProvincial Secretary and Minister of Education and John Hart as Minister of Finance.23Enticing Hart back into public service after his retirement from politics in 1924 wasrecognized as a mark of Pattullo’ s influence and persuasiveness. The province’s decliningfortunes meant it was not an easy job being Finance Minister. The Premier and Hartdiscovered the province was almost bankrupt. Pattullo knew his personal political fortuneswould be tied to the strength of the provincial economy.24In provincial governments Canada-wide, the man appointed Education Minister wasnot necessarily the one most knowledgeable about the issues. The true expert was morelikely to be the Deputy responsible for administration. It was he, with relative security oftenure, who in large measure determined departmental policy.25 For fourteen years Willisheld sway with considerable latitude while John Duncan MacLean (19 16-1928) and JoshuaHinchliffe (1928-1933) served their terms as Minister. MacLean divided his attentionbetween Education and other cabinet appointments he held which were, variously, Minister22 For a complete and interesting account of Pattullo’ s political career, see the biographyby Robin Fisher, Duff Pattullo of British Columbia (Toronto: University of TorontoPress, 1991.)23 John Neil Sutherland, “T.D. Pattullo as a Party Leader” (M.A. thesis, University ofBritish Columbia, 1960), pp. 162-163.24 Ibid., p. 63.25 Hilda Neatby, So Little For the Mind (Toronto: Clarke, Irwin & Co., 1953), p. 20.Chapter 5 121of Railways, Provincial Secretary and Minister of Finance. MacLean focussed onestablishing technical schools and worked to help finance and establish the University ofBritish Columbia on its Point Grey site. Hinchliffe had a clerical background.26 Hetherefore relied on Willis as the expert in educational matters. Teachers took note of thelegislation Hinchliffe sponsored making Bible reading compulsory in schools. He did thisduring a time when there was widespread public rejection of church dominance ineducation. Willis made no public comment on this, yet as a religious man, he would see itas an acceptable school exercise. Hinchliffe and Willis had a close working relationship.He would have deferred to Willis’ expertise in the educational realm. That role reversedwhen Weir became Minister.A less experienced politician would have deferred to Willis’ political expertise andknowledge of the system. However, with Weir’s appointment as Education Minister in1933, Willis experienced a lessening of authority. Willis recognized Weir as a strongminister, and so had the good political sense to keep more in the background throughoutthe Weir ministry, than he had previously done. Bernard Gillie, former B.C.T.F.President and first Principal of the S. J. Willis School in Victoria, believed there was adecline in Willis’ authority once Weir became Minister. He referred to it as “thebeginning of the decline of the Willis mystique.”27 Weir had been principal of the normalschool in Saskatchewan, Head of Education at U.B.C., and co-author of the Putman-WeirReport.28 For the first time, Willis was in a position of support to a Minister whose staturein educational circles exceeded his, and, for that matter, any of the Ministers who precededWeir.26 Hinchliffe was a retired Canon in the Anglican Church when he entered politics.27 Interview May 24, 1991 by Valerie Giles with Bernard Gillie.28 A province-wide study commissioned by the Department of Education and conductedover a nine-month period from the fall of 1924 until presented May 30th, 1925.Chapter 5 122Authority involves the perception of power as much as the actual right to exerciseit. The stature Willis enjoyed in the Department accorded him a sphere of personalinfluence within and outside education circles. He was also entitled to authority by virtueof his expertise. This perception of Willis power as Deputy changed once his authoritywas eclipsed by that of Weir.There were other reasons Willis experienced a lessening of authority. At first, thiswas because of Weir’ s strong reputation and background as an educationist.29 Willis’ roleas advice-giver diminished, and instead he began to receive direction from the Ministerabout work to be done and sometimes even how to go about it. The second, later reasonWillis’ authority diminished was Weir’ s decision to appoint H. B. King as “Chief Inspectorof Schools” effective September 19, 1939.Weir initially brought King to Victoria in 1934 to place him in charge of theextensive curriculum revision planned for the 1930s. Once that work was completed andKing had written a 230-page report on School Finance in British Columbia, the “KingReport” of 1935, Weir then appointed him Chief Inspector of Schools. A recommendationof the Putman-Weir Report, the position was created as an additional administrative levelover the two inspectors of high schools and the twenty inspectors of elementary andsuperior schools existing in 1937-38. Willis acknowledged the new appointment with aone-sentence mention at the end of his 1938-39 Annual Report:29 B.C. Teacher 3, 10 (June 1924), p. 230. The publication listed this description ofWeir’ s background: an honour graduate in arts, McGill University; a master of arts,University of Saskatchewan; doctor of pedagogy, with honors, Queen’s University; postgraduate courses at Queen’s and Chicago universities; completed the bar examination ofthe Law Society of Saskatchewan; teacher; provincial inspector; historical research scholarat the Dominion Archives; Vice-Principal and Principal of the Saskatchewan normal schooland Professor of Education, University of British Columbia.Chapter 5 123On September 19th, 1939, H.B. King, M.A., Ph.D., who has been acting in thecapacity of Technical Adviser, was appointed Chief Inspector of Schools •30Willis could not have been happy. This appointment effectively diminished hisresponsibilities. Within the Department, people were aware the two men did not have acollegial relationship. King’s appointment would have been disappointing to Willis if forno other reason than it accelerated his decline in stature.31 Former B.C. T. F. PresidentBernard Gillie remembered he had the impression that Willis gave up after King’sappointment. “If you wanted to know anything in education, you didn’t go to Willis, youwent to King. I know there was feeling about that.”32 Former Inspector Stewart Grahamrecalled that Weir was a great fan of H. B. King and also that it was well known, and amatter of public record, that Weir appointed him at a salary of only $100.00 less thanWillis. That was significant because the message was that King was just as important.Graham stated, “That very definitely did make Willis uncomfortable.”33The matter of curriculum revision had been one to which Willis devoted hisattention from the beginning. When Weir brought King in to organize and co-ordinate thework of the Curriculum Revision Committee, Willis was relieved of that responsibility. In1939, King garnered more of what had been Willis’ task by becoming responsible forsupervision and inspection of schools. The superintendency had become too big for one3° British Columbia, Superintendent of Education, Annual Report, 1938-39 (Victoria:King’s Printer, 1939), p. H35.31 In the Superintendent’s Annual Report for 1938-39, Willis gave King’s appointment amere one sentence mention at the end of his report. See British Columbia, Superintendentof Education, Annual Report, 1938-39 (Victoria: King’s Printer, 1939), p. H35.32 Interview May 24, 1991 by Valerie Giles with Bernard Gillie.Interview July 31, 1991 by Valerie Giles with Stewart Graham (New Westminster,B.C.).Chapter 5 124person and the responsibility had to be shared, but it would have been difficult to handover one of the reins. While the Central Committee reported to the Minister throughWillis, King’s involvement effectively relegated Willis to the sidelines on the actual workof curriculum review.Weir had been elected M.L.A. in 1933 for Vancouver-Point Grey and wasappointed Education Minister in the new Pattullo government. Weir was a strongpersonality who brought a substantial personal agenda to the position as Minister.Specifically, he wanted administrators in the field, as in the Department, to promote theprinciple of the four-year high school; the 6-3-3 plan wherever possible; professionaldevelopment of the teaching ranks; and the use of intelligence tests and standardizedachievement tests. He was now in a position of power to ensure that Progressive educationpolicies would be put in place, as originally urged in the Putman-Weir report, and had aDeputy in Willis who was an advocate of such innovations.34Weir’ s policy statement printed in the B.C. Teacher was set out in the form of aletter to Willis, dated September 13, 1935, directing him to inform every official in thesystem. Although Willis was known for his well-written and succinct communications, theMinister provided the instruction: “Probably the simplest way of conveying these policiesto the officials concerned is to send this communication to them verbatim.”35Tests were important to assess students and stream or steer them into appropriate coursesof study according to individual aptitude. No direct comment concerning Willis’ opinionson intelligence or standardized achievement tests was found in the course of research forthis dissertation.Reprinted with the Minister’s permission in the B.C. Teacher 15, 6 (February 1936):18-19.Chapter 5 125The King ReportAll through the 1930s the provincial government grappled with finance. A RoyalCommission was appointed May 20, 1933, under an Order-in-Council, to investigate thefinancial and administrative conditions of the various municipalities throughout BritishColumbia. The Vancouver School Board presented a brief September 27, 1933. Theyproposed that “the Provincial Government should make possible a stable supply ofsufficient funds for the adequate support of the educational programme required by thegovernment.” In their summary, the board alluded to social costs if education were shortchanged. “Money saved through crippling education will possibly result in enlarging otherState institutions and expenditures. “36Later correspondence from the Department to the Vancouver School Board in 1934indicated that the government was in no hurry to act. Education Minister Weir advised theboard that although educational finance was to be reconstructed, it was a project for thefuture:This Government has not had an opportunity to recast the financial provisions of thepresent Schools Act. Any hasty legislation brought down during the presentSession would tend to throw our whole School System into confusion. It is obviousthat inequalities and disparities do exist in the administration of the present Act, andthe object of the amendments brought down in this Session of the House isprimarily to alleviate, not to cure, these disparities.andI may state that I am looking forward to considerable assistance from your SchoolBoard when the problem of revising the financial structure of our EducationalSystem is under review.3736 Vancouver City Archives, 56-F-3, File 5.George M. Weir to H. F. Hines, Secretary, Board of School Trustees. March 19, 1934,Vancouver; Vancouver City Archives, 58-A-i, File 1. Letter dated March 19, 1934.Chapter 5 126As a matter of management style, Willis believed in short-circuiting problems inschool districts by suspending the locally-elected trustees and replacing them with officialtrustees. By the standards of the late twentieth century, this frank and forceful state actionappears both high-handed and arbitrary. However, Willis wanted school matters handled“properly” and in an “orderly” fashion. If problems arose, as in the Peace River Districtin the 1930s, he felt justified in replacing trustees with an official who could administerefficiently. He was justified in doing so whenever he had evidence that the trustees were(by dint of not paying school taxes) not legally qualified, unfit from an educationalstandpoint, lacked familiarity with the Schools Act, or were abusing the teacher. Theappointment of an “official trustee” was not a common practice, but was an optionavailable to Willis if other solutions were unworkable or not forthcoming.38Acting on one of the recommendations of the 1925 Putman-Weir Report, and out offinancial urgency, the Education Department announced in 1933 its intention to experimentwith creation of larger administrative units. The first experiment occurred in 1933 in thePeace River region. There, the pockets of students scattered over seventeen schools wereorganized under an Official Trustee, William A. Plenderleith. His appointment causedcontroversy when local people objected to his youth and “radical changes.”39This experiment resulted in economies of scale in areas such as purchase of suppliesand improved the range of educational offerings within the districts. The scheme was thenexpanded to the entire region in 1934 by creating four large units, each with six to fourteenof the original small school districts. Inspector Plenderleith was assigned as Inspector of38 BCARS, GR 1222, Box 2, File 2. Memorandum to Premier Pattullo fromSuperintendent Willis December 13, 1934.BCARS, GR 1222, Box 2, File 2. Letter to Premier Pattullo from the Chairman andSecretary of the Rolla, B.C. school district, December 1, 1934.Chapter 5 127the Peace River District as of May 1, 1934, and within a year was named Inspector andOfficial Trustee. By 1935, he oversaw the amalgamation of the four units into one schooldistrict for the entire Peace River region. The advantages expected were “to removeanomalies in the rate of school taxation and to encourage the adoption of a fair schedule ofsalaries for teachers throughout the district, and generally to administer the schools witheven greater efficiency than in the past.”4° Willis was highly supportive of this action andhis appointed official trustee, and indicated so in his memorandum. The Peace Riverexperiment is described more fully later in this chapter.Another amalgamation in 1935 combined the Matsqui, Sumas and Abbotsfordareas. The Department planned to amalgamate the province’s 806 existing school districtsand, where possible, to consolidate schools. In June 1934, the government called for aformal study of the amalgamation plan. H. B. King, then a Vancouver Junior High SchoolPrincipal, was chosen to act as technical advisor and would become author of the report.41The front-page newspaper coverage played up the importance of the study and its eight-point mandate. King invited the public to submit “written memoranda” on:1. The distribution of the burden of school finance.2. The consideration of a new source of revenue.3. The problem of centralization or decentralization offinancial control.4. The size of administrative units.5. The consideration of special cases where there aremunicipal and extra-municipal areas.6. The question of school fees.7. The cost of text books.8. The possibilities of saving without loss ofefficiency 424° BCARS, GR 1222, Box 2, File 2. Memo to Premier Pattullo from SuperintendentWillis December 13, 1934.41 H. B. King, School Finance in British Columbia (Victoria: The King’s Printer, 1935).42 Victoria Times, 11 July 1934: 1.Chapter 5 128Willis happened to keep a small notebook which he carried as an aide-memoire.The notations concern personnel and supply problems in schools and reminders to addressany problems he encountered. At the back are typewritten pages which he had organizedinto topic headings. These were his speech notes.43 Pages were devoted to the schoolfinance survey, beginning with a quick outline of school finance from 1872. Willisexplained that under the existing system property tax was the basis for school funding ineach district. By the mid-thirties, people were land-rich but cash-poor. Willis told hisaudiences:the amount of property in one’s possession is no longer a safe gauge of a person’sability to pay. It is for this reason that a survey of school finance is now being heldin the Province. There is perhaps no Province or country where this question ofschool finance is not engaging serious attention. All bodies in the Province who areinterested in the subject have already submitted suggestions which are being studiedby a committee of experts and it is hoped that as a result some more equitable andscientific formula may be evolved for settling this troublesome question for sometime to come.Like most government-commissioned studies, the King Commission was meant toproduce a report the government could uphold and approve. The commission had only twoofficial members, Minister of Education George Weir and Minister of Finance John Hart.As technical advisor, King was to be assisted by an unwieldy 30-member committeeheaded by the B.C.T.F. ‘s General Secretary, Harry Charlesworth. Membership on thesub-committee was drawn from organizations concerned with education. The B.C.T.F.leadership was logical since it was a major lobbyist in the reorganization of education,which directly affected employment of the membership. This was also an era before the‘3 One section of these notes was about the establishment of accredited high schools. Itwas delivered verbatim as a speech to the Sixteenth National Conference of CanadianUniversities. A copy is filed in the B.C.T.F. Records Department.BCARS, GR 139, File 76-G-69 Vol. 4. Document is a small-format notebook, dated1934.Chapter 5 129association’s relationship with the government became adversarial. Records from meetingsover these years indicate the relationship between Charlesworth and Willis was cordial.The King Commission’s structure had the outward appearance of being democratic.The findings of the thirty-person committee were in turn edited and compiled by a five-member revision committee. The final report was, in fact, written entirely by H.B. Kingand the revision committee’s report was reduced to its summary pages only. Kingrelegated their work to the last 14 pages of his report’s appendix. King had effectively coopted production of the report, and it is not likely that Willis had any direct influence onits contents, considering that their relationship was strained. Willis would have recognizedthe strong connection between King and Minister Weir, and thereby went along with theway the report was being handled.Since the objective of the King Report was to investigate the finance requirementsof the province’s education system and to recommend means to fund it, the resultingrecommendations predictably sought to eliminate some costs and to alter the tax structure.The recommendations were crafted to achieve a cost-contained system by reorganizing andconsolidating school districts, having government support education through generalrevenues instead of personal property tax, and eliminating rural school boards in favour ofa centralized system of school administration. Plenderleith’s success in the Peace Riverexperhnent had become a model for reasonable school finance.Although Willis anticipated an equitable solution, recommendations on rural schoolfinance were not. Rural schools were singled out to be deprived of their hard-won specialconsiderations. Their school boards were to be eliminated first. King recommended thatthe grants to supplement teachers’ salaries, provide lunch, equipment and even desks forrural schools also be discontinued. To King’s thinking, he was being “equitable” byChapter 5 130recommending spending cuts in all areas. He proposed raising the mill rate for rural taxesto cover these costs.King’s thirteen major recommendations included two that attracted universalcriticism: to impose an additional 2% income tax, and to abolish rural school boards. TheKing Report was decried as undemocratic for its suggestion that local control of schools besacrificed for some bureaucratic notion of ‘efficiency” -- that central control would providebetter organized and more economic management. As enterprises whose prosperitydepended on the fate of other businesses, Vancouver newspapers adopted and mirrored thebusiness mmni’s nervous reaction. One article declared that, if the proposed sales taxwere adopted, it would discourage industrial development and even drive existingindustries out of the provinceWeir announced the government would not move to abolish boards. Thegovernment and H.B. King were not necessarily at odds about what should be done. Thegovernment wanted efficient administration, and King agreed with the goal. The problemarose because King sought to accomplish it without involving the school boards. Thisrendered the report politically unpopular and caused the government to refuse the KingReport recommendations. In spite of this, the ground was laid for consolidation. The firstexperiments marked the way for acceptance of large school districts and, wheneverexpedient, management by official trustee 46‘ The Vancouver Province, 17 September 1937:7 and Jean Mann, “G.M. Weir and H.B.King: Progressive Education or Education for the Progressive State?,” in Schooling andSociety in 20th Century British Columbia, eds. 3. Donald Wilson and David C. Jones(Calgary: Detselig Enterprises Ltd., 1980), p. 104.Denis Charles Smith, “A Study of the Origin and Development of AdministrativeOrganization in the Education System of British Columbia” (Ed.D. thesis, University ofCalifornia, Los Angeles, 1952), p. 130. Smith acknowledges “owing to what wasconsidered to be the drastic nature of such recommendations at that time, they were notChapter 5 131The Kidd and King recommendations and public reaction to them, influencedgovernment decisions about how to proceed with managing education. Reaction to thestudies became barometers of the public will. Ultimately, this public reaction affectedWillis because it helped resolve for the politicians how schooling should be administeredand financed. The government chose to ignore the King Report, turning instead to themore manageable topic of curriculum reform and the safer recommendations of thePutman-Weir Report.Barman and Sutherland offer explanations why the Kidd and King inquiries failed,whereas the Putman-Weir (1925) and Cameron (1945) commissions were successful. Ofthe latter, they noted four factors significant to success: (1) economic and social conditionswere conducive to change; (2) both the public and the government supported thecommissions? establishments; (3) individuals in charge were credentialized with expertstatus; and (4) the consultation process ensured broadly based public input.47 Althoughofficials assisting in the King report were experts, the other three factors militated againstthe chances of government endorsation or public support.Perhaps it was the last reason -- failure to engage the public -- which guaranteedmore than any other contributing factor the failure of the Kidd and King reports. Certainlyeach one’s outcome would have been dramatically different if the commissioners had givenmore credence to public sensibilities. Suggestions of cutbacks in a faceless bureaucracymay be politically defensible with the public, but budget-trimming in schooling, whichdirectly affects children and people’s hopes for the future, was almost impossible tothen implemented, but nevertheless the Report provided a basis for the pattern ofdevelopment which followed.”Jean Barman and Neil Sutherland, “Royal Commission Retrospective,” PolicyExplorations, 3, 1 (Winter 1988): 15.Chapter 5 132legitimate. Dismissal of the importance of education was tantamount to denial of theyounger generation’s future prospects and ambition. Jones and Dunn thought the KiddReport failed “primarily because it threatened to extinguish the deeply ingrained popularbelief that education was a right and that it opened the door to social and economicimprovement.”48 For Willis and other educationists the failure of the two negative reportswould be regarded as deserved. Once again, he was careful not to enter a political debateor offer public comment. It could not have been pleasant to witness his Department comeunder such an attack.Although not fonnally adopted, the King Report’s recommendation concerning thesize of administrative units and its advice to continue consolidation was carried out.Writing the Superintendent’s Report section of the 1936-37 Annual Report, Willis statedthat the results of the Peace River District experiment from 1934 to 1936 “had proved sosuccessful that it had attracted attention not only in other parts of the Province, but also inother Provinces of Canada.”49 Lack of official government endorsation did not prevent theB.C. Teacher from lauding the King Report as “a splendid handbook on administrativeconditions and educational statistics.”5° The data were useful to the teaching professionand the B.C.T.F. had one of their own called upon to undertake the report.48 David C. Jones and Timothy A Dunn, “All of Us Common People’ and Education inthe Depression,” Canadian Journal of Education 5, 4 (1980): 41-56.“9 British Columbia, Superintendent of Education, Annual Report, 1936-37 (Victoria:King’s Printer, 1937), p. I 31.5° B.C. Teacher, 20, 10 (June 1936): 31.Chapter 5 133THE PURSUIT OF EDUCATIONAL EQUITYApart from the mechanics of educational finance, the issue that affected peopledirectly was availability and quality of schooling for their children. At the same time theKing Report was being commissioned, Willis was himself looking into cost savings theDepartment could realize. One area he chose to eliminate was intergrade exams. A shortpaper Willis wrote in 1934 detailed the change in policy from requiring exams forpromotion from one grade to another to establishment of the recommendation system thenin place.51 The decision whether a student should proceed to high school fell to elementaryprincipals. The safeguard was that all recommendations were then reviewed by theInspector of Schools and the principal of the high school. Further, any student couldchoose to write the entrance exams if he or she did not receive permission to attend highschool through recommendation. Willis agreed with high school principals, teachers, andthe Department of Education that fewer students should be required to write finalexaminations:Each year approximately 50 per cent of the candidates who write the Matriculationor the Normal Entrance examination are successful in passing the full examinationat the first sitting. The subjecting of these candidates to the expense and thenervous strain involved seems to be quite unnecessary and altogether unjustifiable.52Because so many teachers in smaller high schools had little or no experience, it wasimpossible to grant a blanket exemption from exams. Willis outlined the standards hewould like to implement, together with the responsibilities of the inspectors and principalsfor maintaining standards. He was particularly concerned that high schools be of high51 BCARS, GR 0139. A compilation of policy statements which Willis carried and used inspeaking.52 Ibid.Chapter 5 134calibre to prepare students for further study. He held strong opinions about maintainingacademic standards, as indicated in this excerpt from his speaking notes:The high reputation for thoroughness of work done in our High Schools must bemaintained and to this end the greatest precautions must be taken to prevent theinsidious growth of a laissez-faire attitude on the part of staffs and students and thedeluging of our University and Normal Schools with indifferent students altogetherlacking in aptitude, training and scholarship and quite unfitted to derive any benefitfrom attendance at those institutionsLater that year, front page headlines54 announced that intergrade final examinationshad been eliminated and that promotions would thereafter be made on recommendation.Willis explained that these tests were being eliminated to save time and expense since fewstudents wrote them. Final exams were being retained for Grade 12 for university andnormal school entrance, and for senior matriculation. Willis would not have been able toeliminate the higher level examinations. These had to be retained for comparison purposeswith other provinces and for entrance to the normal school and the university.It is fair to say that Willis’ wish to liberalize the examination system came fromboth empathy and a preoccupation with costs. He had humanitarian concern for thestudents -- that they not be subjected to unnecessary “nervous strain” once their ability hadbeen proven during the grade year. His policy was also a vote of confidence in thejudgment of high school principals. Willis upheld the importance of high school leavingexaminations, particularly for ensuring students’ readiness to undertake higher studies at ateachers’ college or university. However, his was not an “open door” or universal accesspolicy where desire to learn was all that mattered for admission to post-secondary study.He remained adamant that higher education be reserved for those with adequate aptitudeIbid.The Colonist, 12 January 1936:1.Chapter 5 135and preparation. Assessments of pupil ability were made on the basis of standardizedexaminations and I.Q. and aptitude tests. Although Willis did not comment on the subjectof these tests, he condoned their use. Weir certainly did, and valued them as fundamentalto determining aptitude and ability.55 The tests had their use, and for the Departmentrepresented a means of quantifying achievement.The Depression years did not dampen public demand for equity in public education;academic credentials were still valued, and education continued to be equated with theacquisition of employment opportunities. Willis played a central role in the system-widecurriculum revision announced by Minister Weir in 1935. Weir organized subjectcommittees which reported to separate school committees at the elementary, junior highand senior high school levels. They, in turn, reported to an overall Central Committee,which reported directly to Willis.56 The purpose of the curriculum revision, as stated byPremier Pattullo in an address to the 1935 B.C. T. F. convention, was “to make it betteradapted to the present day needs of British Columbia.”57Another of Willis’ continuing interests was development of the teaching profession.Despite Depression conditions, teachers were equally interested in improving theirprofessional status. The University of British Columbia had begun offering a full year’straining for high school teaching in 1926-27, showing teachers’ eagerness to upgrade theirskills. In the 1928-29 Annual Report, Willis noted the improved standing of studentteachers:Jean Mann, “G.M. Weir and H.B. King: Progressive Education or Education for theProgressive State?,” in Schooling and Society in 20th Century British Columbia, eds. J.Donald Wilson and David C. Jones (Calgary: Detselig Enterprises Ltd., 1980), p. 98.56 B.C. Teacher, 14, 8, (April 1935): 20-23.B.C. Teacher, 14, 10, (June 1935): 4-12.Chapter 5 136It is interesting to note the gradual strengthening of the academic qualifications ofteachers-in-training at the Nonnal Schools. Over 54 per cent of those in attendanceat Victoria last year had considerably more than the minimum requirements foradmission.58In writing about the province’s high schools in 1934, Willis noted with somesatisfaction that the trend was continuing:During the past few years the teachers on the High School staffs have beenimproving their academic qualifications and are thoroughly conversant with allmodern trends in Education.59On other occasions Willis was humanitarian in his treatment of people in poverty.His personal notebook contains reminders about people to be given cleaning or odd jobs atschools to alleviate hardship.60 Willis was open to such requests, mindful that it was anindirect way to help their children continue going to school. In the Depression, childrenfrom poor families were even less likely to attend high school than in the previous decade.At a special meeting in the Princeton School District in 1934, the Board asked theprovincial government to grant extra relief work to indigent parents so they might thenafford to purchase school books for their children. It was noted that this type ofarrangement already had been made so people could purchase hunting licenses andammunition. The association wrote, “The opinion of the meeting was that education ismore necessary and that, therefore, extra work should be supplied to those needing it, toprovide the necessary books. This would probably affect 25 families. Some would requiremaybe 1 day or 2 days extra.”61 Willis passed the letter to his Minister, George M. Weir,58 British Columbia, Superintendent of Education, Annual Report. 1928-29 (Victoria:King’s Printer, 1929), p. Ri 1.BCARS, GR 0139.60 Ibid.61 BCARS, GR 1222 Box 2 File 2. The letter to Willis was written September 20, 1934.Chapter 5 137who in turn sent it to Premier Pattullo with the comment, “If these families are willing towork in order to earn sufficient money for the purchase of school books, they at least areactuated by the elements of good citizenship, and I think should be encouraged.”Towards an Equalized Salary ScaleThroughout Willis’ career, a dominant issue was finding means to improveteachers’ salary levels. Evidence for this is contained in the extensive number oflaboriously handwritten pages wherein he tried to work out some means by which he couldgrant raises. Numerous notes exist in his files reminding himself to investigate thepersonal plight of various teachers.Teachers were not insulated from the effects of the Depression since the provincialgovernment grants paid only part of the school budgets. At the beginning of theDepression, the Department had worked out a schedule of grants for supporting teachers’salaries. The government’s share ranged from 25% to 42% in cities and from 35 % to 52%in municipalities. The greatest part went to schools in outlying districts with smaller taxbases.62 The rest was supplied by municipalities squeezed by reduced tax revenues andby the increased expense of relief for the unemployed. Teachers were required to sustainsalary cuts. Having any kind of a job became enviable in the 1930s, and young peoplelooked to teaching as a desirable option. This was discussed in a retrospective of the salarydebate:Salaries of teachers, the last to rise in a boom, but the first to fall in a Depression,began to slide. In some cases the Depression apparently became an excuse toundermine the whole fabric of salary structure erected up to 1929. Increments weredenied, refused, and forgotten, and have not since revived; in fact, the idea of62 BCARS, GR 448. The form letter from Hinchliffe to the school districts was writtenJanuary 2, 1932.Chapter 5 138increments appears in some cases to be relegated to the limbo of the past, and thisparticularly where the salaries are poorest. 63Teachers’ spirits were at a low ebb. They were unable to attract governmentsympathy. As North observed, teachers became less assertive when the cause seemed lost.“Little or no attention was paid to their complaints, however, and teachers had to consolethemselves with the fact that at least they had jobs, even at low pay. “64 Teachers gainedpublic sympathy and the government experienced strong public backlash a few months laterwhen the Kidd Committee recommended that teachers’ salaries be cut by 25 % more. Afterhis career-long support for improving the salaries, Willis must have found it hard not toshow disdain for such a proposal.In May 1936, the issue of the moment was the establishment of a salary schedulefor teachers in Prince Rupert. A request for action and assistance came from the PrinceRupert High School Teachers’ Association which addressed themselves directly to Willis,and copied Premier Pattullo. Their delegation had met with Willis at the B.C.T.F.convention over Easter, and Willis had invited them to present their case. The PrinceRupert teachers had been engaged by a civic official, the City Commissioner, eachnegotiating individual salaries, an almost universal practice at the time. Since 1930, therehad been no raises; rather four successive cuts had produced a 33 % salary reduction overthe period 1930 to 1933. Noting that the cost of living was increasing, and the averagesalary elsewhere in the province was about 25% higher than they received, the group of tenteachers sought redress through the Department because the financial condition of the citywould give them no means of restoring salary levels or prospects for raises. The City63 B.C. Teacher, 19, 4 (December 1939), pp. 209-210. Article was written by HarryHayward.64 Ray Archibald North, “The British Columbia Teachers’ Federation and the ArbitrationProcess” M.A. thesis, University of British Columbia, 1964, p. 88.Chapter 5 139Commissioner actually chastised the teachers for making a request for more money,indicating that it would be a hardship on the taxpayers: “It is unthinkable to add to theburdens of those citizens who have made your positions possible.” Astutely, the teachersrefuted the city’s claim to privation, using Prince Rupert’ s December 1935 financialreport, which showed funds were available.Willis took the side of the teachers. He commented that the Prince Rupert teachershad been treated “rather shabbily.” He recommended the Commissioner increase salariesout of Department funds effective September 1, 1936 and that, since the City’s finances“are rapidly showing improvement,” teachers’ own funds should be used to make furtherincreases in teachers’ salaries in the next year.65 It was a fair decision. Willis, in turn,copied Education Minister Weir requesting his advice. Eventually, Weir wrote to PremierPattullo attaching a memo from Willis. Weir stated in his memo to the Premier,“Personally, I am disposed to agree with Dr. Willis’ appraisal of the situation.” This wasa fine example of teachers standing together to right a wrong. They won their case, andreinforced some sense of control over their employment.THE PEACE RWER EXPERIMENT AND SCHOOL CONSOLIDATIONAt the time Willis assumed office in 1919, he oversaw 636 school districts. Earlyattempts at consolidation were meant to contain costs and to offer a fuller range of studiesin rural high schools. None was accomplished without controversy, as exemplified byministerial correspondence. The exchanges illustrate the role of the Deputy Minister.65 BCARS, GR 1222 Box 8 File 2.Chapter 5 140Appointment of an official trustee usually met with considerable resistance. Typicalof the umbrage taken was a letter written in December 1934 to Premier Pattullo from theChairman and Secretary of one of the collapsed school districts of the Peace River region.Their indignant complaint was against Plenderleith’ s appointment:We feel that we have been grossly insulted with downright impertinence. . .by takingaway the rights of the people by only the recommendation of the inspector who hasonly been in this part of the country a little over six months.66A copy of their letter was sent to Willis, who prepared a memorandum for Pattullo. Willisset out Plenderleith’ s report and assured the Premier that the move to consolidate was made“to remove anomalies in the rate of school taxation and to encourage the adoption of a fairschedule of salaries throughout the district, and generally to administer the schools witheven greater efficiency than in the past.”67 Willis praised Plenderleith’ s ability, describinghim to Pattullo as having “excellent professional training” and “wonderfully successful.”An even more impressive measure of Willis’ regard for Plenderleith was evident inthe 1934-35 Public Schools Report. There, Plenderleith’s persuasive report wasincorporated into Willis’ report on the consolidation project, using much the same orderand phrasing as in Plenderleith’s August 30, 1934 report to Willis about the consolidation’simpact.68 The entire text of Plenderleith’ s report eventually was included in the KingReport. Plenderleith credited Willis for his encouragement, official support andsuggestions:On September 6th [1934] I received a reply from Dr. Willis, telling me that on thewhole he was in favour of my suggestions. Dr. Willis very wisely (as I now66 BCARS, GR 1222, Box 2, File 2. Letter dated December 2, 1934.67 Ibid., Memorandum dated December 13, 1934.68 British Columbia, Superintendent of Education, Annual Report, 1934-35 (Victoria:King’s Printer, 1935), p. 5 28.Chapter 5 141realize) suggested that it would be advisable to make a few experimental groups ofseven or eight schools each, in which we could experiment with the administrationof the larger unit.69On October 9, 1934, Inspector William Plenderleith had amalgamated a group offourteen small rural districts into one to be known as Central Peace. He placed theGovernment Agent at Pouce Coupe in charge as Official Trustee. Plenderleith also placedanother six rural school districts under a larger one known as the North Peace Rural SchoolDistrict; and ten others became the East Peace Rural School District. Coleman Creek wasthe fourth district to be created and was to be called the East Peace Rural School District.The Official Trusteeship was transferred from the government agent to Plenderleith byApril 1935. Using the Peace River experiment as a case study for his doctoral thesis,Plenderleith revealed that he had tacit approval at the highest level in the EducationDepartment for his amalgamation work. He recorded that Education Minister Weir andDeputy Minister Willis “both expressed the opinion that the formation of largeradministrative areas in the rural districts would prove quite as desirable as the creation ofrural municipality districts effected in 1906 had proven.”70 To ensure that their supportwould not be unnoticed, Plenderleith dedicated his thesis to Weir and Willis “who havegiven the fullest encouragement to educational research in British Columbia, and withoutwhose advice and approval the experimental work in the Peace River Area would neverhave been attempted.”Such change may have been administratively justified from a bureaucrat’sstandpoint. To the local residents who had pride in their school and had helped build it,this was a direct attack and a very real threat to local control. Their displeasure was69 William A. Plenderleith, “An Experiment in Centralization”, reprinted in H.B. King,School Finance in British Columbia (Victoria: King’s Printer, 1935), pp. 104-109.70 William A. Plenderleith, “A Report of an Experiment in the Reorganization andAdministration of a Rural Inspectoral Unit in British Columbia”(Ed. D. thesis, Universityof Toronto, 1936), p. 33.Chapter 5 142conveyed in correspondence addressed to Premier Pattullo from two representatives of thePeace River District, H.A. Prier and Frank Plaster. The two-page handwritten missive ofDecember 1, 1934 was retyped for the Premier to read. It concerned the umbrage taken bylocal people at what was regarded as “interference” by the new school inspector whom thewriters rebuked as an outsider “who has only been in this part of the country a little oversix months” and who had suggested “radical changes without even consulting thetaxpayers” 71The detachment of Victoria-based officials from the concerns and sensibilities ofremote communities remained a problem until improved transportation andcommunications networks undid their isolation. Stortz saw this detachment as one reasonwhy administrative directives were not always readily accepted. He asserted that resistanceto the central school administration’s policies was common.72 A major problem was, asexplained earlier, that the Department had very little information on which to assessconditions in remote communities:Inspectors were the middlemen through which communication between Victoria andthe hinterland was exchanged, but due to poor transportation and communicationsnetworks, as well as the large number of schools requiring supervision within theinspectorates, each school was given only superficial attention. As a result,education officials remained oblivious to the complexity of rural school reform.73Before responding to the Peace River taxpayers, the Premier sent a memo to Willisattaching the correspondence and requesting, “Would you mind letting us have your advicein the matter?” Willis prepared a three-page typewritten memorandum addressed to71 BCARS, GR 1222 Box 2 File 2.72 Paul James Stortz, “The Rural School Problem in British Columbia in the 1920s”(M.A. thesis, University of British Columbia, 1988), p. 128.‘ Ibid., p. 127.Chapter 5 143Pattullo recounting the history of issues in the Peace River. Willis quoted from the localinspector! s letter of August 30, 1934 which outlined the reasons he believed the localadministration was unsatisfactory: few were legally qualified to hold the office of schooltrustee and of those many were unfit to hold office from an educational standpoint; trusteestyrannized the teachers; and the majority of trustees were not familiar with the B.C. PublicSchools Act, and even worse, “in many cases willfully make no attempt to enforce it. Thisis usually because of fear of stirring up ill feeling with a neighbor.”74 An interestingexample of the impact that this particular Inspector had in this situation is contained in theDepartment’s Annual Report of 1934-1935. In his Superintendent’s Report, Willis wrotecandid comments and offered some insights into problems with school trustees and set outin a formal list the very points the inspector had made, almost verbatim.75 Small townpolitics, petty jealousies, greed over which family should receive income from theteacher’s monthly board payments, and discipline issues were common causes of frictionwith the trustees. The inspector elaborated further why the present system of small schooldistricts was unsatisfactory. Willis quoted the reasons offered to the Premier as:it engenders sectional jealousy among contiguous districts because of differences intax rates; differences in the attitude of the people toward educational activities; thatit limits the possible selection of trustees to a very small section of the population;that once the school district is formed, the members of the School Board are usuallyunwilling to give up any portion of it to accommodate the needs of a new SchoolDistrict. In many cases the local boards, in this way, retard educational progressinstead of assisting it. In the majority of cases in this district, neither the secretary-treasurer of the School Board nor the auditor is qualified to keep or audit accountbooks. This general carelessness which I have found in accounting is not becauseof deceptive intention but because of lack of knowledge 76‘ BCARS, GR 1222 Box 2 File 2. Willis’ memo to the Premier is dated December 13,1934.‘ British Columbia, Superintendent of Education, Annual Report, 1934-1935, (Victoria:King’s Printer, 1935), p. S29.76 BCARS, GR 1222 Box 2 File 2.Chapter 5 144Willis pointed out to Premier Pattullo that one of the positive results ofamalgamation, and the main purpose for it, was that a more uniform rate of taxation couldbe applied throughout the area. The secondary reason was to increase efficiency andencourage a fairer salary schedule for teachers throughout the district. In the finalparagraph, Willis defended Plenderleith as the new inspector in glowing terms, describinghim as ? a teacher and principal of many years’ experience and excellent professionaltraining. He was wonderfully successful in all schools in which he has taught and will, Iam sure, do much to stimulate and encourage better work in the schools of the district.”77Considering that teacher turnover and sporadic pupil attendance was common, itwas a challenge to offer any coherent or systematic schooling experience. Particularly inrural areas, it is unlikely the Department’s Progressivism was practiced in the classroom.The Superintendent’s bureaucratic detachment from day-to-day problems in the field --even as late as September 1932 -- was neatly described by a teacher’s experience inacquiring supplies. The teacher related his frustration in trying to enrich the classroomexperience:I had to teach grade 9, 10 and 11 Science and I didn’t have a beaker or an ounce ofacid or anything. So, I wrote to Dr. Willis and asked him would he grantpermission for me to buy a science kit provided by the correspondence branch --which would cost $10.00. It came and was delivered to the express office in thestation at Dawson Creek. And that month, we got no money. The school boardgot no money, I got no money. The station master wrote to the Department ofEducation and Dr. Willis wrote me -- and his letters were gems! They were so tothe point, and the language! He wrote just a very sharp letter, beautifullyexpressed. But I was doing the one thing that was, as far as Willis was concerned,was the sin that was unforgivable. I was bringing discredit on the Department. So,I wrote back and told him, in subdued language, that when I got some money Iwould pay it. I am illustrating a point. Willis and the Department, they had noidea.78Ibid.78 Interview July 31, 1991 by Valerie Giles with Stewart Graham in New Westminster.Comments are his recollections of teaching in Dawson Creek, September 1932.Chapter 5 145Clearly, frustration with the workings of the Department could influence day-to-dayclassroom activity. Examples such as this demonstrate the difficulty Willis and theDepartment faced in carrying out their responsibilities. As this teacher expressed, Williswas not callous, he was unaware.Yet, during the decade of consolidation experiments, the Department’s changes infinancial management began to help teachers. The government tried to solve the thornyissue of school finance by applying an equalization factor to account for varying district taxrevenues throughout the province. By the early 1 940s, all the municipal districts agreed tosalary scales, and teachers could now be guaranteed their pay and were no longer beholdento the whims of local politicians or affected by the vagaries of population shifts.Pedagogically, the changes meant more courses could be offered, providing new challengeand interest to the job. Efficient management in a larger district administration meantequipment, supplies and maintenance of schools were more equally distributed district-wide. Socially, teachers benefitted by having colleagues as the number of large elementaryschools increased instead of working in isolation. The one-room school begandisappearing except in geographically isolated places. This shift was not vieweduniversally as progress. Many teachers felt a special bond with their small classes andwere proud of their schools. One former teacher recalled her distress at the creation ofwhat she thought were “big factory” schools. “We lost something precious and solid whenwe lost the smaller schools. Any educator who knew them will tell you that.”79Overall, consolidation had its advantages. Willis and the Department tooksatisfaction in administratively improving the system. Public resistance occurred whenconsolidation involved closing one-room schools to make larger schools. This tookInterview August 1, 1983 by Valerie Giles with Hazel Huckvale, retired school teacherin Williams Lake.Chapter 5 146decades to accomplish because communities embraced an emotional ““ of theirlocal schools, and resisted suggestions that their children should have to travel greaterdistances to attend. Community resistance was a factor in preventing amalgamation, but atany rate change in education was ever glacial.TIlE 1937 REFORM AND ITS BACKGROUNDThe Department had overseen partial revisions of the curriculum every few years,the most recent in 1932-33. After publication of the King Report, the Department ofEducation announced its intention in the 1935-36 Annual Report to revise the entirecurriculum at all school levels. The government’s committee comprised five persons,8°under whom fifteen sub-committees were organized to review the entire curriculum fromGrades I to XII, plus that of the technical schools. Work to revise the curriculum began inearly 1935, a project which Willis thought important and timely because “recentcontributions to the Science of Education justified a complete revision of allprogrammes. “81 The actual working committees were drawn from a wide spectrum towork under the direction of Education Minister Weir and his Deputy. Willis described thereview as a carefully organized plan in which more than 250 teachers, supervisors, normalschool instructors and inspectors were selected to revise the programmes of study. Theirwork would culminate with the issue of new programmes of study for elementary andjunior high schools in time for school opening in 1936.8280 B.C. Teacher, 14, 10 (June 1935), p. 1. The appointees were: D.L. MacLaurin,Chairman, Assistant Superintendent of Education; H.B. King, Vancouver; H.N.MacCorkindale, Superintendent of Schools, Vancouver; C.B. Wood, Teacher TrainingClass, University of British Columbia; and I. Roy Sanderson, Principal, King EdwardHigh School, Vancouver.81 British Columbia, Superintendent of Education, Annual Report, 1935-1936, (Victoria:King’s Printer, 1936), p. H26.82 Ibid., p. H28.Chapter 5 147Beyond input from appointed members, Willis acknowledged there could bevaluable contributions from others, and explained that “all teachers, school trustees,parent-teacher associations, industrial leaders, and local councils of women” were invitedto submit their suggestions for improving the curriculum.83 The Minister and Willis madean astute gesture in asking for input from these groups.As each of the main committees met, Willis addressed the gathering to emphasizethe importance and scope of the work. Their deliberations produced new elementary andjunior high school curriculums in time for the 1936-37 school year. September 1937brought adoption of a revised plan for Grade 10. September 1938 saw the Grade 11 planin place, with the announcement that the Grade 12 revisions would be introduced bySeptember 1939. Tomkins’ study of the Canadian curriculum described these 1930scurriculum revisions -- 2,700 pages covering all grades -- as “the most comprehensive,self-conscious effort to apply scientific principles. “84In any discussion of progressivism, evaluation of whether its implementation wassuccessful must be tempered with the knowledge that the greatest impact was at theofficial, not the classroom, level. Realistically, “support for Progressive education did notextend far beyond a limited cadre of educational leaders in each province. “85 TheMinister’s and Deputy’s support were not enough to make it happen merely through83 British Columbia, Superintendent of Education, Annual Report, 1935-36, (Victoria:King’s Printer, 1936), p. H27.84 George S. Tomkins, A Common Countenance: Stability and Change in the CanadianCurriculum (Scarborough: Prentice-Hall Canada Inc., 1986), p. 143.85 Robert S. Patterson, “The Implementation of Progressive Education in Canada 1930-1945,” in Essays on Canadian Education, eds. N. Kach et al. (Calgary: Detselig, 1986), p..85.Chapter 5 148influence of their authority. In practical terms, curriculum changes demanded moreinvestment in teacher training, equipment and school supplies. Not much change was insight until after Canada entered the Second World War in 1939. War industries stimulatedthe economy and together with increasing land values the municipalities were able torespond to teachers’ demands for higher pay by raising taxes. North’s research into thehistory of B.C.T.F. negotiations revealed that the benefits accrued only to those in wellpopulated areas. The result was resentment:The increasing wealth did not seem to filter out to the rural areas where teachersattempted the almost impossible task of achieving pay parity with city teachers.The most bitter negotiations and arbitrations were conducted, not in the distantschool districts, but in the rural and semi-rural parts of the lower Fraser Valley andthe Delta. In these areas, boardsT budgets were rural but teachers’ tastes wereurban. 86The Depression years effectively stalled the march of educational progress. Willismanaged as well as he could in hard times. The fact that schooling carried on to the extentit did was itself a triumph. The educational surveys offer a record of the state of theDepartment and show how narrow the options were for making dramatic or sweepingchanges. Those who hoped for improvements had to be patient. Change was coming, butit belonged to the next decade.86 North, “The British Columbia Teachers’ Federation and the Arbitration Process”, p. 91.149Chapter 6The War Years: 1939 - 1945Often cited as the Civil Servant without peer, Dr. Willis was considerably more than that.He shepherded many an Administration past the shoalsof decision and indecision, and brought about incalculable benefits in the education systemof this Province.1THE POLITICS OF WAROn September 10, 1939, Canada declared war and joined in the Second WorldWar. Although the war improved the economy, Premier Pattullo recognized more helpwas needed and asserted that major public works projects were necessary to bolstereconomic fortunes in British Columbia. He also tried to negotiate with Ottawa a bettershare of tax distribution and eventually called an election for October 21, 1941, usingeducational reform as one of his platforms. The results were: Liberals 21 seats;Conservatives 12; C.C.F. 13 and Labour 1. Being unable to form a majority government2,Pattullo came under strong pressure from the other parties, and from within his owncabinet and party, to form a coalition government. Pattullo refused to consider that option,and his cabinet began to fall away in favor of a coalition. Education Minister Weir hadlost his seat in the October 1941 election. Still, Pattullo asked him to carry on in theEducation portfolio. Weir refused, endorsed the coalition and returned to his work as aU.B.C. professor. In the end, it was Harry Perry who moved the vote for coalition at theDecember 2, 1941 Liberal Party meeting. The vote was carried and Pattullo left themeeting, resigning a week later on December 9. Perry was sworn in as Education Ministerin the coalition cabinet formed by John Hart on December 10. Pattullo was relegated to1 The Colonist, 1 September 1945, p. 4.2 Twenty-one seats was four seats short of a majority.Chapter 6 150the back benches and stayed on as an M.L.A. until defeated in the 1945 election by aC.C.F. candidate.3This political upheaval affected all government functions. For Willis, it meant achange of Ministers, his fourth. With new political leadership and wartime deployment ofteachers to the European theatre, the job took on new dimensions. Many of the issues andproblems Willis had to face throughout the war were very different from any he had copedwith before.On December 7, 1941, when the Japanese air force bombed Pearl Harbor, therewas widespread fear British Columbia could become a target. Hart made the decision tomove all Japanese, including Japanese-Canadians, to the interior in the interests ofmaintaining security of the province’s coastline. This was a decision with significantimplications for the school system.Immediately following the Japanese attack, the very next day, the EducationDepartment responded by forbidding any further instruction to be conducted in Japanese.On December 9, Willis sent a memorandum to Premier Pattullo requesting theDepartment’s policy with respect to instruction in Japanese be released to the press.4Willis told Premier Pattullo: “I may add that yesterday I sent out notice of the Order to allpersons conducting such classes so far as they are known to the Department.”Robin Fisher Duff Pattullo of British Columbia (Toronto: University of Toronto Press,1991), p. 360. Also Daniel J. Grant, “T.D. Pattullo’s Early Career,” British ColumbiaHistorical News 13, 1, (Fall 1979): 2.‘ This was Premier Pattullo ‘s last day in office.Chapter 6 151Within the week, Willis began to seek out from his administrators more generalpolicy advice concerning Japanese students. Vancouver Superintendent MacCorkindalereceived a brief letter from Willis dated December 16, 1941, marked PERSONAL, whichasked for his views “on the general effect of the attendance of Japanese children in theschools.” MacCorkindale replied on December 19, stating:I certainly do not recommend that the Japanese children be excluded from ourschools because of the declaration of war between Japan and Canada. Why did wenot take similar action in the case of the Finns, Italians and Germans, etc.? As youare aware, we have a considerable number of these nationalities in our schools .The school year continued, with most Japanese children removed from the schools underthe direction of the B.C. Security Commission for reasons of national security. By thesummer of 1942, almost 1,000 Japanese children remained, and SuperintendentMacCorkindale sought policy advice from Willis about arrangements for the remainingpupils. In a letter dated August 26, 1942, Education Minister Perry wrote in Willis’absence to MacCorkindale with a delayed but emphatically direct response:We have a shortage of teachers at present throughout the Province which may forcemany of our schools to be closed and this Department would not feel justified, inaddition to other reasons regarding responsibility for the Japanese children, inassisting in the provision of teachers for Japanese while our own white pupils aredenied the privileges of education, due to a shortage of teachers •6The B.C. Teacher editorialized that “there must be some decent degree ofconsonance between the ethics of Jesus and a proper policy relative to the Orientals in ourmidst. . .who, through no fault of their own, find themselves unwelcome aliens in the landof their birth.”7 While not the kind of humane treatment that Willis, as a Christian, wouldVancouver School Board Archives, Location 56-E-3 File 7, Enemy Aliens.6 Ibid.B.C. Teacher, 19, 7, (March 1940), pp. 327-8.Chapter 6 152have approved, the enemy threat in wartime was strong enough to overcome any otherrational course of action. No other correspondence reflects an opinion from Willis.ADMINISTRATION DURING THE WAR YEARSDuring the War, the public urged accommodation of issues relating to the familyand to religious instruction. The Education Department recognized need existed amongpoor rural families. They suffered hardship caused by wartime absence of farmers andfarm hands. The Department caused the Council of Public Instruction to adopt specialregulations to excuse children from school so that they could help to harvest crops •8 It fellto Willis to make many of the presentations, and logically so, because he was close to theissues at hand, and eventually would directly oversee their implementation. As Secretaryto the Council, Willis also issued the circulars and announced such policy decisions. TheDepartment of Education circulated a notice dated March 30, 1942 to school boards andhigh school principals ?Re: Release of Some Students for Farming Operations”. TheCouncil of Public Instruction approved regulations allowing boys and girls in Grades nine,ten and eleven eligible for promotion to the next grade to be released from school afterJune 1, 1942. The arrangement was to stand for the harvest months of September andOctober, 1942.8 BCARS, GR 1222, Box 38, File 2.The following year, the British Columbia Fruit Growers’ Association communicated theireducation concerns to the Premier. Their request was for release of boys and girls fromschool to help with their harvest. Perry replied to Premier Hart on January 29, 1943,referring to the arrangements which had been made the year before. Since they had provedsatisfactory, he suggested that a similar plan be followed.Chapter 6 153Willis cautioned that permission for students to take on this employment wasconditional. He set out detailed instructions to ensure that the following terms would bemet:1. The terms and conditions of employment were satisfactory to the ProvincialDepartment of Labour.2. School boards had discretion to have the boys and girls stay in school anextra hour on regular school days during April and May.3. That effort be made to provide intensive training in the next school terms“as may be considered necessary to bring their work up as quickly as possible to therequired standing for their respective grades. “10Through the circular, Willis emphasized that employment was not to interfere withschooling, and established that students would be required to accomplish school work byalternative arrangement.Another instance showing Department responsiveness to public and religious lobbieswas the introduction of religious study. Bible Study was introduced in September 1941 forGrades nine through twelve for credit towards High School Graduation or UniversityEntrance. In the Foreword to the text, Bible Study I, the Department stated, “The coursesof instruction in Bible Study have been drawn up in accordance with the aims andphilosophy of education in British Columbia.”10 British Columbia, Superintendent of Education, Annual Report, 194 1-42, (Victoria:King’s Printer, 1942), pp. B30 - B31 and Annual Report, 1942-43, (Victoria: King’sPrinter, 1943), pp. B29 - B30.11 BCARS, GR 1222 Box 27, File 2.Chapter 6 154Not all public requests were so favourably treated, for Minister Weir was cautiousand careful to balance political entreaties with the Department’s interests. Those whomade appeals for political reasons could not count on his or Willis’ support. On May 15,1939 Alex McBeth, Secretary of the Hazelmere Liberal Club in Cloverdale, had written toPremier Pattullo concerning a resolution passed by that organization about conducting a bylaw to establish a Junior High School in Surrey. Their plea was that “the proposedProvincial grant towards the project be materially increased, in view of the drasticconditions now existing among Surrey farmers and in order that the burden of taxation nowon the land will not be increased and that Liberalism may get its just recognition in thepromotion of School expansion in Surrey Municipali.”12The day he received their request, May 22, 1939, Pattullo copied the letter toWillis, asking for a report. On May 23, Willis responded with background on thesituation. He indicated to the Premier that, as early as March, the Surrey School Boardhad been urging the government to provide a definite statement of the amount of the grantthat would be provided should a by-law be passed to build a new junior-senior high schoolbuilding, but gave no indication of sympathy or support for the Liberal Club’s plea.Instead, Education Minister Weir responded on March 20, 1939, informing the SurreyBoard that he, as Minister, had “no authority to exceed the appropriation voted by theLegislature. It would be quite incorrect to state publicly or to assume definitely, that theDepartment of Education would make a larger grant than 40% of the cost of the building.”Following the paper trail of this correspondence, it becomes evident that Willis,whom the Premier asked directly for an assessment, was highly regarded and trusted.12 BCARS, GR 1222 Box 27, File 1.Chapter 6 155Normally, the chain of command would have linked from the Premier to the Minister who,in turn, might have asked Willis for input. This example reveals that Willis operated at aministerial level, and that both Premier and Minister accepted the arrangement.Willis maintained a keen interest in school curriculum. His work was affected ascurriculum took on nationalist overtones once war was declared in 1939. In his 1939-40Annual Report, Willis noted that the Department would provide a Union Jack to eachschool. He devoted a section of the report to declaring that patriotic exercises be carriedout at least one day each week. Students were to salute the flag and sing the nationalanthem. Willis instructed:It shall be the duty of the principals and teachers to endeavour to see that properideals of loyalty to our King and country are instilled into the minds of the pupils inattendance and that due respect is paid to the flag and British institutions. 13Tribulations of war were weighing on the schools at the beginning of the 1940s.The enlistment of teachers in military service for the war caused a shortfall in teachersupply in some cities. Willis announced that there was not yet any sign of a shortage inBritish Columbia where the majority of the teaching force was comprised of women. 14Meanwhile, population pressures began to affect school rooms as British Columbia saw anew wave of innnigration in the spring of 1940. This became the focus of concern and thesubject of a report to the Premier. H.D. Stafford, Inspector of Schools in Burns Lake,sent word to Willis May 1, 1940, informing him that 25 Mennonite families would bearriving from Saskatchewan within the week.13 British Columbia, Superintendent of Education, Annual Report, 1939-40, (Victoria:King’s Printer, 1940), p. B29.14 Victoria Daily Times, 24 July 1940, p. 11.Chapter 6 156A recent Press dispatch indicates that the Provincial government is accepting noresponsibility in connection with the establishment of the Mennonite settlement.Would you please advise me what policy is being adopted with regard to theestablishment and support of schools in the district to be occupied by thesepeople? “15Willis passed the request for information on this policy to Education Minister Weir. He,in turn, sent a memorandum on May 8 to Premier Pattullo asking, “Would you kindlyadvise me regarding the type of answer I might give to Inspector Stafford?” The Premierreplied to Weir on May 10th, 1940, saying, “I would be glad if you would have InspectorStafford look carefully into the matter and let us know just what the situation is.”The message was communicated to Stafford, who responded on May 28, 1940,acknowledging receipt of the request to report to the Premier. “At the present time abouteleven of the twenty-five families have arrived and as these families have not definitelyselected their holdings, it will be some weeks before I shall be able to prepare the requiredreport.” On September 12th, 1940 Stafford submitted his report to Willis. In his letter,Stafford mentioned, “Inasmuch as there seems to be special regulations governing theadmittance of these settlers to the Province, I have not made any recommendationsconcerning the establishment of schools.”Willis sent the report to the Premier. It contained detailed lists of the grain, tools,livestock, farm equipment and money brought by the new settlers. Describing theirenergetic attempts at homesteading and beginning to farm, Stafford noted that it would benecessary for them to receive government assistance for some time. Although theMennonites were concerned about schooling for their children, the more pressing problemsof arranging food and shelter took precedence over plans for school. Nevertheless, one ofthe first buildings they constructed was a school. The community suggested that the first15 BCARS, GR 1222 Box 27 File 2.Chapter 6 157teacher could be a woman with Grade 8 education until a qualified teacher could bearranged. Children were able to speak English, having been taught in Saskatchewanschools. Premier Pattullo, Minister Weir, and Deputy Willis were all involved incommissioning Stafford’s report. The detailed information on the names, ages and familycircumstances of each child indicate the government’s intent was to assist them inestablishing a school.On the broader scale, Willis dealt with complaints from parents that text bookswere changed too frequently. One of Willis’ working files contains a two- page draftdocument of a policy on school text books prepared in the Department of Education andstamped “received” in the Premier’s office on June 5, 1941. It concerned the cost of textbooks and referred to a committee appointed by former Education Minister Hinchliffe toexamine text books on British and Canadian history. That committee’s recommendation tointroduce new books was accepted, and they were prescribed in 1937 as part of the system-wide curriculum reform. It was later deemed that long-prescribed texts (some for morethan twenty years) should be replaced with more modern books. The public criticism thatchanges were too frequent was dealt with and defended with documentation on specificgrades, years and titles affected, to demonstrate that the changes were comparatively few innumber. The complaints likely reflected wartime mentality that nothing was to be wasted.Willis outlined the free text book policy in a Department circular:At the beginning of September 1934, the Department changed the policy of“giving” certain text books free to pupils and adopted the practice of sending thesebooks free to the schools on the “lending” plan. The saving from this changeenabled the Department to add one free text book to the list in 1934-35 and fourother books since that date. The Department spends upwards of $60,000 each yearin free issues to the public schools of the Province.’6The document compared prices with the other provinces where costs were about the same.16 BCARS, GR 1222 Box 27 File 2.Chapter 6 158The public at large was insisting on accountability and had developed a watchdogmentality about the cost of schooling. Special interest pressure groups became seriouscontenders for the government’s attention. Willis supported two organized groups, theRoman Catholic Church and the agriculturalists.Catholics had long sought provincial recognition and financial support for theirschools, in 1932 wanting exemption from municipal taxes on school properties. Their nextsignificant push came during the 1941 election campaign. Archbishop Duke had alreadywon the Minister’s support, but the government saw fit to deny their request, claiming thatCatholic schools were “profit-making businesses.”17 In March 1942, Perry prepared amemorandum to Willis on the subject of supplying health services to Catholic schools.Archbishop Duke had referred to a letter from Education Minister Weir written May 12,1941. A paragraph quoted from that letter states:Like yourself, I regard the question of public health services as being outside thefield of sectarian dispute and sectarian discrimination; ill health has never knownany denominational boundaries and our concern should be for the health of all thepeople and, particularly, all the children in our communities.Perry commented in this memorandum to Willis, and copied Premier Hart:He made a strong case it seemed to me for the extension of our medical inspectionto the Catholic schools. I think this is worthy of your sympathetic consideration asthe health of the children, notwithstanding they may be in Catholic schools, is asocial concern. I should like to discuss this matter with you to get a thoroughunderstanding of the situation, and with a view to seeing if appropriate action canbe taken.1817 Lorne W. Downey, “The Aid-To-Independent Schools Movement in British Columbia,”in Schools In The West: Essays in Canadian Educational History, eds. Nancy M. Sheehan,J. Donald Wilson, and David C. Jones (Calgary: Detselig Enterprises Limited, 1986), p.307. Funding of health services to Catholic schools was provided by the government in1951 after the Catholic Health Services offices closed.18 BCARS, GR 1222 Box 38 File 2.Chapter 6 159The request was rejected by the government during the 1941 election. Support from theMinister and Deputy in Education was not enough to sway the cabinet. Their stand wasthat Catholic schools were “private, profit-making businesses”19 and thereby ineligible forsupport. The government did not provide health services until a decade later in 1951, afterthe Catholic Health Services folded.Another board’s unsuccessful funding bid forced it to rely on its own resources.West Vancouver’s school board made application in March 1944 to the provincialgovernment for financing to support technical training for their local students at theVancouver Technical School. This request was denied, and the explanation offered bySuperintendent Willis was that “Such a departure from our usual practice would bedangerous. If it were given to West Vancouver it would have to be extended to otheroutside municipalities. “20The stalwart West Vancouver board believed that students with talent for technicalwork should not be denied training, and set about forming a committee to recommendpupils who would benefit. The board further proposed to assist those students by funding50% of the fees if parents were not able to afford the expense. Higher property values inthe district would have given the board a healthy budget and the latitude to carry out itsplan independently. Although there would not be any financial impact on the Department,one can well imagine that Willis would not have been amused at this blatant skirting of theDepartment’s authority.19 Lorne W. Downey, “The Aid-To-Independent Schools Movement in British Columbia,”p. 307.20 BCARS, GR 1222 Box 47 File 9.Chapter 6 160More special interest groups vied for Willis’ attention. Those who sought toinfluence school programs achieved some success. Willis chose the occasion of theopening of a new school wing at Esquimalt High School to comment on his expectationsfor the future in education. He anticipated the introduction of nursery schools and acomprehensive adult education programme. Immediate changes by the provincialgovernment in 1944 included an increase in appropriations for the purchase of textbooks tobe distributed free and an amendment to the School Act to provide for commencementexercises that would include a Bible reading and recitation of the Lord’s Prayer each thy 21In spite of these demands and economic uncertainties during the war, Willis never set asidehis concern for teachers.Teachers’ SalariesIn keeping with his longstanding support for better salaries for rural teachers, Williswrote to Minister Perry October 9, 1942, seeking a change in the Public Schools Act in theway salary grants for teachers were calculated. At the time, the system was based on thenumber of teachers regularly employed in October22 of the preceding year and the assessedvalue of property in the district for the calendar year 1935. Seven years later, propertyvalues had increased only slightly in rural areas but greatly so in towns and cities. It wasclear that the inequities should be reduced. Minister Perry agreed, and on October 29,1942 filed a memorandum with Premier Hart recommending a change to the PublicSchools Act “to enable our grants for salaries to be based on the 1942 assessment instead of1935. “2321 The Colonist, 30 April 1944, p. 13.22 The Ministry of Education has carried forth this practice of using October enrollmentstatistics (commonly called “The Hallowe’ en Report”) as the basis for calculating financialallotments to school districts, colleges and universities.23 BCARS, GR 1222 Box 38 File 2.Chapter 6 161On December 22 Perry again approached the Premier concerning salaries--thistime, on behalf of the provincial government school inspectors. He attached the brief theyhad prepared, supporting it with the comment, “I must confess that I feel these Inspectorshave a very good case, and that attention ought to have been given to this situation prior tothis year.”24 He also included a detailed recommendation set out by Willis containingspecific salary recommendations for each inspector. Willis valued his cadre of inspectorsand depended on them to deploy Departmental policies.Salaries continued to be a subject which Minister and Deputy were asked toconsider. On February 16, 1943 Perry and Willis met with a delegation requestingconsideration for higher salary grants for the Victoria School Board and an increased grantto Victoria College. Perry presented the two concerns to Premier Hart, attaching Willis’detailed memorandum concerning the requests. Willis recommended against special aid forVictoria City since that assistance was meant to alleviate fmancial problems in poordistricts whose school tax rates were high. “Victoria cannot successfully establish a claimfor special treatment, as the school rate is not high and the City Council has been able toreduce the overall tax rate regularly for several years.”25Next, the entire profession wanted salaries reviewed. The B.C. T. F. approached thegovernment on May 8, 1943 with instructions from their annual meeting concerningestablishment of provincial minimum salary scales. Perry responded to the B.C.T.F.request for cost of living bonuses, pointing out that teachers are employees of school24 Ibid.25 BCARS, GR 1222 Box 38 File 2.Chapter 6 162boards, not the provincial government.26 He believed it would set precedents that wouldinvite all civic employees to make representation for cost of living increases. Perrybelieved, however, that teachers in small rural districts should receive cost-of-livingbonuses. The annual increments requested by B.C.T.F. for five years were not deemedadequate by Perry who stated:The purpose of annual increments is to make the teaching profession attractive as acareer, and as an inducement to continue teaching. I do not think increments forfive years adequately meet that problem. . . .1 am in favour of making annualincrements for at least ten years •27Perry’s memorandum incorporated a six-page missive from Willis in the body of his reportto Premier Hart. Willis offered a general statement on costs in rural and city areas and adetailed analysis of how the grant structure for salaries should be built. Perry indicatedthat he favoured a uniform education rate to ensure fairer taxation and suggested that thefederal government be asked to allow education taxes to be taken as expenses againstincome. Again, this was but one of Willis’ attempts to improve teacher salaries. It wascarefully outlined and, as was his habit, included detail on how the scheme could befunded.On July 5, 1943 Perry again approached Premier Hart by letter, asking that theB.C.T.F. be advised of the government’s decisions regarding their requests. Perrysummarized his recommendations from the memorandum, those being:1. That the Government can not entertain the complete proposals submitted by theFederation for reasons of cost.2. That the Government considers that the cost-of-living bonuses to teachers be theresponsibility of school boards as employers.26 Perry prepared a thirteen-page document for the Premier which was sent to him June 12,1943 in preparation for a meeting with the B.C.T.F. on June 17, 1943.27 BCARS, GR 1222 Box 38 File 2.Chapter 6 1633. That the govermnent will establish minimum salaries for first year teachers at$900 per annum.4. That the government will establish teachers’ annual increments at $60.00 perannum for ten years.5. That the government is considering legislation to provide for a uniform rate oftaxation on real and personal property for education purposes, particularly in regardto rural schools and that districts be administered through large administrative unitsor consolidated areas.The following table points out the disparity in salaries which carried into the 1 940s.Average Monthly Salaries Paid to TeachersOver Ten Month Periods Each Year(Selected Years Before and After Establishment of Junior High Schools)YEAR CITIES MUNICIPALITIES RURAL DISTRICTS1930-31High Schools $243 $205 $178Elementary $154 $126 $1101933-34High Schools $161 $149 $155Elementary $113 $102 $ 891940-41High Schools $234 $166 $155Junior High $182 $130 $141Elementary $158 $110 $ 91194 1-42High Schools $236 $167 $158Junior High $193 $132 $140Elementary $161 $113 $91Source: A similar table was presented in Arthur Harold Skoirood, p. 137.Constructed from Annual Reports, Department of Education, British Columbia.Willis sent a further memorandum to the Premier’s secretary, Percy Richards, onJuly 5, 1944, noting that, in August 1943, $180,000 had been distributed to rural schoolChapter 6 164boards to provide better salaries during 1943-44. Willis then outlined a table of averagesalaries which had thereby been dramatically improved.To the end of his career, Willis championed improved teachers’ salaries. He caredabout this one issue more than any other and was especially anxious to help rural teacherswho were the most disadvantaged in rates of pay. On January 23, 1945 Willis sent amemorandum to Minister Perry regarding salaries for the 423 rural school teachers in thesystem. He recommended increments for subsequent years of teaching and a bonus of$100 for those rural elementary teachers holding an academic or equivalent certificate. Forschool principals, junior high school teachers and high school teachers in rural schools, heset out a schedule to cover salary and increments for the 203 teachers affected.A memorandum dated the following day offered further tables and calculationsconcerning the rural schools that had been figured over the seven months of the fiscal year1945-46. Willis divided his calculations into two proposals, indicating that he did notfavour the first, the difference being that the second version allowed for slightly highersalaries. Administratively, the second proposal was simpler because, as Willis pointed out,“The districts need not receive any more assistance if the provincial Government paid theincrements. Moreover it is an advance over any schedule in Canada.”28 January 25, 1945saw revisions suggested to his first proposal introduced and implemented.29Support for improved salaries came from the Department of Education at theUniversity of British Columbia. Dr. Maxwell A. Cameron expressed his views in thespring of 1944, just months prior to his appointment in November as sole Commissioner of28 BCARS, GR 1222 Box 47 File 9.29 Teachers negotiated a province-wide salary scale with the government in 1927.Chapter 6 165a study to inquire into the distribution of educational costs in British Columbia. Hisremarks forecast the recommendations he would eventually make in his 1945 report:Teachers’ salaries in most Canadian communities are insufficient to attract andretain an able and well-trained personnel. I consider a minimum salary of around$900 per year sufficient for an inexperienced normal school graduate without auniversity education, especially if normal school fees are small and bursaries areavailable. The minimum is not as important as a salary schedule with regularincrements based on training and experience which would assure prospectiveteachers of a reasonable standard of living and good opportunity for their childrenin rural areas. Improved administrative units are necessary for satisfyingprofessional work.3°On January 29, 1945 Willis sent a memorandum to Mr. J.V. Fisher, AssistantDeputy Minister of Finance, regarding rural school teachers’ salaries for 1945-46. Thismemorandum concerned bringing their salaries up to minimum amounts according to thenew schedules being considered. Willis suggested to him, “If the $180,000 vote for ruralschool teachers’ salaries were increased by 25% the new minimum salaries could bebrought into effect without placing any burden on the rural districts.”31 Unfortunately,rural schools experienced a shortfall in teaching staff during 1945, necessitating the closureof fifteen schools. Willis expected this situation would be relieved by servicemen whowere returning to the teaching profession.32The future looked brighter after Premier Hart’s negotiating skill with Ottawa wonan improved tax-sharing agreement. The terms of the formula he negotiated resulted in adoubling of the funds allocated to British Columbia from the levels preceding the SecondWorld War.333° B.C. Teacher, 23, 4 (April 1944): 260.31 BCARS, GR 1222 Box 47 File 9.32 The Times 2 August 1945, p. 5.S. W. Jackman, Portraits of the Premiers: An Informal History of British Columbia(Sidney: Gray’s Publishing Ltd., 1969), p. 239.Chapter 6 166Consolidation of School DistrictsLike Willis, Education Minister Perry was also a strong centralist when it came toeducational administration. He believed that all the rural school districts should befinanced and administered by the Department “in the interests of good education, improvedadministration, equitable taxation and sound financing.” In a memorandum to PremierJohn Hart, written in response to a B.C.T.F. brief, Perry contended that consolidatedschool districts “have proved their worth from an educational, administrative and financialview-point.” Perry also recognized this as an issue with strong political support:I am satisfied it would have a good effect in the country, and reflect credit on thisGovernment for taking the initiative on proposals that are not original with me, butwhich have been made the subject of various official reports and recommendationsto the Government by public bodies.34Consolidation came quickly. Inspector K.B. Woodward responded to Willis’instructions to investigate the possibility of uniting Trail, Tadanac and Rossland into oneschool district in a letter dated July 13, 1943. He reported that Trail-Tadanac andRossland had separate systems which were running efficiently. No interest in consolidationwould come from the former, but Rossland would be in favour because it would gainfinancially. The inspector attached a table outlining how taxation was presently collected,remarking that consolidation would require a revision in consequence of a common systemof taxation.35BCARS, GR 1222 Box 38 File 2. Memorandum dated June 12, 1943. B.C.T.F. briefdated May 8, 1943.3 BCARS, GR 1222 Box 38 File 2. Letter and attachments dated July 13, 1943.Chapter 6 167Education Minister Perry passed the response along to Premier Hart July 21, 1943,indicating consolidation would not be accomplished willingly by the municipalities. Perrystated, “Any consolidation would have to be done by arbitrary action on the part of theGovernment.”36Perry provided a copy of a report on rural education in British Columbia to thePremier on November 30, 1943. The report had been written by a committee of schoolinspectors following a two-week work-conference held during the summer. They, togetherwith “certain other Department officials,” reported on improvement of the rural schoolcurriculum, the selection and training of teachers, school buildings, and forms oforganization including larger administrative units and school consolidation. The 26-pagereport incorporated recommendations for improvement and concluded with a plea that thefinancial problem be resolved because:unless the financial problem can be solved the greater part of the foregoing reportmight as well never have been written, and we might as well abandon hope ofproviding for our rural children educational advantages more nearly equal to thoseenjoyed by urban pupils. More money, very much more money, must somehow befound for country schools.37The conclusion supported Willis? career-long beliefs. The Report poignantlyrecognized and formally brought those beliefs to the Premier? s attention. It was anemphatic plea to redress a situation tolerated for too long. Change was coming, in theform of recommendations authored by Maxwell Cameron. The school districts continuedto grow and eventually reached 650 by 1944 when Maxwell Cameron was appointed by theBritish Columbia government to conduct a one-man inquiry into the issues surroundingeducational organization and finance. He recommended grouping the 650 districts into 7436 BCARS, GR 1222 Box 38 File 2. Memorandum to Premier John Hart from MinisterH.G.T. Perry, dated July 21, 1943.BCARS, GR 1222 Box 38 File 2.Chapter 6 168much larger units. This was the single most dramatic organizational change whichoccurred in the Department during Willis? tenure. Consolidation was resisted out of fearfor increased taxes, and a hesitation to relinquish local control. Dunn accurately observedthat “most rural schools remained a curse to schoolmen struggling to centralize, standardizeand professionalize the system.”38The Vancouver School Board submitted a brief to Cameron on January 31, 1945,recommending that equitable distribution could be achieved through “the broadest possiblebasis of taxation, equitably and universally applied to support a broad and efficienteducational system.” Their submission was presented as an altruistic one, on behalf of thewhole province, not in the exclusive interests of Vancouver city. They submitted:This Board wishes it to be distinctly understood that nothing herein contained shallbe construed as suggesting or recommending that any basis of grants which may bedecided upon shall discriminate against the rural areas.This Board recognizes the problem of these rural areas and the necessity foradditional assistance whenever any new basis of grants fails to provide sufficientfunds to furnish adequate facilities for the pupils, and sufficient remuneration toattract competent teachers. Without equality of educational opportunity, we cannothope to create in this province a community of Canadian citizens working inharmony for the common good.39The government placed its hopes for a solution in the Cameron Report’s findings.Mindful of Cameron’s 1944 pronouncements, teachers must have anticipated that he woulddiscuss inequalities in schooling throughout the province. One historian recorded theproblem and solution in simple terms: “His aim was to equalize educational opportunitiesand this he realized could not be done without equalizing the chances for all areas to attract38 Timothy A. Dunn, “The Rise of Mass Public Schooling in British Columbia” inSchooling and Society in 20th Century British Columbia, eds. J. Donald Wilson and DavidC. Jones (Calgary: Detselig Enterprises Ltd., 1980), p. 32.Board of School Trustees of the City of Vancouver, Brief to Dr. Maxwell A. Cameron,January 31, 1945, City Archives, Vancouver, 56-F-3, File 4.Chapter 6 169good teachers. “40 Cameron’s approach in reorganizing the province involved creatingdistricts that included a major population centre. That centre was designated as the site ofthe secondary school for the district. Cameron recommended a restructuring to provide:1. That the administration of education through local school boards be retained.2. That a Provincial programme of education, defined in financial terms, be madeavailable throughout British Columbia by means of a grant system requiring equaltax rates on all property.3. That adequate local units or school districts be created wherever in the Provincethey do not already exist.41Cameron was known to the government. He had taken over Weir’s responsibilitiesat the University of British Columbia when Weir entered politics and, in his own right,Cameron was a recognized authority on educational finance. It was not unusual that thecabinet placed great trust in his recommendations. The government promised consolidationin its 1945 election campaign. Afterwards, implementation was swift, even precedingformal acceptance by the government during the 1946 session of the Legislature. Williswas actively involved:Carrying out its pre-election promise, the Government proceeded immediately toimplement the Report. The necessary legislation involving 120 amendments to thePublic Schools Act was prepared by Dr. S.J. Willis in his last year of office asSuperintendent of Education.42When Cameron, in 1945, examined the province-wide system of schooladministration, he ended up recommending that “the Province undertake a thorough reorganization of its school districts.”43 The new economies of scale realized by creating40 F. Henry Johnson, A History of Public Education in British Columbia (Vancouver:University of British Columbia Press, 1964), p. 244.41 Maxwell A. Cameron, Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Educational Finance(Victoria: King’s Printer, 1945), p. 39.42 Johnson, A History of Public Education in British Columbia, p. 131.Cameron, Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Educational Finance, p. 85.Chapter 6 170larger districts translated into fairness in distribution of tax load and more even availabilityof educational opportunities by creating areas “large enough to justifr a reasonablyadequate schooling from grades one to twelve.”44 The large areas would also offerteachers more opportunity for professional growth through association with coileagues andmore chances for advancement by dint of increased numbers of positions available in eachlarge unit.Willis’ last major work for the Department involved drafting amendments to thelegislation based on the Cameron Report recommendations adopted by the Legislature inthe 1946 session. It was, in fact, upon implementation of Cameron’s recommendationsthat rural teachers achieved salary levels which approximated those in urban areas.45Willis would have taken great satisfaction in seeing this through. Since the content of theCameron Report was in concert with Willis’ personal philosophy that there should be amore equitable sharing of the costs of schooling and thus a fairer pooling of educationalresources, it would have been Willis’ delight to produce the 120 Public School Actamendments required.Willis and the B.C.T.F.The issue of automatic membership in the B.C. T. F. was one of the last major issuesWillis dealt with while in office, although it was not resolved until after he retired. Theissue was that British Columbia and Nova Scotia were the only provinces in Canada whichIbid., p. 87.“ The Annual Report for 1943-44 indicated that rural high school teachers were paid$669.00 less and rural elementary school teachers $564.00 less than their colleagues incities.Chapter 6 171did not yet have legislation requiring automatic membership in their teachers’ professionalorganization.Negotiations between the B.C.T.F., which advocated compulsory membership, andthe Department, which did not believe in forcing teachers to join the B.C.T.F., carried on.In the end, dissenting opinions on both sides were overruled by George Weir who wasonce again Education Minister. His support tipped the balance as he carried theB.C. T. F. ‘s Central Executive’s bid for compulsory membership to his caucus colleagues.Legislation was passed in 1947 to grant automatic membership to all teachers in theprovince. Bernard Gillie was B.C. T. F. President during the debate, 1945-46, and recalledthat:It was because of Dr. Weir and his influence that we got automatic membership.He was very much in favour, I can remember. We put on a lobbying campaignwith the cabinet ministers here in Victoria. Weir helped us. He was quiteoutspoken in his support, and Willis kept very much to the background, at thattime. We saw Willis when we went down to the Department from time to time.He was always friendly, but I would say he was taking his signals from Weir.Weir was a very strong Minister.Gillie detected that Willis’ sympathies were in support of the B.C. T. F. ‘s desire forcompulsory membership, but as Deputy Minister his concern was with its implementationand public reception:That was generally Willis’ style, but he was particularly careful with his dealingswith the B.C. T. F. because of the fact we were asking for automatic membership --which was, of course, immediately equated in the public with the idea of unionismand the rest of it. I think that he felt very cautious about that. To the best of myknowledge, I think he felt that basically, in principle, this was a good idea, but tosell it to the general public and the school boards was going to be very difficult.4646 Interview May 24, 1991 by Valerie Giles with Bernard Gillie.Chapter 6 172At any rate, Willis retired in 1945, and among the teachers only twelve chose to object andwrote themselves out of the Federation.47ACCEPTING PROGRESSIVISMAgainst a background of external threats to peace and security, the provincialgovernment’s plans to promote Progressive education were hampered even further.Introduction and acceptance of Progressive innovations was dramatically interrupted by theSecond World War. Johnson described the disruption of progress in teacher training bydeclaring “hopes of providing a slightly better quality of teacher for the elementary schoolswas rapidly changed” by the war. Public forces such as concern for discipline and a shiftback to conservative thinking dislodged the gains made by educational innovators in thetwo previous decades •48 Traditional teaching methods, still easier and more familiar to theteaching force, became more valued than the newer techniques. The war years worsenedthe shortage of equipment and supplies. Resources became even poorer for project,laboratory and library materials. Large class sizes, made necessary by the shortage ofteachers, further confounded the hope of providing individual training to students.49Since many experienced teachers were employed in city centres, a good assessmentof the impact of Progressive education can be derived from the Vancouver district.Attempts at implementation were most likely to occur where teachers had the mostexperience and were more closely supervised. Sutherland researched recollections ofschooling from students who attended in that era. He found that interview subjectsremembered a fonnal school atmosphere featuring strict discipline. Sutherland concluded‘ Johnson, A History of Public Education in British Columbia, p. 250.‘ Ibid., p. 214.Chapter 6 173that teachers lacked enough appropriate training to adapt and instead clung to familiar,traditional teaching methods •50Instead of wholesale change in schooling, what happened in the classroom wasmore pragmatic than Progressive. Teachers’ beliefs and attitudes were shaped more bywhat had gone before than by what could be. One very real impediment to widespreadacceptance of change was the perception that lack of structure and promotion ofindividualism were American notions. In traditional British homes, things American wereregarded as vulgar, and in the early decades of this century, families of British descentdominated the political and business elite in British Columbia.51Nevertheless, as mentioned in an earlier discussion of borrowed traditions,52Canadian educators were influenced by American practice.53 American conferences wereattended by Canadian administrators, and the B.C. Teacher frequently featured reportsabout and reprinted articles concerning the American system. In fact, Canadian schoolsdepended on the American system for textbooks and educational literature because theCanadian publishing industry was young and limited. Also, more opportunities forgraduate work in education existed in United States universities, so those teachers seekinghigher degrees were likely to come under American influence.50 Neil Sutherland, “The Triumph of ‘Formalism’: Elementary Schooling in VancouverFrom the 1920s to the 1960s,” BC Studies 69-70 (Spring-Summer 1986): 175-210.51 Jean Barman, Growing Up British in British Columbia: Boys in Private School(Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1984), p. 93. “If Britain was the ideal,the United States was anathema.”52 See Chapter 2.Robert S. Patterson, “The Canadian Response to Progressive Education” in Essays onCanadian Education, eds. N. Kach et al. (Calgary: Detselig, 1986). Patterson claims thatCanadians not only looked to the Americans for leadership but depended on the Americansystem for expertise in educational reform.Chapter 6 174A Canadian teacher produced a retrospective “Has Progressive Education Failed?”in the late 1940s. He decried the vagueness about what Progressive education was allabout and offered some straightforward reasons for changing the teaching system’s goalfrom its most basic aim -- getting pupils to pass examinations. He argued that “crammingfor exams was not real education,” pointing out that teaching to university standardsaffected only the few who would go on to higher studies. Progressive education therebybecame what was needed to satisfy a reasonable quest. “Why not broaden the educationsystem to meet the needs of pupils rather than the standards set for university entrance?”54Other historians suggested that there were even more expansive purposes to educationwhich included character development and good citizenship.55Progressivism’ s notions of business-like efficiency and organization did make animpact on school administration. Putman and Weir had recommended creation of juniorand senior high schools. As prominent educators in influential positions, the force of theiropinions added weight to their advocacy. And, as Johnson observed, “The fact that Weirlater entered the political arena and became Minister of Education ensured that theProgressive influence would be a lasting one.”56 Except for the intervention of the war,this would have been true. Certainly for the period Weir headed the Department, he wasable to exert his style of Progressive leadership. Promotion of Progressivism became adominant aspect of Willis’ administrative career. His function was, after all, to overseeimplementation of Progressive policies and practices in the school system. Most of the54 S.O. Harries, “Has Progressive Education Failed?,” B.C. Teacher 27, 4 (January1948): 146.Patterson, “The Canadian Response to Progressive Education,” p. 63.56 F. Henry Johnson, A Brief History of Canadian Education (Toronto: McGraw-HillCompany of Canada Limited, 1968), p. 134.Chapter 6 175time he would have found himself in agreement, such as when the junior high schools werecreated. Willis was himself a strong promoter of junior high schools. In addressing theNelson school trustees in December 1927, Willis declared his support for junior highschools and stated that children’s abilities and readiness to learn were paramount. “Theobject of a junior high school was to fit the curriculum to the child, not to fit the child tothe curriculum.”57What was really accomplished through educational progressivism? The imperativesof modernity and the advance of technology would eventually have influenced and changedthe course of studies in schools. However, these were not compelling forces in BritishColumbia’s largely rural school system of the 1 920s. What, then, were the early attemptsat Progressivism really about? There is evidence that the true aim was to create goodcitizens. This meant encouraging students to take on civic responsibilities, patriotism andfuture leadership for the bettennent of society. Tomkins observed that “patriotism andmorality as the oldest goals of the Canadian curriculum remained central aims during theera of the New Education.”58 It also involved espousing British notions of Empire andfealty to the King. J.H. Putman, as one of the movement’s most prominent advocates andauthors, believed in British values and that society could be changed through promotingthem in the schools.595 BCARS, File GR 0467, Vol. 2 (1920-193 1), p. 100. The report was originallypublished in the Nelson News.58 George S. Tomkins, A Common Countenance: Stability and Change in the CanadianCurriculum (Scarborough: Prentice-Hall, 1986), p. 143.Robert MacDonald, “Review of B. Anne Wood, Idealism Transformed: The Making ofA Progressive Educator (Kingston and Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press,1985),” Canadian Journal of Education 12, 3 (1987): 446.Chapter 6 176Willis himself subscribed to British ideals of patriotism to England and Empire. Hewas fiercely proud to be of British descent and believed that students should develop“loyalty, integrity, a deep sense of duty, consideration for your fellow man, and a wealthof tradition that has made the British Empire what it is today.” In the same address helauded the “courage and determination that was characteristic of the British race.”6°By Willis’ last five years in office, he was highly practiced in his role. He hadexperienced a lessening of authority with Weir as Minister, but was still the eminence griseof the Department. Changing political fortunes brought him a fourth Minister to serve forthe last years of his career. Coping with wartime shortages of personnel and more scarcesupplies, Willis recommended and implemented policies respecting treatment of Japaneseschool children, release of students to participate in family crop harvests, introduction ofBible study and patriotic exercises, influx of immigrants, and the beginnings of organizedlobby groups. Throughout the war years, Willis kept up his quest to improve ruralteachers’ salaries. It became a major preoccupation of his last year in office. Assistancewas eventually secured after province-wide consolidation was achieved following theCameron Report recommendations. Willis spent the last year of service putting thelegislation in place.60 The Daily Colonist, 9 May 1934, pp. 3-4. Excerpts are from an address at VictoriaHigh School.177Chapter 7Leaving Office: The Willis LegacyIt is a good and grandjob you have done.1CIRCUMSTANCES AT RETIREMENTUpon his retirement, Willis could look back on a well-regarded career. He had thesatisfaction of seeing in place a workable education system that would serve the provinceunchanged for three more decades. Eventually, legislation passed in 1973 provided forlocal control of school boards. This was the first major change in the structure ofeducational management in British Columbia since the Department was created in 1920.Education Minister Perry announced the joint retirement of S.J. Willis and H.B.King (Chief Inspector of Schools) on August 30th, 1945. Col. F.T. Fairey, then Directorof Technical Education, succeeded Willis. In praising Willis, the Education Minister said:No words of mine adequately can express my appreciation of the staunch serviceand devotion to public duty rendered by Dr. Willis during his quarter of a centuryas head of the department of education.His high scholastic standing is recognized not only in this province but throughoutthe Dominion. Now the war is over it will be the policy of the educationdepartment to retire these officials who have reached superannuation age, but whohave carried on owing to the shortage of experienced educationists in order thatopportunities for advancement may be opened in the teaching profession.2Willis’ 26-year career with the Department even became the subject of an editorialin The Colonist under the heading, “Noted Educationist”:1 The Colonist, 9 November 1945, p. 11. Remark made by Education Minister H.G.Perry upon presentation of retirement gifts to Dr. Willis, November 8, 1945.2 The Times, 2 August 1945, p. 5.Chapter 7 178The retirement of Dr. S. J. Willis, Deputy Minister and Superintendent ofEducation in British Columbia, at his own request, will round out one of the longestand most distinguished educational careers in the history of this Province since theinception of the Department itself. Dr. Willis became its first Deputy Minister, andfor years before that was a noted figure in Canadian educational circles...His elevation in his chosen profession was rapid, and was the result of brilliantscholastic attainments coupled with organizing ability and a successful and facilemanner in dealing with superiors and subordinates alike. Students respected himfor his fairness, and admired him for his kindly and even-tempered way...Often cited as the Civil Servant without peer, Dr. Willis was considerably morethan that. He shepherded many an Administration past the shoals of decision andindecision, and brought about incalculable benefits in the educational system of thisProvince.3Willis retired September 30, 1945, and, in November, Perry made presentations ofgifts and further commended him:I do not know anyone in the province who has done more to improve the culturallife of the province than Dr. Willis. It is a good and grand job you have done. Noone in British Columbia had done more to advance education.4The British Columbia education system had been a comfortable one for Willis,throughout the twenty-six years he directed it. Prepared for the job through traditionalcareer progression, and hand-picked when appointed, Willis was a creature of the systemhe was to head. As one of the most powerful schoolmen in the province, Willis no doubtwas aware generally of day-to-day Department operations. It would not be realistic toexpect that every petition or concern presented would have received his attention.During the time of Willis’ career, effective administration was dictatorial in thesense that one did not consult endlessly with others. An administrator merely got on withthe job. Although he did occasionally consult with the profession, he earned their respectThe Colonist, 1 September 1945, p. 4.The Colonist, 9 November 1945, p. 11.Chapter 7 179from a long history of fair and sound decision-making. This is reflected in correspondencewith teachers and written communications between himself and his Ministers. In thecontext of 1920s management, this connoted an ability to take decisive action, and work inthe best interests of all concerned. Above all, it meant upholding the dignity and integrityof the Department. One former B.C. T. F. President, Bernard Gillie, recalled that Williswas never dictatorial in a harsh sense. He accomplished his work and took initiatives veryquietly, all the while carefully shunning publicity.5 Willis was keenly aware that his rolewas to support the Minister, not to assume his mantle.Willis maintained an aloof demeanor. It was as if he played out a role, drawingabout him an air of authority and detachment. Gillie remembers that the Superintendent’sphysical characteristics and even the arrangement of his office created such an impression:His appearance lent weight to that attitude of apparent austerity. He had very coldblue eyes, unsmiling. When you walked in and sat down, I can remember so well,you recognized just from his appearance that. . .he was not very sympathetic. Thatwasn’t actually true, he was, but he covered it. There was a warm and human sideto the man but it didn’t show up very much in public.6Willis’ office was designed to appear intimidating. In a large room, he had a few chairsarranged around a long dining-room style table. Willis would sit at one end and have hisvisitor take the seat opposite at the far end. The arrangement created both physical andemotional distance. When former New Westminster Inspector of Schools Stewart Grahamrecounted the time he worked in the Parliament Buildings in Victoria, he recalled beingsummoned to an audience with Willis:J. B. DeLong said to me “Dr. Willis would like to have tea with you.” That waslike an audience with the Pope! Dr. Willis had tea every afternoon and nothingcould interfere. He used to, most frequently, have I. L. Watson (Registrar) but youInterview May 24, 1991 by Valerie Giles with Dr. Bernard Gillie.6 Ibid.Chapter 7 180were anointed if you were invited for tea. And he never had a group in. Nevermore than two, three at the most. So, I was taken in and met Dr. Willis .‘All the while appearing to be detached, Willis could take action to bring aboutexceptional treatment, thus revealing himself as a humane administrator. He had thepower to precipitate special arrangement or Department action. Within a few weeks of hisretirement, Willis demonstrated this characteristic initiative. He approached the Premier’ssecretary, Percy Richards, on September 10, 1945 concerning twelve veterans who werestudying to become Industrial Arts teachers. As part of their training, it was required thatthey study Educational Psychology and Principles and Technique of Teaching. Willisasked whether two Normal school instructors could be made available to teach the subjectsduring late afternoon after Normal school classes. Veterans’ Affairs was willing to pay thegovernment for the training. The specific request from Willis to the Premier was to beassured that he would agree to payment of the normal school instructors to give theadditional courses. The next day, a memo was sent to Willis indicating that the Premierapproved of Willis’ recommendation.Willis may not have been comfortable in retirement because he began quickly to puthis attention and energy into other work. In the first month he took on responsibility asChairman of the Victoria College Council at its inaugural meeting.8 Then, Willis acceptedanother task two months later -- an appointment from the Victoria City Council to itsLibrary Board for a two year term.9Interview 31 July, 1991 by Valerie Giles with Stewart Graham in New Westminster.8 The Colonist, 21 December 1945, p. 7.The Times, 1 February 1946, p. 13.Chapter 7 181The former Deputy Minister’s health began to fail in April 1946. He was reportedto be in “fairly good” condition as a patient in St. Joseph’s Hospital.’°In August, another distinction for Willis was announced. The University of BritishColumbia’s President Norman (Larry) MacKenzie told the media that Willis would receivean honorary Doctor of Laws at the fall congregation.1’The Colonist responded again withan editorial to mark the occasion of this honorary degree to Willis:Dr. Willis showed himself to be one of the best friends of education in Canada. Hehas advanced many a cause to the point where governmental policy has followed.He has helped innumerable communities with an understanding ear, and what ismore with the courage that comes from conviction. To all, whether of high orhumble degree, he has given distinguished public service. Helping still as arespected member of the Victoria Library Commission, to Dr. Willis will go thehearty and sincere congratulations of this community upon a distinction that hasbeen gracefully and abundantly earned.12The News Herald also acknowledged his policy contributions with the comment, “Throughhis guidance many features of the present Schools Act were passed by the Legislature.”3On February 23, 1947, a reception bringing together 130 ex-students and exteachers of students spanning three generations was organized in Victoria to honor Dr. andMrs. Willis. The event was covered extensively in all the provincial papers. The VictoriaTimes responded with an editorial declaration:The tributes paid by former students and colleagues to Dr. S. J. Willis at thereception accorded the retired Superintendent of Education and Mrs. Willis this10 The Colonist, 24 April 1946, p. 3.11 The Times, 29 August 1946, p. 3. The degree was awarded October 30, 1946.12 The Colonist, 30 August 1946, p. 4.13 The News Herald, 30 August 1946, p. 3. This reference would be to the Public SchoolAmendments Willis made as a result of the Cameron Report.Chapter 7 182week are eloquent testimony of the esteem in which this distinguished citizen is heldby Victorians and others who have come under his influence and have later madetheir marks in distant fields. It is particularly fitting, too, that this recognitionshould be accorded to a man who has for many years exemplified the high type ofscholarship and the values of a liberal education in which the world stands in suchneed today.Dr. Willis is of that coterie of men who have been an important influence oneducation in this province. Under the changing systems required by the times, hehas helped to preserve that basic spirit which inspires true scholarship, whichextends to the affairs of daily living the strength that comes of understanding thehumanities. But not only a distinguished figure in a particular field was honored atthe reception. Through him an ideal claimed the respect of those who appreciate it.That their numbers were considerable and the sincerity of their expressionsunquestioned is evidence of the healthy fibre present in British Columbia’seducational world. 14Two months later, on April 24, 1947, after enjoying a short retirement, Willissuccumbed to stomach cancer. With his passing, a long chapter of educational history wasfinished. That event occasioned a period of reflection on the events of Willis’ long career.Retrospectives of the man and his career were written. 15 The funeral, described in Chapter1, was as formal and lengthy as if for a statesman. It was a major event, and, like allfunerals, evoked a sense of loss and sensitivity about one’s own mortality in everyone whoattended.After the funeral service, an elderly man made his way to the front of the church.He walked haltingly and it took him some time to reach the end of the long aisle. In hishand he carried flowers picked from his own garden. He stood quietly for a moment, andthen reached out to leave this little bouquet on the casket. The man was AlexanderRobinson.16 His respect for the deceased was strong enough to overcome the memory ofbeing fired by Willis for administrative incompetence twenty-four years earlier. 1714 The Times, 27 February 1947, p. 4.15 These have been excerpted and appear in the introduction of Chapter 1.16 Observed by Stewart I. Graham as one of the most vibrant memories concerning hiscareer with the Department. The event was recalled in an interview with Valerie Giles onChapter 7 183Apparently, the 84-year old Robinson had put aside the career setback Willis dealthim in 1921. In the early years of his succession as Superintendent, Willis responded tothe Victoria School Board’s request to investigate the management of Victoria HighSchool. Willis found Robinson incompetent to carry out his duties as Principal and askedfor his resignation. When he refused, he was fired. Robinson then reverted fromadministration to the teaching ranks for the rest of his career. 18The respect of one for the other had a firm foundation. Robinson’s priorities wererecalled when he died in 1952, and his career was eulogized:He had power and exercised it and he made the school system of the province prettymuch in his own image. It was a good image at that, for, though he was aschoolmaster of the old school with an abiding faith in Greek and Latin as thefoundation of a liberal education, he knew the needs of a pioneering people and adeveloping country and worked to satisfy them)9Fleming’s description20 of Robinson’s origins and career path bears striking resemblancesto the man who succeeded him. Willis was also a Maritimer, who, like Robinson, hadacademic distinctions for university scholarship, a brief teaching career in eastern Canada,July 31, 1991. Graham said “That just shook me. . . (but) I took a charitable view of it.Because I knew Alexander Robinson, I thought he was just making amends if amends werenecessary.”17 Technically, the Victoria School Board fired Robinson, but they could do so only withan authorization of incompetence from the Council of Public Instruction, of which Willis,as Deputy Minister, served as Secretary.18 Peter Lawson Smith. Come Give a Cheer: One Hundred Years of Victoria High School,1876-1976 (Victoria: Victoria High School Centennial Celebrations Committee, 1976), p.73. Robinson was asked to resign on June 12, 1921 after Willis’ report had been receivedby the Victoria School Board. The Board formally dismissed him on July 28, 1921.19 The Vancouver Province, 21 April 1952, p. 4. Column written by D.A. McGregor.20 Thomas Fleming, “Letters from Headquarters: Alexander Robinson and the BritishColumbia Education Office, 1899-1919”, unpublished article, University of Victoria,1992.Chapter 7 184and had migrated to British Columbia where each served as a high school principal.Robinson had a commanding presence and strong sense of practicality and professionalism,as did Willis.Willis understood his role, performed it “properly”, and generally did what a “gooddeputy minister should do.” He set what he considered should be the tone for professionalconduct and was adamant about the importance of upholding the dignity of the Department.As one inspector related, “We were taught how to behave as a civil servant. We were ‘HisMajesty’s loyal servants’. “21On the other hand, Willis was universally competent and successful. Hiscurriculum review, for instance, was a noble undertaking, but met with the same obstaclesthat confounded the North American implementation of progressivism. There wereobvious practical reasons that the new curriculum did not become a profoundly acceptedfeature of life in every classroom. For one, in the Depression, at least some ex-teachershad returned to the classrooms chiefly to earn money. They were not skilled in the ideasand practices of “new education” or its more flexible curricula. Normal schools didn’thelp the cause very much with newly-trained teachers because their instructors lackedProgressive-style training themselves. Fifteen years earlier, Commissioners Putman andWeir had assessed the normal school curriculum as traditional and recommended that it berevised to include modern educational psychology and emphasis on tests andmeasurements.22 There were no dramatic differences at the outbreak of war. Johnson also21 Interview July 31, 1991 by Valerie Giles with former Inspector Stewart J. Graham inNew Westminster.22 British Columbia. Education Survey Commission. Survey of the School System,Chairmen, J.H. Putman and G.M. Weir. (Victoria: King’s Printer, 1925), pp.. 227-230.Chapter 7 185recorded that “Changes in the curriculum of the normal schools came very gradually.”23Perhaps a contributing factor was the attitude of student teachers themselves. They wanteda predictable curriculum and, as Tomkins noted, “Inevitably graduates taught strictly bythe curriculum, treating the course of study as a Bible.”24THE OFFICE OF DEPUTY MINISTERIn order to illuminate the office of the Deputy Minister, this thesis emphasized thecareer of one deputy, the longest-serving Superintendent/Deputy Minister in the Province’shistory. Written records and recollections of colleagues reveal the thoughts and actions ofthe man who developed a reputation for being thoughtful, thorough, fastidious in workhabits, and with a passionate sense of fairness.Willis helped define the Department and its function through two and one-halfdecades in the first half of this century. How he accomplished this is revealed throughhistorical records and the recollections of those who knew him. Although some pieces ofthe puzzle are missing, indications of his influence exist in partial records. By documentedexamples and inference, it is possible to argue that his influence was considerable and hisimpact was lasting. Indeed, it is precisely because Willis was so effective as DeputyMinister that the effort to record his trail is so difficult. He knew how to protect himselfby leaving only limited evidence of his role in some of the controversial Departmentactivities.23 F. Henry Johnson, A History of Public Education in British Columbia (Vancouver:University of British Columbia Press, 1964), pp. 211, 213.24 George S. Tomkins, A Common Countenance: Stability and Change in the CanadianCurriculum (Scarborough: Prentice-Hall Canada Inc., 1986), p. 245.Chapter 7 186Willis earned respect while insisting that others follow his plans. One example ofthis is in a B.C.T.F. report on a meeting with Willis in 1926. The Secretary recorded:He explicitly refused to establish the principle of always consulting the teachersbefore making amendments to the Public Schools Act, though he assured usrepresentations made by teachers would always receive a sympathetic hearing.”25Willis’ bureaucratic legacy contains some lessons useful to high officials mired intheir own bureaucratic politics. When issues of public policy become subject to bargainingand positioning by people inside government, the result may be a lengthened periodbetween generation of the idea and implementation of policy. More attention is paid to thetactics of getting policies approved and the means of managing their implementation ratherthan to their substance. Attention is deflected away from the overall political implicationsof government action. A case can be made that less consultation, not more, would beproductive. An historical example is how the site for the future University of Victoria waschosen in the 1950s. Education Minister Ray Williston approached Minister of DefenceGeorge Pearkes to have the desired site transferred from the federal to provincialgovernment. He recalled:We asked him to give us the Gordon Head property so we could turn it over to theUniversity. Just like that. Not umpteen committees. No briefs, no nothing. Hehad autonomy in his department in Ottawa, so he went back and arranged thetransfer.26The tasks of educational management have changed because of the rising power andproliferation of lobby groups. During almost all of Willis’ career, there were really nolobby groups. Representations to the Department were diplomatic occasions involving anexchange of information in a conversational setting, among professionals. Modern lobby25 B.C.T.F. Archives and Records, Executive Meeting Minutes, 13 March 1926, p. 7.26 Interview May 10, 1982, by Valerie Giles, with Hon. Ray Williston.Chapter 7 187groups tend to be more issue-oriented and interested in rallying support amongst the publicand in the media rather than in a direct meeting. The reason for this is most likely becauseit results in quicker bureaucratic response to issues. Overall, contemporary officials wouldbenefit from insights into how bureaucratic politics and interest group impact can becontained within the policy development process. An example of such 1940s diplomacyincludes the deals made after the Cameron Commission consolidation by some smallerschool districts which wanted to preserve autonomy. Summerland wanted to remain apartfrom Penticton, and Mission from Abbotsford. Each was quietly arranged withoutextended consultation.27 They were quickly made decisions that became lastingarrangements 28When Willis came to the Superintendency, there was a government-wide movementtowards establishing centralization of authority and putting a bureaucracy in place tocontrol it. Central authorities gained prominence in 1920 with the creation of a distinctDepartment of Education. Thereafter, the bureaucrats, chief of whom was Willis, not onlydefined the nature of public education but also assumed the primary role in policy making.Willis also helped define the role of Superintendent and Deputy Minister.According to British tradition, dating from the civil service in Queen Victoria’s reign, civilservants are meant to be non-political, in the sense that they are not elected and do not takean active role in party politics or public controversy. This does not mean that they are notpolitical beings, nor insensitive to issues. Rather, while civil servants are engaged inpolicy making, they are encouraged or required to maintain a low profile and allow the27 Recalled by Norman Robinson, then a teacher in the field, who was aware of thesenegotiations.28 Summerland and Mission were never required to amalgamate with their largerneighbours and remain independent school districts.Chapter 7 188elected office holders to speak out. As Rose concluded from his research about BritishCivil servants:Because politics is about policy making and higher civil servants are concerned withpolicy making (not mere administration), they inevitably have a political status.andThe higher one rises in the civil service, the more remote an individual becomesfrom the everyday administration of British government, and even more attention isgiven to advising and discussing policy in the more general sense •29The object is to maintain a veneer of impartiality as civil servants before the public.Another important function of the Deputy Minister role is to maintain the history ofthe Department and to be able to call up an institutional memory of what has gone onbefore. As the permanent and long-serving civil servant, the Deputy Minister had anopportunity to do so, and the responsibility to pass such knowledge on to a series ofMinisters. Willis well understood that the objective was to develop a departmentalviewpoint as opposed to a personal one.In functioning as Superintendent, Willis had to preside over changes that would nothave been his choice, but were the temper of the times. From the province’s beginning in1872 up until 1925, the curriculum taught in British Columbia and the textbooks usedunderwent a shift from emphasis on Christian beliefs as Ryerson might have understoodthem to a secular approach. What replaced the Christian theme was a loyalty to Britainand her Empire.29 Richard Rose, “The Political Status of Higher Civil Servants in Britain,”, in Bureaucratsand Policymaking: A Comparative Overview, ed. Ezra N. Suleiman (New York: Holmes& Meier, 1984), p. 139.Chapter 7 189During the first three-quarters of this century, civil servants at provincial andfederal levels functioned in a departmental system headed by a Minister who was politicaland non-permanent with a deputy who was non-political and permanent. The system inBritish Columbia would change dramatically under the leadership of the first NewDemocratic Party government of 1972 to 1975, which turned the appointment of DeputyMinisters away from being a career civil servant position to become part of the baggage ofpolitical appointments. The last Deputy in British Columbia’s education system to comeup through the ranks was Johann (Jo) Phillipson. He had been appointed by EducationMinister Donald Brothers during the last years of the Social Credit government underW.A.C. Bennett. The subtle changes were afoot as early as 1970-7 1 when Phillipsonbecame Deputy. Until that year, all the Department’s annual reports were addressed to theMinister and were signed by the Deputy Minister with “I have the honour to be, Sir, yourobedient servant.” This rather formal and obsequious closing continued in use until theend of Superintendent Frank Levirs’ service from 1965 to 1970. After Phillipson becameDeputy, no closing was used whatsoever. This abandonment of formality reflected thespirit of the times with its more egalitarian approach, but it also acknowledged that DeputyMinisters were less the “faithful servant” of the past, and were more politically visible andsignificant as entities in their own right. Phillipson once made the point that it wasimportant for a Deputy to be decisive, to make good decisions expeditiously and get onwith the job 30 The lack of ability to do just that cost Frank Levirs the job, when MinisterBrothers passed him over to appoint Phillipson as Deputy Minister in 1970. The evolutionof the position into a more political one would not have sat comfortably with Willis.However, Willis fulfilled the dictum that the Deputy be decisive.Our political system assigns responsibility:3° Interview January 26, 1984 by Ed Carlin, with Johann Phillipson. Tape and transcriptin Valerie Giles’ possession.Chapter 7 190within the context of cabinet government individual ministers are responsible foridentifying issues of future concern and for planning the development of policyresponses for matters falling within the mandate of their particular departments.3’Public servants are able to exert authority by virtue of their managerial activities on a day-to-day basis. They are also able to make consultations and conduct research to enhance orsupport their decisions.In British Columbia, the first formal study of the Deputy Minister role was notconducted until the late 1960s. Rousseau examined the role of Deputy Ministers ofEducation in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Rousseau found thatthe Deputy takes responsibility for internal administration and supervision in theDepartment of Education. Additionally, “the Deputy Minister exercises many of thepowers and performs many of the duties designated by legislative prescription to theMinister.” Rousseau defined the Deputy’s duties as “advising, conferring, consulting, coordinating, directing, encouraging, influencing, and warning.”32The role of the Deputy Minister in the federal government was commented upon byone historian, who concluded that “civil servants of the higher ranks are interested in whatthey are doing, and many of them, perhaps most, in power.”33 The quest for power andthe attendant authority and influence it brings is well associated with incumbents of theDeputy Minister position. That Willis survived a 26-year career is a tribute to his ability tomanage and use, yet not abuse, the power accorded his position.31 Privy Council Office, “Policy Planning and Support for Ministerial Decision-Making inCanada,” cited in Apex of Power: The Prime Minister and Political Leadership in Canada,ed. Thomas A. Hockin (Scarborough: Prentice-Hall of Canada Ltd., 1977), p. 48.32 Joseph G. Rousseau, Jr., “Some Aspects of the Role of Selected Deputy Ministers ofEducation” M. Ed. thesis, University of Alberta, 1968, p. 169.Arthur Lower, quoted in J.L. Granatstein, The Ottawa Men: The Civil ServiceMandarins 1935 - 1957 (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1982), p. xii.191BIBLIoGRAPHYManuscript SourcesBowron, Lottie. Daily Journal, (1934), Manuscript, British Columbia Archives andRecords Service, Victoria.British Columbia Archives and Records Service. Additional manuscripts. (IncludingPremiers’ papers and Teachers’ Bureau Records).British Columbia Teachers’ Federation. “Brief of the British Columbia Teachers’Federation to the Government of the Province of British Columbia Re: AutomaticMembership.” Vancouver, January 10, 1947. City Archives 58-A-i, File 24.British Columbia Teachers’ Federation. Minutes. B.C.T.F., Vancouver.British Columbia Teachers’ Federation. Minutes, Executive Committee. 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Pattullo as a Party Leader.” M.A. thesis, University ofBritish Columbia, 1960.Woodrow, J. “Authority and Power in the Governance of Public Education: A Study ofthe Administrative Structures of the British Columbia Education System.”Ed.D. thesis, University of British Columbia, 1974.


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