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Building the North
By J. B. MacDougall, B.A. (1919)


THIS volume sets forth the effort to lay the foundation of a vigourous and progressive citizenship in that part of the Province familiarly known as New Ontario. Education has long clung to old standards. It is characterized by a rigid adherence to types of matter and modes of treatment whose chief sanction is that of age and not of intelligence. Tradition is a careful but not always a safe guide, and this learning was taken under observation and ruthlessly exposed by so remote, yet far-seeing, a critic as Dickens, who forever pillories it in his well designated work, “Hard Times.” His Mr. Gradgrind and Mr. M'Choak-Umchild are still too much abroad. Education must take upon it the complexion of the age and of the geographical and industrial conditions that surround it. In this respect it will be found that the forms and machinery of education in this new Northland have shaped themselves to the needs and the environment. New departures in the field were sought out and put to the test and were proven both salutary and practicable, so that in some respects New Ontario has set the pace and, compared with the earlier settled portions of the Province, as in the case of the Consolidated school, can boast a ten-year lead in the race.

The writer chanced to hold, to him, a not unenviable though strenuous place in Northern history. A large part of his active experience synchronized with the period of the famous “Cobalt-Porcupine” boom, and he moved amid, and, in a measure, directed, the forces that gave the system shape. Consequently the educational drama took the rapid action and stirring character of the scenes in which it was enacted. Much of this is herein incorporated. But, as a somewhat academic study, it declines to lend itself to the kaleidoscopic movements of camp, canoe, and trail, whose elusive spiritual element often refuses to take form in the cold cast of language. This pulsating life is therefore left for freer treatment in a later volume.

But withal, the motive of the strenuous life portrayed or suggested herein has been the author’s devotion to the child, and particularly to the typical child of the North, “on the long, lone trail.” For, often has he met him pursuing his companionless way, a solitary figure in his single-handed battle with adverse circumstance, and has tried to lend him the word of cheer. And ever and anon the picture will float into vision and reassert itself, among the shifting scenes in light and shade, that crowd the background of a cherished memory.

North Bay, Canada, 1918.

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