1967.17 | School desk

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School desk
About 1900, 19th century or 20th century
63.5 x 91.4 x 57.9 cm
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
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Keys to History

The rise of industrialization in the early years of the 20th century set off a debate on the role of education in society. There was considerable pressure from industrialists to alter school curricula to incorporate scientific and technical subjects. Many believed that students should be taught the skills required in the industrial labour market.

Industrialization had repercussions on both rural and urban schools. As the rural population of New Brunswick dropped so too did school attendance. And teachers at rural schools often had low levels of certification and training. The MacDonald Consolidated School Project hoped to alleviate such problems and to reform rural education in eastern Canada. It emphasized the teaching of the benefits of gardening, manual training and household science.

City schools also had to adjust in the wake of the increasing demands on them. It was an age of reform, and the education system was a common target of the reformers, many of whom looked to the schools as a way to protect their children from the moral decay of urban society.

  • What

    This school desk was designed so that two students could sit on the bench while the desk top was used by two more students sitting at an identical desk behind it.

  • Where

    The first New Brunswick school in the MacDonald Consolidated School Project was located in Kingston. It opened in 1904 with great expectations.

  • When

    Between 1903 and 1905 all three Maritime Provinces experimented with the MacDonald Consolidated School Project.

  • Who

    Sir William MacDonald (1831-1917), a wealthy Montreal tobacco manufacturer, founded the Macdonald Education Movement. It was dedicated to introducing practical subjects into elementary schools.