|dc.description.abstract||This study examines northern Ontario’s railway school
car system which began in 1926. It is an account of the
educational service provided until 1967 and an assessment of
The study concentrates on the early work of Alfred
Fitzpartrick of the Reading Camp Association and James B.
MacDougall, public school inspector and principal of North
Bay Normal School. These two northern Ontario school
promoters were exponents of the liberal educational and
social thinking of their day. They believed education would
help weave the social and economic fabric of the north,
assimilate the diverse ethnic groups and bring them to an
understanding of the values and institutions of Canada.
The network of resident inspectors of ’’New" Ontario led
by Dr. J.B. MacDougall began to understand the special
nature of the northern economy and settlement patterns. This
cadre of so called "District Men" proposed measures to
deliver schooling to the north.
The school car idea proposed by the regional inspectors
and promoted by Dr. MacDougall was adopted by Ontario Premier and Minister of Education, Go Howard Ferguson, in
1923. It became an integral part of the Education
Department’s broad policy of extending educational
opportunities in the province.
The school car played a role in the political
socialization of the children and adult students in northern
railway communities. Teachers inculcated a common language
and common ideals of citizenship and encouraged immigrants
to become Canadian citizens.
The school cars transformed immigrants into loyal
citizens and provided immigrant and Canadian-born children
in the north with the basic skills and discipline needed to
succeed in a changing world.
The schools were accepted and embraced by the
communities they served. Northerners saw the school as a way
to ensure their hopes of independence and success for
themselves and for their children.
The school cars were an educational success because the
teachers, especially the early ones, were dedicated to the
province’s ’’new curriculum.” The progress of children and
adult learners was rapid because they were committed to the
values of schooling. The inspectors, teachers, railways and
townspeople were surprised at the early and continued
success of the school car experiment.
Changes in the technology of railway transportation
reduced the number of railway communities. Competition from
motor vehicle transportation further reduced the number of railway employees and the need for school car service. The
extension of highways and roads into northern Ontario led to
such a centralization of population in towns and cities that
the school cars were no longer required.||