Public Education in Canada – Term Paper

Revisionism in education

Question 1: One of the Discussed Historical Perspectives

‘Revisionism’ has been chosen as the appealing perspective that has been discussed in Unit 1. The viewpoint has been selected based on its broad coverage on the origin of public schooling as explained by the education historians. Revisionism was embraced to enhance the difficulties experienced in the interpretation of the broader context of education. Notably, there were disputes that arose due to the process, content, structure and functions of public schooling. Revisionist historians stated that the Whig perspective focused on the work of individuals rather than the social context.

Revisionism also has two divisions that include radical and moderate revisionism. The two branches explain more about democratic and humanitarian aspects that led to the need for public schooling. The practice of division assists in challenging an in-depth view of the public education system as stipulated by other scholars. The radical revisionist historians adopted a model that emphasized on the social, political and economic aspects of education. Radical scholars such as Michael Katz viewed education as a social context that emphasized on the ethnic, social and cultural issues of the individuals. A comparison of the upcoming ideology of Canada’s public education with that of the United States showed a similar approach considering social attributes.

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The radical revisionists viewed schooling as a weapon that would be used by the privileged social groups to control others. The knowledge obtained from education was seen as a drug that intoxicated its members and directed them towards a similar obligation. As a result, the focus on education was changed from a macro perspective to micro perspective whereby it would assist learners to understand how different groups reacted to the imposition of power.

Another reason why the revisionist perspective is appealing from the others is that it criticizes both negatively and positively the work of other scholars. Previous scholars that had studied public schooling had different views on the impacts due to different socio-cultural backgrounds. The revisionist approach determined what was best for the Canadians at the time when public schooling was the main issue. Revisionist historians also focused on the worldview of the issues of power and domination as they were related to public education.

Moderate revisionism, on the other hand, concentrated on a wider perspective of the religious, political and economic context of the impacts of public education. The moderate revisionists also believed that previous reforms on education did not improve the public schooling sector. The reforms were not based on issues such as culture, societal values, economy and cultural backgrounds. However, they (revisionists) concluded that the society had benefited from public education despite unproductive results. The social value of education came from the basic knowledge provided in schools that assisted in the reduction of wrongdoings in the country.

The division of the revisionism perspective has ensured that the viewpoints of public schooling have been explained in both negative and positive aspects. This approach has included both supporting and opposing scholars of public schooling while reviewing their work. The revisionism perspective also highlights on the Whig history perception by claiming that it limited its focus on a personal basis. The Whig history is not analytical nature; hence, does not provide substantial information on the origin of public schooling. Additionally, its lack of focus on the social context of events showed that it would not provide the overall impact of public education on the community.

History of education in canada

Question 2: Discuss the Origins and Purposes of Public Schooling in 19th Century

The origin of education in Canada dates back to the 1700s after it has been introduced into the country by missionaries (Burke & Milewski, 2012). However, despite its realization in the 18th century, there were activities related to education in the previous centuries. For example, New France was one of the major areas where formal education has been embraced to offer elementary instruction in religious aspects such as catechism.  Despite only the minority colonialists providing and receiving formal education, the Catholics also played a significant role in its distribution.

The 19th century was characterized by the emergence of education leaders that were aimed at promoting schooling (Burke & Milewski, 2012). The family was the main ‘source’ of education since only a few British children attained education from tutors.; However, after a short period, the British government adopted the education system as a channel of promoting the English language, British customs, and cultural identification purposes.

The presence of education structures from the French that were religious controlled prompted the British to use their governing policies to provide schools that were outside the control of the Catholic Church (Young, Levin, ; Wallin, 2007). In addition, the British also wanted to change the family-related schooling and present a new education system that included the use of classrooms. All these efforts were being made to ensure that the British easily controlled its colony in all aspects including education.

In the mid-1800s, there was stiff competition from the educators and parents on who should provide education (Burke ; Milewski, 2012). As a result, social leaders were engaged in a debate on who should finance, control and participate in the structure of the new education systems. There were conflicts that led to the radicalization of some parent by refusing to send their children to school.

The current similarity among school systems in Canada can be based on the 18th century due to the presence of education promoters that has related ideologies on education. Notable figures in the education promotion system included Egerton Ryerson that fought for a public school system (Di Mascio, 2012). However, mass schooling was not valued at the time since the parents were focused on proving knowledge to their children individually. Education promoters also argued that mass schooling was not related to the acquisition of academic knowledge.; These arguments were based on the issues of migration, industrialization and the fight for political power.

Public education in Canada

Purposes of public schooling about social political and economic aspects

In the mid-19th century, there increased immigration numbers due to the improvements in development (Di Mascio, 2012). It was at this time when the state was developed; hence, enhanced projects that required extensive knowledge. Consequently, the economic status of the country was changing; hence, the citizens were required to adopt new lifestyles. The schools offered knowledge that would be used during the industrialization period. The main purpose of the education system at the time was to ensure that more students acquired knowledge through mass schooling techniques to match the amount of needed labor. The increase in demand for knowledge led to the building of new schools unlike those that had been built for children with a special need or from the noble families. In the long-run, teachers were also required; therefore, an increased workforce.

Regarding economic aspects, the need to provide public schooling was created by the high fees being charged by the current schools (Di Mascio, 2012). Since the schools were linked to the high social classes that included colonialists, most of the locals could not afford to take their children to school; hence, preferred homeschooling. However, the gaining of independence and campaigns by the education promoters led to the construction of new schools towards the end of the 19th century that provided public schooling at affordable rates.

Concerning political aspects, public schooling had major purposes despite the different ideologies. Political power was based on education whereby most of the prominent leaders had undergone education. Additionally, the public school systems would be used as avenues to provide knowledge to the public on making decisions. The public would also exercise their political powers through the schooling system in cases of demonstrations and the need to change leaders.; The educational leaders expressed their political concerns through the present school systems and emphasized on mass schooling to ensure all students understood some political knowledge.

Regarding social features, the origin and purpose of public schooling were explained concerning religion, social status, culture, and languages (Di Mascio, 2012). The different in social statuses would only be reduced by offering public education to individuals in middle and lower classes. The schools would also address the issue of cultural differentiation since the British had already managed to assimilate most of its cultural values to the Canadians during colonization. Language barriers were addressed by presenting a public school system supported by the state where a common language would be used in teaching. Concerning religion, schooling in the past was controlled by the Catholic Church (Wallner, 2014). However, the rise of new public schools by the state and wealthy citizens made it possible to cater for all religions in public schools.


Burke, S. ; Milewski, P. (2012). Schooling in transition: Readings in Canadian History of Education (1st ed.). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Di Mascio, A. (2012). The idea of popular schooling in Upper Canada (1st ed.). Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Wallner, J. (2014). Learning to school : federalism and public schooling in Canada (1st ed.). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Young, J., Levin, B., & Wallin, D. (2007). Understanding Canadian schools: An Introduction to Educational Administration (1st ed.). Toronto: Thomson Nelson Education.