The Royal Commission on Industrial Training and Technical Education
From 1910 to 1912 the people of the Royal Commission on Industrial Training and Technical Education traveled from sea-to-sea (and overseas) asking leaders in agriculture, manufacturing, teaching, etc. for input, with the goal of overhauling the education system to accommodate the challenges of the New Industrial Age. It was a rare Federal foray into education, a provincial domain.
James W. Robertson, former principal of Macdonald College, headed the Commission and, what do you know, after three years and who knows how many dollars spent, the Commission established that they already had most of the answers, in the form of the Macdonald-Robertson Movement for Rural Education and the Manual Training Movement as well the Kindergarten movement!
This Commission also appeared to be trying to funnel women (who were increasingly entering the workforce) back into the domestic domain, homemaking or housekeeping (since 'good help was hard to get') by elevating the status of these 'professions'. It appears they were counting on happy homes and super-dedicated homemakers to solve the crushing social problems of the day.
"The homes are the units on which civilization is based and out of which it grows. For every reason it is important that girls and young women should be given a vocational ability for homemaking and housekeeping. The influence of the homes on the children is direct and continuous. Good homes minister to the welfare of people by ensuring conditions under which the children may be healthy, wholesome, and happy and be directed toward the exercise of right ambitions and aspirations. The effect of the home on the level of the community is like the influence of the moon on the level of the sea.
Suffragists had another plan." CLICK HERE for more on Manual Training, 1911 Teachers' College. Implied in all this was the belief that the Industrial Age and the era's new technologies would make the science of homemaking more complicated: but in reality machines made housework easier and 'deskilled' women, reducing them by the 50's (in the view of some) to the role of family cheerleader.
Here are some excerpts from the 1913 Report to the Commissioners, Government Printing Bureau
"Education should be compulsory, at least between the ages of 5 and 14, and devoted entirely to general education."
"Having regard to the fact that all education is for life, and that the occupation absorbs a large proportion of the strength and time of life, it appears wholly desirable that education at the school or elsewhere should prepare for occupation by having the pupils over 12 years of age participate in the activities of some fundamental occupation."
"The Commission is of the opinion that the teaching of Drawing, Manual Training, Nature Study, Experimental Science and Pre-Vocational work (including Domestic or Household Science) in Elementary Schools is of great importance and value and should be provided for generally."
"The modern movement in education retains the best elements of the older education - what might be called the 'sound training' or the 'three R's" and without having the children ignorant of these 'core' subjects, he can add other and more practical subjects admitted by modern life and modern society. Manual Training in any form is not a hindrance to the three "R's".
The Ideal Education
The best education for the child would be to devote a third of the time to the 'humanities'; a third to science including arithmetic, Nature Study and natural science in various forms; and a third to sensory-motor forms of activity, such as Manual Training, oral reading, writing, vocal music, relief-map-work, and later on, woodworking, cooking and sewing.
When Studies Should Begin:
A child of seven or eight is just where Nature Study proper should come in, for he is at the stage when he is looking for the beginning, middle and end of things, and while he would not be a scientific gardener he would be learning the elements of gardening and learning what would prepare him for the elements of work in later years.
In the system of elementary education, the children should be trained how best to use the powers naturally developed by education so that they could not be easily exploited by more powerful and more intelligent people. Social ethics can be taught in the lower school and at the beginning of the adolescent period, a training in the facts of industry, production of wealth and its distribution can be brought in. Children in the fourth book should know something about the changes in production and distribution brought about by machinery.
There is an increasing demand for trained women in institutions and the supply is not sufficient. Dressmaking and millinery should be taught in elementary school.
Housekeeping and Homemaking for Women.
"The Commission is of the opinion that preparation for housekeeping should be provided for all the courses for girls 11 or 12 onwards. The Commission is of the opinion that it is desirable to provide secondary education for girls, particularly with regard to training in the preparation and serving of foods, the preparation cleansing and use of clothing, ventilation, heating, lighting, and sanitary administration."
The Commission is of the opinion that general provision should be made for instruction and training of those who desire to qualify for service for wages in the homes of people. Competent young women are unwilling to accept places as workers in homes because the terms 'domestics' 'hired girl' etc indicate a condition of social inferiority. The harmful notion has spread throughout Canada that by doing housework, and serving as a home helper for pay, is less appropriate for and worthy of young women than serving in an office, shop or factory.
1910 Montreal Gazette article: Why aren't there any women represented on this Royal Commission, and why can't women go to tech school? Robertson gets his.