The Education System in Upper Canada

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER VIII (16) start of chapter

The educational system of Upper Canada is in every way calculated to develop the intelligence and stimulate the energies of the rising youth of the country. The teaching is practical and comprehensive, and the administration appears to be, so far as I could ascertain, just and impartial. The superior colleges of Canada turn out as highly cultivated young men as are to be found in any part of America, or in the oldest universities of Europe. And in every educational institution—from the university of Toronto, in which, under the presidency of a distinguished Irishman, I witnessed Irish students bearing off several of the highest prizes of the year, to the humblest village school throughout British America and the United States—the brightness of the Irish intellect is remarkable; indeed, it is a subject of universal observation in all parts of America.

The facilities which the public school laws of Upper Canada offer to the Catholics for obtaining elementary education, strictly denominational, may be thus briefly stated:—

Two or more Catholic heads of families, by giving notice (with a view to exemption from the public rate) to certain local officers, may claim the right to establish a school of their own, and elect their own trustees for its management. The supporters of this school are not only exempt from the payment of all rates for the support of the public schools, but the law guarantees to them the right to share, half-yearly, in the legislative grant, in proportion to the number of children they may educate. They also receive an equal amount to whatever sum they send to the Government department of Education, for the purchase of maps, globes, school-prizes, and library books. These library books are selected by a Council, of which the Catholic Bishop of Toronto is a member. Many of the books are exclusively Catholic in their character, and the trustees have the right to select only such books as they may prefer. The schools are, of course, subject to official inspection, and are required to report to the department; which is only right and fair, considering they receive assistance from the State, through officials responsible for the proper administration of the public money. Every Catholic school may claim an area of country for its supporters of six miles in diameter, or eighteen miles in circumference—that is, three miles in all directions from its school-house, as a central point. All supporters of the school within that area are exempt from public school taxation. Here is the practical admission of a just principle—respect for conscientious convictions in a matter most vitally affecting the interests of mankind.

The Irish in America, first published in 1868, provides an invaluable account of the extreme difficulties that 19th Century Irish immigrants faced in their new homeland and the progress which they had nonetheless made in the years since arriving on a foreign shore. A new edition, including additional notes and an index, has been published by Books Ulster/LibraryIreland:

Paperback: 700+ pages The Irish in America

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