UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Contextualizing consolidation : British Columbia school consolidation from the perspective of the Prince George region Renquist, Theodore D.


Throughout the first half of this century controversy surrounded the division of governance between provincial and local authorities. In a general sense this thesis examines the centralizing forces of equality of opportunity promoted by the provincial government versus the forces of decentralization found in the principle of local autonomy. Specifically this thesis examines the reasons why the school districts in die central interior o f British Columbia, around Prince George, were consolidated with little or no opposition in 1946 following the recommendations of the Cameron Report. This thesis is a case study of the region approximately in the center of the province that was to become School District No. 57. A variety of sources were used and include printed and manuscript documents from the Premiers Papers and Department of Education, including extensive use of the school inspectors' reports for schools in the region between 1940 and 1946 found in the British Columbia Archives in Victoria. Local histories and oral interviews of participants of the consolidation process were used to contextualize the consolidation process in the Prince George region. Chapters I and II discuss the founding of two types o f societies in the region and the schools they inaugurated. The urban society of Prince George was founded by land promoters bolstered with the spirit of boosterism that originated on the Canadian Prairies before the turn of the century. Boosters actively promoted the development of the civic infrastructure including schools to reinforce the city's central place to secure future growth. Rural communities, founded to tap the wealth of the forests, were inextricably tied to the economic problems of the sawmills they depended upon. Spatially dispersed by geographic factors and tied to the economic fluctuations of the prairie market, these communities lived on the edge o f extinction. Bodi the city and rural schools were plagued with the problems of rural education in B C during their early years. Teacher transiency and teachers low on qualifications and experience affected the quality of education. The founding differences between the two societies were reflected in the inspectoral reports. The inspectors generally praised the Prince George City trustees and their schools. They were dynamic and well-organized with the best educational intentions. The rural schools to the inspectors were "inefficient" exemplified by pupil retardation and the barest of elementary programs in buildings that had in style changed little since British Columbia's first superintendent of Education, John Jessop. The Department of Education personnel began to blame this inefficiency on the local trustees believing that local autonomy had broken down, exemplified by the number of Official Trusteeships in the province. The evidence from the Prince George region suggests some trustees did "give up". Narrow social hierarchies in the rural communities forced many trustees to serve for years. Official Trusteeships were a growing trend through the 1920s and 1930s to raise school efficiency just when school expansion was at its greatest in the central interior. Chapters III and IV discuss the Cameron Report and its implementation at the regional level. Cameron was concerned with the effects of decentralization on equality of opportunity for students and equality of burden between school districts and the provincial government. His recommendations formed a new relationship between the provincial government and local authorities. The essential local ingredient of educational financing; property taxation, was standardized and partly centralized. Local autonomy was reshaped through consolidation with more powerful school boards to attack local educational problems. Consolidation was successful with little opposition in the Prince George region because of the new trustees. Knowledgable in the methodis of boosterism, innovative and dynamic, they offered material progress to the region immediately. Consolidation also afforded the rural population equality of opportunity through the Prince George high school built as a regional educational centre. This thesis raises the question o f how the educational departments' personnel interpreted the facts they used to consolidate the school districts in 1946. The problems of education in the central interior were an extension of the economic problems of the region. This thesis contextualizes the urban based recommendations highlighting the role of the local community in extracting those points that were really important to the local people.

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