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The federal government and education : Canadian and American perspectives Andrews, Bruce Alfred

Abstract

This study compares the development of the role of the federal government in education in Canada and the United States during the period 1867 to 1970. It identifies the nature of federal participation in the field in both countries during the period, and through comparison, the similarities and differences existent between the two federal systems in terms of the federal educational role. The study gives a useful and needed perspective on federal involvement in education during a time when domestic conditions in both countries prompted the development of a stronger federal educational presence. The works of three scholars contributed to the conceptual development of the study. Brian Holmes suggestions on the use of the problem approach in comparative education provided an analytical framework for the comparative aspects of the inquiry, while the descriptive works of J.C. Miller and C.A. Quattlebaum on the federal role in Canada and the United States respectively, furnished useful suggestions for the organizational approach adopted. The information and data required for the study was obtained from a variety of sources. Primary source material was obtained from federal legislation, regulations, and reports of the various federal departments and agencies in both countries. In addition, special reports and monographs were utilized to gain more detailed information on specific aspects of various federal education programs. These sources were supplemented by secondary material dealing with the economic, social, and political background to the evolving federal role in the field, particularly insofar as the nature and evolution of both federal systems was concerned. In this study, education is defined as a formal process where instruction is given and/or learning takes place within the confines or under the jurisdiction of a recognized educational institution. Within this definition the material is presented in accordance with two major classifications of federal educational activity, those programs developed under federal constitutional obligations and those developed in areas normally outside of federal jurisdiction. For convenience, the latter programs are treated under three categories, elementary/secondary, post secondary, and vocational/professional education. Three important postulates are advanced through this inquiry. Dealing with both federal systems, the study suggests that by 1970, the federal educational presence was such that a "third partner" had emerged in the conduct of education in both countries, alongside the traditional state/ provincial and municipal/county governments. At the same time the study suggests that the nature of the federal educational presence in both countries was quite different though often prompted by similar conditions. In terms of the federal educational presence in areas under federal jurisdiction, the study suggests that the Canadian government tended to adopt a paternalistic approach towards such educational programs. The American government tended to encourage the development of self-sustaining programs and was accordingly less paternalistic in approach. At the same time, it is demonstrated that in both countries federal recognition, development, and implementation of educational programs under this classification was a slow and often reluctant process. Where federal educational programs overlapped with those of other levels of government, there were also marked differences in the approaches taken in both countries. The study demonstrates that for constitutional, political, and other reasons, the Canadian government was often forced to provide indirect and/or general assistance to education. For similar reasons the American government was forced to provide more direct and categorical aid. As a result of the differing nature of federal educational involvement in both countries the administration of federal educational programs also differed. This study points out, however, that despite these differences, there exists a critical deficiency in Canada, where despite the significant nature of the federal educational presence, by 1970 no formal mechanism existed for the effective coordination of the federal effort. Similarities and differences aside, the study establishes the complex yet significant nature of the federal educational presence in both countries. It suggests that there is a place for a federal government in the field within a federal system. It also provides a needed foundation for further research in the field and an hypothesis for a future inquiry into the federal educational role in other federal systems.

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