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ARCHIVED - A Virtual Schoolhouse

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By Charles Levi, Ph.D., MISt
Member, Canadian History of Education Association

Welcome to A Virtual Schoolhouse, a website that presents how young people in Canada experienced education over 100 years ago. Since 1900, much has changed in Canadian education. Children now learn more subjects; they attend school in different types of buildings; and their classrooms are divided into grades and made up of a diverse population. The purpose of education has also changed; it focuses less on moral instruction than in earlier days.

But much remains the same. Students are still expected to attend classes on a regular basis. Teachers are expected to reach and maintain certain academic standards, and possess knowledge of the material that they teach. The experience of going to school still produces moments of pleasure and moments of dread. More importantly, education continues to be regarded as a valuable asset. People who lived before 1900 might not recognize the modern classroom (although they would recognize elements of it), but they would understand the value of the educational process and be grateful for its continuity.

Featuring digitized textbooks, photographs and other records of the schoolhouse experience, this exhibition attempts to connect Canadians to their past. Not everyone's experience of schooling today is the same, nor was it the same for everyone in the past. Historians of education make approximations and generalizations to which there are always exceptions. Accordingly, A Virtual Schoolhouse builds on this historical foundation. The website highlights the public school, which was the predominant form of education in Canada during the 19th century. Other schools, such as private schools or Aboriginal residential schools, have not been examined in detail, but this is not meant to minimize their historical importance. Students and other visitors are encouraged to read further on the subject of public education, and to conduct additional research to increase their knowledge of the ways and methods of the past.