Mr. Lancelot Younghusband, M.A.

At the first meeting of the school trustees in the New Year of 1858, there was a discussion of the complaints which were being heard from the children’s parents. They said that more attention was being paid to the older scholars and not enough to the younger ones; the age old complaint in an ungraded school. Small children were being kept at home from school on that account. Consequently there was a serious loss of fees when that absence continued for long. It was a loss which the school board could ill afford at the time; they were very short of funds. There was no compulsory school attendance in those days or for many years to come; Johnny or Mary might remain at home as long as the parents wished. Beside the small government grant the children paid the following fees: .75¢ per quarter for resident pupils and $2.00 per quarter for non-resident pupils. Those fees were charged instead of the corporation having been taxed for the upkeep of the school.

If, for reasons of illness or bad weather, the children could not attend school for a part or all of a term, their parents could not see why they should have to pay that fee. Those living outside the village got around the obligation of paying non-resident fees by purchasing small plots of land inside the corporation. Land could be bought for a song then.

The trustees decided to ask Rev. Thornton to visit the school for a day and see exactly what the reasons for dissatisfaction were and make recommendations for improvement. He was the Superintendent of Education of East Whitby at the time.[1]

Mr. Younghusband, a qualified teacher, had already taken up his duties in the school for a few weeks[2]. He had assistants but they were not of the same standing as he. Although the junior part of the school was crowded and also there were many seniors, he gave as much time as he could to the younger classes. They were not left entirely to the primary teachers who had difficulty in keeping order. He often had to leave his own class to go and settle things down elsewhere. There was a total of one hundred and seventy on the roll. Some of the children did not have textbooks. That naturally gave cause for restlessness. Rev. Thornton recommended that they should remain at home until such books were bought for them. Later the trustees decided to buy books for the children whose parents could not or would not purchase them. Also the hiring of another teacher was mentioned.

However, the village could save money if some of the older boys would give up two-thirds of their time to take charge of the younger classes. Imagine students in grades twelve or thirteen doing that in the schools today! “They would receive reasonable pay for this.” Those lads had to be ones who could get along with Mr. Younghusband and would be capable of keeping order. Rev. Thornton thought there were some promising boys in the older classes and that would save the price of another teacher. Thus began the short lived monitor system in the Common school. As an alternative to this, the trustees could hire two second class teachers; they would not demand the same salary as Mr. Younghusband.

Mr. Younghusband was hired for $600 per annum. School was in session on every Saturday then, and his contract stated that he must teach the six days of the week. After he had been there for a while, a law was passed by the Department of Education, that every other Saturday must be a holiday. That caused a dilemma among the school trustees, if he were going to have every other Saturday free; he must take a reduction of $50 per year in his salary. If the school continued to be open for the six days of the week, they would be breaking the law and in danger of losing their government grant. They settled it, however, but keeping school open every Saturday and if trouble arose they were going to say that he had been hired under the old regulations. The trustees were going to have their money’s worth regardless. I might state here that after a short while on June 27th, 1860, the Department of Education declared all Saturday’s holidays and that the schools in 1858, were kept open for eleven months of the year “as against eight months in 1844, and six months in the early pioneer days.

During his first year Mr. Younghusband had some trouble with his staff. Apparently they had all been hired on an equal basis, and the ones assisting did not want to recognize him as the headmaster. They wanted to be independent. The school board saw that a change was due there, so they hired him definitely as principal in 1858 through 1859. One of the trustees said there was “no need for first class teachers to teach the ABC’s. It was difficult for them to do it. A first class principal was required; perhaps an assistant of the same calibre but knowledge of algebra, astronomy and other higher branches was of no use in the first and second book.” “The sooner we paid more attention to the American way of thinking that women were the best instructors for little children the better.”[3]

Mr. Younghusband had a staff of three teachers and he was allowed to choose any replacements in his staff himself, subject to the approval of the trustees. Their salaries must not exceed $200 per annum. They were all paid quarterly. He was usually present at the board meetings.

Mr. Younghusband found time to teach physical training in the school everyday which met with the approval of all. He also recommended the use of the book “Decimal Currency in Arithmetic.”[4]

Mr. Younghusband seemed to have really tried to do his best for the school. His efforts perhaps were appreciated by a few at least. To stimulate interest on the part of the parents he gave demerit marks for the week and on Saturday the parents were invited in and the marks were read to them. This was to show them how (or how not) their young hopefuls were progressing. After that a spelling match was organized.

He also got up a competition in essay writing with sets of prizes, four divisions in all; two divisions for senior males and females; two divisions for junior males and females. Prizes were given for the best. Here were the titles: “What We Should Do to be Happy”, “Knowledge is Power”, “The Importance of Time”, “True Greatness”, “Diligence Ensures Success”. It is regrettable that some of the best of these were not printed in the “Vindicator.”

 In November 1858, he published the following “Duties of pupils attending the Oshawa Central School” inserted in the paper that all may see.

  1. Pupils must come to school clean in their person and clothes with hands and faces washed, hair combed and etc.
  2. Each pupil must be in school at 9 am and 1 pm, if detained must bring a note.
  3. No one can depart before the hour appointed unless a note is brought and the reason given.
  4. If one is absent he or she must bring a note from parents with the reason or will be sent home to obtain one.
  5. After the school bell rings the best order must be observed. Pupils marching to and from class must tread softly at all times, when marching their hands must be behind their backs.
  6. Any pupil in anyway damaging or disfiguring desks, chairs, walls or any part of central school property shall not be allowed to attend the school until damage has been repaired and promise of amendment has been made to the headmaster.
  7. Each pupil must bring a piece of soap and a suitable cloth in order that his or her desk may be washed once a week.
  8. Pupils must faithfully prepare at home whatever lessons that they were given by their teachers.
  9. They must conduct themselves properly on their way to and from school.
  10. They must be respectfully and obedient to their teachers, they must speak the truth on all occasions and refrain from indelicate or profane language.
  11. They must be kind on all occasions to each other, they must refrain from mocking or nicknaming their fellow students and “do to others as they would have others do to them.”

For a while previous to that time, the Central school trustees had had a system of hiring teachers, which was described as having been a “perambulating system.” It meant that a teacher was hired for one year at a stated salary and for the following year he was asked to remain in the school but he must take a lower rate of pay. It is recorded that more than one good Senior or Junior teacher had been lost due to that. They could get plenty of positions elsewhere and for better salaries even than their original contracts here, “they didn’t have to go begging.” People felt that the continual change was bad for the school and wanted that plan stopped. They said that the trustees were being “a penny wise and a pound foolish.”

They tried that plan with Mr. Younghusband and he resigned in November 1860. He went to Paris where he was engaged as headmaster of the Grammar school for one year. If his work was satisfactory he was to be re-hired the following year for a salary of $1000 per annum. It was reported that the left Oshawa as soon as he could make arrangements to move his family. Also, that at a later date he received a degree in Medicine and went to the United States where he set up a practise. The “brain drain” was very much in evidence in those days.[5]

After Mr. Younghusband left the school, Mr. McKee was appointed headmaster. He remained in the school for a little over a year and was recorded as having been an excellent teacher. He left Oshawa to go to Kingston where he was to be headmaster of the Common School. There were many complaints about his leaving. It was due to salary cuts. Mr. Burnet filled the place until Mr. Henry Reazin came to be the next headmaster. I shall leave the account of his career in Oshawa until after I have made a note on the events leading up to the establishment of the Grammar school in this city and also the union of the Common school and the Grammar Schools.


[1] 1858

[2] Oshawa Central School/Union School

[3] Interesting the earlier Ms. French states that people were weary of the American threat in Upper Canadian classrooms and now she states that teachers were in fact seeking female teachers like the Americans had been…

[5] Human capital flight, more commonly referred to as “brain drain”, is the large-scale emigration of individuals with technical skills or knowledge.

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