Monday, February 22, 2010

HIstory of changes

One of the challenges in media coverage is that we're so focused on the present, we tend to forget the past. We tend to stick to the changes people are upset about today, rather than trying to put them into some kind of historical context. Particularly when it comes to changes in schooling-- we tend to prefer to send our kids to schools that follow the same sort of practices and traditions we remember (those that we can remember) from our own days in school. Hence the difficulty in closing schools and in changing the structure of schools (ie: K-12 schools, 7-12 schools).
The Community Press has a nice, 'soft' article (as we call these in print) on the history and present circumstances of S.S. No. 5 Brickley Separate School, opened in 1855. The Northumberland County school is now in private ownership, and the article looks at what the owners might do with the structure along with some historical context. As a history buff (I minored, but could have double-majored, in history while taking my journalism degree), I eat this sort of stuff up.
People in the area have been wondering what's to become of the school, which closed in 1968, and the (Sean and Charity) Hannigans obligingly spoke about their acquisition. Archival records kept by the Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Board were also made available.
"We decided to buy the Brickley schoolhouse as it adjoins our property – our house and property surrounds the school," Charity replied in an e-mail to questions from this paper.
"At the present time we have/are tinkering away at a few things inside and out but with two smaller children, both working fulltime, and living in an older home that we enjoy updating and renovating, as well as taking the time and money to fix it up, is a factor that has prevented us in doing anything to it," Charity told The Community Press.
Both she and her husband are intrigued by the schoolhouse, its history and its architecture.
The Hannigans have have been kicking around several ideas about what to do with the schoolhouse but have not yet made a decision.
"We have had many ideas of our own and many from others, including some ideas such as an antique shop, tea room, music studio or living quarters," she explained.
For the Hannigans it seems to be a labour of love as they attempt to preserve a historic structure of significance to the community.
S.S. No. 5 Brickley Separate School, located at the junction of County Road 25 and the Eight Line, was built on land donated by John Brickley. It served an Irish immigrant community, typical of many that existed throughout the board's region.
In 1843 the Act for the Establishment of Separate Schools was passed. When Brickley opened in 1855, the log school had 50 pupils in attendance. Two dates – 1871 and 1873 – surfaced in the archival material as to when the structure that exists today was built.
The article also speaks to one of the few constants in education (and society at large): change. From the birth of separate (read: Catholic, in most parts of Ontario) schooling, to the end of one- and two-room schoolhouses in the 1960s, it's all referenced here.


Anonymous said...

I'm a history hound too ER. What a nice article for a change.

Remember when schools were really personal places and more reflective of their community than government?

From Hope to Harris is a particularly good read re: education issues in Ontario. Seems we've been working to deal with some of those from as far back as the 1940s.

If schools and education can change so too can perceptions and expectations I believe.

Unfortunately we seem to have factions of the system whose heels seem to be as dug in as ever toward moving toward effective and lasting change. Until that changes I guess people will look back with fondness and a certain longing for the "good old days" of education.


Education Reporter said...

Were they really the "good old days" CC?

I remember the 80s and 90s, where strikes were far more frequent and where the programs and facilities in my Catholic school board were very different than those offered in the suburban public board. The urban public board was loaded to the gills with commercial and industrial assessment and offered an unparalleled level of program and facility.

Prior to that, a one-room school house in area A wasn't comparable to area B. One local trustee here, product of such a two-room school, often says how behind he was as a student when he arrived in high school and realized the city kids and other one-room school kids had it better than he did.

Homogenization and standardization aren't a panacea, but I think they've smoothed out the peaks and valleys (particularly the valleys) that existed when education was far more local.

I look at the brief and shallow experience I've had looking at schools in the U.S., and while I might long for some of the best-of-best programs to find there way here I also realize how much disparity exists in that system. Far more than what exists here.


Anonymous said...

My school days were very good.
Coming up through the system in the 1960s and '70s at a time when almost everything was changing radically.

Change was a mile a minute but what stayed constant was firm leadership, high expectations, and a trust by families that the even if a kid dropped out at Grade 10 or 11 they could read a basic map or menu and do basic math enough to get bye.

We did more with less and never had reason to believe that unions were fighting with governments.

Yep, school was a good time.

Daniel said...

My school days were also excellent. I have enjoyed my whole school life with full of joy. But, Now the time has completely changed and I become little responsible Guy a student who is taking his social service education from Toronto college

HBO said...

It is a pleasure to read your posts and thoughts, ER. You always give me something to think about. This time "peaks and valleys (particularly the valleys)" is bouncing around in my head, but I won't bother anyone here with the details.

I will share my thoughts on this one though. I would have been horrified if I had to attend the same hick brick schoolhouses and experience the '3R's' education that my mother and father grew up with, and yet I do share this sentiment "...we tend to prefer to send our kids to schools that follow the same sort of practices and traditions we remember (those that we can remember) from our own days in school."

What does that make me - besides old and set in my ways?

Education Reporter said...

What does it make you besides old and set in your ways? Not much else really.

Isn't it human nature to be most comfortable with what our own experiences? To resist change? These reactions when we see communities confront change really aren't surprising.