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THE BOOKS: Education


The Ontario Readers: First Reader, Part I, 1885

This reader is the first in a set of Ontario Readers that would have been familiar to school children in the late 1800s. The lessons start off quite simply with vowel and consonant combinations with a focus on phonetics. Illustrations help the reader to make associations between the word and the object it represents.


The Ontario Readers: First Reader, Part II, [1885]

This reader is the second in a set of Ontario Readers that would have been familiar to school children in the late 1800s. The format of the second reader is similar to the first but the vocabulary and language to be learned was for more advanced, older students. From lesson to lesson, the level of difficulty increases to build on what has already been learned and to challenge the student to improve.


First Book of Lessons: Home Education for the Deaf and Dumb, 1863

Written by one of Ontario’s earliest deaf educators, this book of lessons marked the beginnings of formal public deaf education in the province. The use of ‘Deaf and Dumb’ in the title reflects the accepted label of that era for people with hearing loss and impairment. It is no longer used except in reference to historic documents like this one. The ‘dumb’ refers to the fact that the deaf are also often speech impaired. The book is divided into lessons specifically designed for students who were deaf or hard of hearing. It also includes explanatory notes for teachers and parents and a section at the end on lip reading.


Public education has a long and proud history in Ontario. As early as 1807 the need for public education was addressed through the establishment of a public school in each of Ontario’s districts. The number of schools grew rapidly in the first half of the 1800s, but the quality of education differed greatly from school to school. In 1848, Egerton Ryerson introduced a universal system for education in the province. Among its many positive reforms, it created more consistency in the numerous schools and higher standards for all students. The system eventually expanded to schools for children with special needs such as the School for the Deaf. Ryerson’s successors built on his ideas and by the end of the 19th century, Ontario was receiving international recognition for its public school system.

  1. For each of the documents answer the following questions:
    1. What is the primary source document?
    2. Who wrote the document?
    3. When was the document created?
    4. Where was it published?
    5. Why was the document created? What is its purpose?
  2. From each of the documents, gather pieces of information that you find unusual or interesting. They may be things that differ from the way schools work today or they could be vocabulary words that are no longer commonly used. Explain why you have included them on the list. The source document and page number should be clearly indicated.
  3. AS PART OF THE CLASS MAGAZINE: Create a timeline of the history of Education in Ontario during the 1800s. Your timeline should include between eight and ten events. Each of these events should be summarized into a short paragraph to accompany the timeline. Use the Archives of Ontario web page, Lessons Learned: the Evolution of Education in Ontario as a starting point for research. The Education Timeline Organizer will help you to get started. Your completed timeline will include a title, important dates and associated summary paragraphs. In addition, include some of the unusual or different facts from question 2. These can be added wherever your timeline has the space.


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