What did the curriculum in a residential school look like? While curricula varied from one school to another, each emphasized immersion in the dominant Canadian culture and discouraged, often violently, any connection to students’ own culture and traditions. Below are some of the curricular guidelines from residential schools in Nova Scotia from the 1930s.
Language: Every effort must be made to induce pupils to speak English and to teach them to understand it. Insist on English during even the supervised play. Failure in this means wasted efforts.
Reading: Pupils must be taught to read distinctly. Inspectors report that
children either mumble inaudibly or shout their words in a spasmodic fashion. It will be considered a proof of the incompetency of a teacher if pupils are found to read “parrot fashion”, i.e. without an understanding of what they read. Pupils should understand as they read. The sentence is a unit of thought. Bend every effort to obtain intelligible reading.
Religious Instruction: Scriptural reading, the Ten Commandments, The Lord’s Prayer, The Life of Christ, etc.
Ethics: In the primary grades, instill the qualities of obedience, respect, order, neatness, and cleanliness. Differentiate between right and wrong, cultivate truthful habits and a spirit of fair play. As the pupils become more advanced, inculcate as near as possible in the order mentioned, independence, self-respect, industry, honesty, thrift, self-maintenance, citizenship and patriotism. Discuss charity, pauperism, Indian and white life, the evils of Indian isolation, enfranchisement. Explain the relationship of the sexes to labor, home and public duties, and labor as the law of existence.
Sanitation: Great care must be exercised by the teacher to see that the schoolroom is kept thoroughly clean. The floors should be swept daily and scrubbed frequently. Ventilation should receive earnest attention. The air in the schoolroom should be completely changed during recess and at the noon hour, even in the coldest weather, by opening of windows and doors. Spitting on the floor, or inside the school building, should not be allowed.
General: Instruction is to be direct, the voice and black-board the principal agents. The unnecessary use of textbooks is to be avoided. Do not classify students in advance of their ability.
- Duncan Campbell Scott, a leading advocate for the Indian Residential Schools, explained, “Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic.” How does this curriculum align with his objective?
- The first item in the list emphasizes the need to teach the students English. Why do you think it was included at the top of the list?