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Inquiry and Communication
The student will:
questions, interpret and analyze information gathered through research,
articulate assumptions, and
then communicate results of their inquiry.
the value that parents place on education for their children
the pros and cons of public education vis a vis private schooling
read the entries on this page (below), the linked pages listed at the top of
this page, as well as any relevant information that appears at other linked
pages at various locations in the text below. You should also go to Search This Site
perform searches using words such as "Education", "School"
and "Learn". Refer also to the Subject Index
and "New this Month" pages. In completing the
assignment below, be sure to address the three Expectations above. As usual you
must clearly state all of your assumptions.
are two articles below relating to farm boys attending private schools,
"Preparing for Success" (in Scotland) and "Private Schooling for a Farmer's
Son?" (in Scarborough). Which of the two articles places greater emphasis on the extreme
value of education? Defend your position. What was the purpose of the author
of the Private Schooling article?
"Private Schooling for a Farmer's Son?", what sort of information
should the researcher endeavour to find and then add to the article in order
to strengthen her theory that farm boy John J. Weir, born 1851 in
Scarborough, attended boarding school at Rockwood Academy? Suggest
additional research that should be conducted.
other information on www.beamccowan.com
to provide additional context, write the dialog for a scene in a play. The
characters in your scene are twelve year old John J. Weir, his younger
sister Margaret (10 years) and their parents, James and Janet
Weir, Scarborough farmers. They are discussing the pros and cons of sending
John J. to boarding school in Guelph. Be sure to address John's personal
goals and the parents' goals for their son. They should also discuss the
distance to Guelph, the tuition cost, new friends, new perspectives. What
about Margaret's goals?
read the article, "Pioneers in the Benefits of De-Streamed
Classrooms". Does Mr. Ramsay's article support private schools for the
children of the wealthy? Compare this article to the other two
articles below. Rewrite this article (Pioneers) in your own words,
summarizing Mr. Ramsay's apparent position on the benefits of public
education for all students regardless of social status.
your own "position paper" on public vs private education today.
What is different now relative to 150 years ago? What is still very similar?
Give clear reasons for your position. In your argument, you may consider
extreme positions such as "Private schools should be abolished" or
"Public schools should have user fees". If you support a
"middle ground" or compromise position be sure to clearly state
exactly what would be required to make your "educational system"
operate effectively and fairly. In other words, you will write some of the
requirements for an educational system that you would "design". Identify all
of the criteria that are important to the design of an educational system (eg
effectiveness, fairness etc.)
in the Benefits of De-Streamed Classrooms
education system in
two centuries ago was one of the best in
. To a significant extent, the Scottish enlightenment
was led by ordinary Scots. The wealthy may have endorsed, promoted and otherwise supported
these efforts in literature, science, industry, democracy and other
socio-economic endeavours, but it was very ordinary folk who took much of the
risk and did a huge percentage of the actual work. Ordinary Scots took their
strong work ethic abroad to achieve profound successes around the world.
We can get a sense of how this support mechanism for self-improvement came to be
from the celebrated late 18th century diarist, John Ramsay of Ochtertyre, Perthshire,
In a few instances the
sons of private gentlemen were bred [educated] at home by a tutor: but the far
greater part went to the neighbouring school every morning, foul day or fair
day, carrying their little dinner with them. If the school lay at a distance,
they were boarded at a trifling expense in some town or village… They
were nothing the worse for being bred with the sons of their country
neighbours [the common folk]… The vulagarisms and rusticity contracted at
country schools gradually wore off, while some good consequences remained. It
strengthened young people’s attachment to the place of their nativity…
They learned to estimate their country [rural] neighbours with justice and
liberality, not to consider them as animals of an inferior species. It laid a
foundation for the future exercise of humanity and forbearance towards their
old schoolfellows. And intimacies were sometimes formed between superiors and
inferiors which, after a long separation, were remembered on a proper
occasion, much to the honour of one and the advantage of the other.
The Scarboro Heights
Record V14 #9
Obtaining a good education is hard work and it can also be rather
"inconvenient", especially when one must travel a long distance on foot to
attend classes. But the rewards can be immense as illustrated by this partial biography of
a Scottish success story...
The Late Mr. David McCowan, LL.D.
Cumnock's Worthiest Son
It is with feelings of profound regret that we today record the
passing of Mr. David McCowan, LL.D, which took place at his home, 7 Lynedoch Crescent,
Glasgow, on Sunday last. For a long time Mr. McCowan, who was in his eighty-third year,
had been in indifferent health. Against it he battled with rare courage, consistency and
bravery, and never once did he allow his own physical weakness to stand between him and
his duties, very many of which were self imposed. Mr. McCowan belonged to a rare class of
men of whom the world holds but few. To a splendid faculty for business he joined a
large-hearted generosity, which won for him distinction not only in the commercial,
but in the philanthropic circles of the city. If we were asked
to describe him in a word we would say that he was a philanthropist
and would use that word not in any narrow or limited sense, but in its noblest and
Mr. McCowan was a rich man, and he acquired his wealth by diligence
and by business ability. That he derived great pleasure in it's acquirement may not be
doubted, but he had even greater pleasure in giving expression to the philanthropic
impulses which were forever actuating his heart and mind. Of him it might truly be said
that although one of the most modest and most unobtrusive of men, yet he had at all times
the courage to avow his sentiments with a tongue which was really the herald of his heart.
Truth and honour were his consistent guides and rule of life, and a kindly benevolence had
its home in his bosom.
Mr. McCowan was born at Caponacre in
this parish [Cumnock, Ayrshire] in 1826, and was the second youngest of a family of nine
sons and 2 daughters, all of whom he outlived. His father [William] was an excellent type of man, and one who was possessed
of an intelligence much above the average in his walk of life, which was that of a small
farmer. He had an accurate conception of the value of education, and he saw to it that all
his children received as much learning as the times could afford. His son David was first
sent to the parish school, which was at that time kept by James Campbell, but whose
methods did not approve themselves to the head of the McCowan family. The boy was taken
from Campbell and sent to an adventure school in
the town, where he remained until he was eleven years of age. Then came an important
turning in his life in that he was sent to Ayr Academy, there to pursue his studies. He
attended this Academy for three years, and that he ever cherished a kindly remembrance for
it was evidenced in after years by his generosity towards it. The McCowan gold medal --
the chief prize of the institution -- was his gift, and it was but one of several
ways in which he showed his solicitude for the welfare of the place where he had himself
derived so much benefit...
I'll include more about David McCowan's philanthropy and business successes in another issue.
The Scarboro Heights
Record V10 #8 and
The McCowans' Who's Who, Vol. 4
following material on education is from a draft Weir family history prepared
by Nancy Weir McCowan. Her paternal great-grandparents were Scottish
immigrants James Weir and Janet Muir. The Weir homestead was on Tapscott Road
north of Finch Avenue in northeast
Scarborough, lot 16 concession 4. We should suppose that James' and Janet's ten children
would all attend the local school, known as "Number 3" at the corner
of Finch and Neilson. But did they?
Some chance discovery and perceptive analysis of various bits of information
to derive an interesting conclusion about at least a part of the educational
experience of her grandfather, John J. Weir, born in
on Oct. 30 1851.
Schooling for a Farmer's Son?
By Nancy Weir McCowan
March, 1990, I visited the Greenwood Public Library which is near my home in Pickering. I went there to try to find some
old school textbooks from the mid 1800's. I
had been told that this particular library was the one which kept the old books
from yesteryear. These books are not
allowed out of the library but I was able to peruse them for an hour or two.
I will have more to say about this later, but just before I left for the
day, my hand happened to go to a small book "Canadian Series English
Grammar" printed in 1869. The
flyleaf was signed by a John J. Weir and beneath the name was written "Eramosa".
A coin had been placed below the signature and rubbed with a pencil.
Inside the cover, opposite the signature was a label saying "Presented
to the Library of the Ontario College of Education, the
, by Miss Jean Weir". The
"J's" of the signature were written with a flourish like my Dad had
and the "Weir" is quite similar to my signature before I changed my
name to McCowan.
word "Eramosa" did not mean anything to me but I have since learned
that there is an
and a Township by that name near
Ontario. We have a book called
"Reader's Digest Book of the Road".
I looked up "Eramosa" and was directed in the index to page 92.
Under the heading "Rockwood" is the following statement -
"The Rockwood Academy, a pioneer boarding school for boys, was established
here in 1850. A surviving
three-story stone school building (1853) is now a private residence."
have since seen a copy of my Grandfather's signature on a couple of legal
documents and to my admittedly untrained eye, the two "John. J. Weir"
signatures look enough alike to be written by the same person.
An expert in handwriting could verify whether they are the same or not.
I do believe that it was that of my Grandfather, John J. Weir.
My great-grandparents became fairly wealthy farmers and I imagine they
wanted their sons to have a good education.
John J. possibly attended boarding school at
for a year or two. We do know that
his younger brother, Robert, became a druggist after attending the
. After eight years Robert changed
his vocation to that of insurance, with the Western Assurance Company.
I cannot speculate about the higher education of the other members of
James' and Janet's family (all born between 1845 and 1869).
I would doubt that the girls were sent to get higher education as it was
not deemed necessary for women in those days to learn much other than
The Scarboro Heights
Record V14 #9