During the first half of the seventies, a youthful Lozanne and I worked together summer and winter to complete my undergraduate and graduate degrees in education. We spent every summer with my parents or in a rented home away from home with an ever increasing number of very young children so that I could attend school.
I continue to marvel at the stark differences in the way graduate courses were conducted in the decade that followed the very free and easy sixties. Each summer I would take two courses for a period of six weeks. During the summer of 1974, I took one course that was quite simply an afternoon group discussion held, believe it or not, at the Brunswick House, a well known pub just down the street from the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education. There was no credible written component nor examination to evaluate student progress for this Sociology of Education credit. In stark contrast, that same summer I took an extremely traditional course in the History of Education in Ontario. There was a formal ninety to one hundred and twenty minute lecture each and every weekday afternoon. Half of the marks for the course were based on a formidable written examination and the other fifty percent consisted of a major term paper that could be completed from primary sources only. It took the professor one full session to get us to understand that we could not use one source of anyone writing about any particular subject. We could use original documents only for research, footnotes and quotations.
Since the computer and internet age had not yet dawned, I spent virtually every morning of the month of July, 1974 in the Archives of Ontario, at a microfiche machine pouring over the original writings of Egerton Ryerson. Much of the material was written in his own hand with straight pen and ink. What had started out as a much resented and forced academic imposition became a labour of love. For once in my life, I was expected to read the original documents and make my own conclusions, completely separate from countless scholars who had written on the subject. I came to recognize Ryerson as the father of modern public education in Ontario and most probably, Canada.
Ryerson was a “saddle bag” itinerant Methodist preacher who was eventually named the Chief Superintendent of Education for Upper Canada in 1844. He authored the three successive School Acts which made education available to all instead of the historical reality of only the privileged few. I and many like me from working class backgrounds, who started school just seventy-one years after his death in 1882, owe reformers like Ryerson a very great amount of gratitude. The provision of universal quality education is a very substantive gift to those who embrace it.
I will never forget the lessons from that summer and indeed I remember far more of that arduous course than any other I experienced. I have come to realize that having to use the primary sources and not what others have to say about any given subject is far more valuable than the second hand alternative. I have also come to realize in later years that the Holy Bible is just such a primary source. Reading a commentary about the Bible is just that...another mortal man or woman’s comments about the Bible. The Holy Bible is God breathed and contains the word of God. Hebrews 4:12 makes a very clear declaration about the word of God.
12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
The more you actually read and hear the word of God, the more you recognize the living power of it. It indeed can cut through any subterfuge and and deceit. Having said that, I have to give the final word to Jesus.
28 But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:28)
(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account. All are welcome to follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/markthall)