Education Across the 49th Parallel: Training Teachers in North Dakota and Saskatchewan, 1890-1925
Frequently, the 49th parallel has been used to limit the scope of historical research projects to examination of either the American or the Canadian experience. Yet those states and provinces along this international border often have a great deal in common with each other in terms of their economic, cultural, and social development. At the same time, there can be significant differences between their development, often related to important distinctions between their systems of government.
North Dakota and Saskatchewan provide an example of this phenomenon. The state and the province were both settled primarily during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with the arrival thousands of individuals intending to farm the Plains. As these settlers established their new communities, they attempted to build towns and cities that were respectable, and which offered the finer aspects of life to their citizens. Central to this was the desire for education, both for the growing numbers of potential schoolchildren, and for the preparation of the teachers who would staff these new schools. Thus, these Plains communities sought to establish institutions of higher education as soon as feasible.
This presentation, an early step in a larger project to identify the reasons for the differences between the development of North Dakota normal schools and those in Saskatchewan, will focus on a examination of the curriculum of these institutions during the period in which they were most similar. From the time of their establishment until the mid-1920s, when the North Dakota normal schools became degree-granting teachers colleges, the institutions of both North Dakota and Saskatchewan primarily served the same two functions: preparing teachers for rural schools (although many of their graduates became teachers in town schools), and providing high school courses for those who had no access to such courses in their school district.
This investigation into the curricula of the normal schools, focusing on the offerings in Valley City, Minot, Regina, and Saskatoon will examine the similarities and differences in what was taught across the institutions, as well as between the state and the province. It will examine the degree to which the local institutions controlled their own curriculum, and the degree to which they were controlled by the educational authority of the state or provincial government. In so doing, it will provide a fruitful comparative examination of public education in the Great Plains of the United States and Canada.