The Learning Materials Crisis in our Schools
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 23 Jan 1975, p. 199-211
Edwardh, Dr. M.O., Speaker
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A review of the history of the sources of educational materials used in Canadian schools. Comments on the significant educational changes in the 1960's, and consequences in the 1970's. An exploration of what this crisis means to students, to the quality of education, and to the publishing industry. Also, suggestions or possible steps which can alleviate the situation. A discussion follows with statistics and examples.
Date of Original
23 Jan 1975
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The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
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Full Text
JANUARY 23, 1975
The Learning Materials Crisis in our Schools
AN ADDRESS BY Dr. M. O. Edwardh,
CHAIRMAN The President,
Sir Arthur Chetwynd


Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen: Those of you present today who also attended last Thursday's meeting will remember that the subject of our guest speaker was "The Incredible Resource Battle".

The term "battle" suggests to us that one or more persons or ideas are locked in a struggle of some sort. As we heard last week, on the matter of world energy resources the "battle" is indeed joined.

As I closed the meeting last week I reminded you that our speaker today, Dr Melvin Edwardh, would be addressing us on the subject of "The Learning Materials Crisis in our Schools".

The word "crisis" has a different meaning. The dictionary says "a turning point or decisive moment", "a time of acute danger or suspense". Perhaps we might agree that if a crisis is not tackled and resolved satisfactorily we may soon have a "battle" on our hands!

Dr. Edwardh's speech should be of vital concern to all Canadians now and in the future. If we are to maintain any distinctive Canadian style and personality, the future of our children and our children's children will be a direct reflection of what and how we teach them now and in the future.

I hope that we agree that all Canadians during their formative years should be exposed to, and learn as much about our country, its history, its way of life, as they learn about other countries and other philosophies.

There are many types of learning materials, some of which I am quite familiar with as a producer of motion pictures. Nevertheless the basic learning material is usually acknowledged to be the written word, and I am the first to admit that a good film begins with a good script-the written word.

The written word in the educational context usually involves books-perhaps the most basic, economical and ubiquitous of the learning materials. Good books, that isthere is no worse robber than a bad book.

I venture to say that in the highest civilization, the book is still the highest delight. Our speaker is of that community which believes that it is a part of Canada's pride and destiny to publish a share of the world's books which, down the corridors of time, will speak of Canada and its role in the community of nations.

Books and other aids make education a way of life regardless of age-not something to be endured, but something to be savoured. Books are part of that saying that "reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man." They are a part of that education which makes people easy to lead, but difficult to drive; easy to govern, but impossible to enslave.

Sometimes they lead us, as witness the writings of Jules Verne, H. G. Wells and Rudyard Kipling. Sometimes, alas, they lag, as witness the embarrassment that overtook one Dr. Lardner in London in 1836. He published a pamphlet in which he proved conclusively that a steamboat could not cross the ocean. The book came to this continent on the first steamboat that crossed the Atlantic.

Dr. Edwardh was born in the U.S.A. in the state of Minnesota. He is a first generation Canadian, as I am. Either he or his parents decided to go north as well as west!

He received his formal education in Canada's western province of opportunity, Alberta, gaining bachelor and master degrees in Education at the University of Alberta. He came up through the ranks in the teaching profession, in that province-from principal to Superintendent of Schools, to Director of Curriculum. He received his doctorate from the University of Colorado in 1961. He has been with his present company since 1950, rising through successively more responsible appointments until he became president of Gage Educational Publishing Limited in January, 1971.

A man named Kingsley once said "except a living man there is nothing more wonderful than a book." We bring you today a living man, who among other things will speak to us on the second most wonderful thing-books. I have great pleasure in introducing to you, speaking on the subject of "The Learning Materials Crisis in our Schools", Dr. Melvin O. Edwardh.


Mr. President, head table guests, members of the Empire Club, ladies and gentlemen: I appreciate the opportunity to share with you some of the concerns of the educational publishing industry which I have called "The Learning Materials Crisis in our Schools", for I know the members of the Empire Club have a special sensitivity to our cultural heritage and our uniqueness as Canadians. May I have the indulgence of my fellow publishers who are involved in the problems of developing educational material. I am aware that in this setting they can be a most critical audience.

I shall review briefly the history of the sources of educational materials which have been used in our schools, and shall comment on the significant educational changes in the 1960's which led to the dramatic drop in expenditures for educational materials in the '70's. In addition, I shall explore what this crisis means to our students, to the quality of education in the schools of our nation, and to the publishing industry. I shall postulate possible steps which can alleviate what is rapidly becoming a tragic situation.

Our history records many crises and struggles as we moved toward nationhood and sought to define our identity. Much of our heritage we have borrowed from Britain; many of our practices and much of our technology have come from our powerful neighbour to the south; but we Canadians reserved the right to modify, to change and to initiate our own responses to a need.

The influence of both Britain and the United States are clearly discernible in the development of our educational systems and in the materials used in our classrooms. In his book, The Development of Education in Canada, C. E. Phillips describes the situation as follows: "In the early 1800's American textbooks were a cause for worry in all provinces, for Bishop Strachan considered American textbooks unique in expressing hostility to the institutions and even governments of other countries-especially to those of Great Britain. There were other educators who felt American textbooks were better suited to the needs and the mood of our country. In the third quarter of the nineteenth century all of these problems were greatly reduced, for Canadian schools and colleges had improved. Adaptations of English books, and an increasing number of textbooks of Canadian authorship were printed in Canada".

Although at this time Irish national readers and other English materials were favoured by the educational leaders, the proximity to the United States, the ease of the exchange of ideas, and the frequent intervisitation, resulted in Canada having a similar pedagogical approach to learning. We con

C. E. Phillips: The Development of Education in Canada, (Toronto: W. J. Gage Limited, 1957), p. 354. continued to import some foreign books, to Canadianize others, and to publish our own materials, but during these years we did not have the resources to create all of the learning materials required.

Through the decades that followed, we continued borrowing and creating, but as our economy in the early twentieth century became more closely tied to the United States we found that in the 1930's and 1940's that it was American textbooks that we Canadianized and imported in great numbers. Through this period the selection of materials for use in the classrooms was highly centralized in Departments of Education, for the B.N.A. Act had made education a provincial responsibility. In Ontario, curriculum guides were prepared by the Department of Education and material deemed appropriate was selected by the same department officials and their advisory committees. The teacher followed the curriculum and used textbooks selected from the authorized list which was known as Circular 14. The Canadian publisher frequently took American textbooks to these officials and asked what changes needed to be made to make them suitable for Canada. Obviously, this process was well suited to the limited financial resources of the Canadian publisher. How much easier it was to follow this practice than to invest money in developing new Canadian programmes.

In the 1950's our Department of Education which is now called the Ministry of Education, announced that all authorized materials on Circular 14 would be Canadian authored and produced in Canada. This was a far-reaching decision and a challenge to Canadian publishers to create Canadian materials. Although in the beginning there was some stumbling and inefficiency, the publishers met the challenge.

The 1960's ushered in the "golden age" for education and for educational publishing. More schools, colleges and universities were built than at any other time in our history. Not only did the population boom provide students in ever increasing numbers to attend these institutions, but far greater numbers of students stayed to complete courses than ever before.

The academic and pedagogical qualifications of teachers improved steadily and their salaries increased in recognition of their professional competence. Mufti-media equipment and the accompanying software became plentiful, school libraries expanded rapidly. The public was quite prepared to spend the necessary provincial and local tax money to provide quality educational services. These factors provided a strong impetus to Canadian publishing and a great number of indigenous publications were made available. Perhaps of greater significance to the children of Canada was the fact that they now had Canadian programmes developed by our own writers, reflecting our own thoughts and values. At the same time, the publishers had used their resources to build competent editorial staffs, to give work and encouragement to designers and artists, and to bring the necessary scholarship and authors from all parts of Canada.

Publishing flourished, aided by an authorized list which was limited and by a specific per pupil dollar grant for textual material.

This tremendous outpouring of energy and resources brought many changes to our educational system, frequently expressed through Royal Commissions, in Ontario's case, the Hall-Dennis Report. These changes are reflected in the Ministry of Education's Circular H.S.I., which states "The primary purpose of a school is to help each student develop to the maximum his potential as an individual and as a member of society." To meet these purposes a credit system was developed to give the student many choices within the curriculum offerings. Diversification became the by-word of the day. Hundreds of new courses came into being, and the number of students taking each course dwindled. The publisher was now faced with the problem of supplying a much greater variety of materials to a much more limited number of students. Not only were investment costs to keep abreast of such developments tremendous, but the smaller number of each title sold meant higher unit costs.

Questions were asked. "How can a central authority help students to develop to the maximum their potential? Is it not better to have the school system and the school, which are closer to the student, design the educational process?". Thus guidelines for decentralization were initiated to give local districts responsibility for developing curriculum and providing the resources to implement the new objectives. Decentralization also gave the teachers new responsibilities in keeping with their professional competence. Responsibility for educational experiences was decentralized but the provincial government retained control of the money and imposed ceilings on expenditures. Decentralization is in keeping with our best democratic traditions, but the responsibility to provide financial resources to implement the many changes causes stresses at the local level. The restrictions have been sufficient to make it most difficult to provide the materials and services that are required. We are all aware that if educational expenditures continue to increase at the same rate in the 70's as they did in the 60's the government would face either severe financial difficulties or the curtailment of other essential services.

Let me share with you what this financial restraint has meant to expenditures for educational materials:

TABLE I-1966

Expenditure, Public Day Schools-Supplies

Elementary Secondary Total
Text 12,631,546 4,051,853 16,683,399
No. of pupils1,276,962412,5731,689,535


Expenditure, Public Day Schools-Supplies

Elementary Secondary Total
Text 12,765,276 4,371,549 17,136,825
Library 4,307,624 2,457,637 6,765,261
17,072,900 6,829,186 23,902,086
No. of Pupils 1,314,377 453,393 1,767,770
$/Pupil 12.99 15.06 13.52


Expendiutre--Textbooks and Reference Books (30502),

Library Books (56505). Sample of 17 Boards*.

1972 1973
Expenditure 11,288,011 10,252,998
No. of Pupils 929,923 925,537
$/Pupil 12.14 11.08

*Ministry of Education Report (excluding Niagara South, Ottawa)


Inflation Indicators (1966--100 )

Consumer Price IndexOntario Average WagePublishing Index
1966 100.0 100.0 100.0
1969 112.7 122.2 119.9
1971 119.7 143.8 133.5
1972 125.5 155.8 142.8

* Royal Commission Report


Expenditure per Pupil for Classroom & Library Books

as a Percentage of Total per Pupil Expenditure.

Actual Dollars1966 Dollar Value% of Total
1966 $13.80 $13.80 2.7
1967 13.52 12.96 2.3
1972 12.14 8.50 1.3
1973 11.08* 7.19 1.1

*to equal 1966 level, expenditure should have been $17.08

The average total per-pupil expenditure has nearly doubled from $517 to $1,000 while the actual expenditure on educational materials has decreased. If we consider the increased cost of materials, the number of new books being made available has decreased substantially.

In 1966, 2.7% of the budget was needed for materials If we were spending in the same proportion we would spend $22.30 and $38.49 for elementary and secondary students respectively, which would be an average per pupil expenditure of $27.00 rather than the $11.08 which is being spent. At the present time, we are actually spending 1.1 % of the budget on materials.

What does the curtailment of materials mean to the quality of instruction? The teachers stand paramount in the educational process. The role has changed, for not only must they disseminate information, they must inspire and establish respect for scholarship. They must foster enquiry and critical evaluation, and explore the values and attitudes of our society. To enable them to do this, they must have available to them the second most important ingredient in the educational experience of students--high quality, up-to-date sources of information.

The flow of new materials has decreased at a time when the rate of change in our country is accelerating. Let us consider a few of the changes in values which are taking place. Our attitude towards native peoples must be transformed, the stereotype must be broken. Books with the words "squaw" and "savage" must be eliminated. The attitude toward the role of women has changed substantially. They can be other than mothers and homemakers. We need materials which reject stereotyping of races, of women, and of men. Recently a clipping from a magazine article was placed on my desk. A portion of it had been underlined by an editor: "Last year Root became the first person to fly over 19,500 foot Mt. Kilimanjaro in a balloon. He and his wife embarked on the Kenya side of the mountain." The editor's comment was "One wonders what his wife is, if she is not a person."

Consumerism, legal rights of people, our developing north, are aspects of today which are not included in many of the materials being used. I deplore the teaching of urbanization and its problems with films and film strips showing a Toronto and a Vancouver of ten years ago.

To keep abreast of developments and the flow of information university texts must be revised every two or three years. Let me vent a special peeve of mine. Can we expect our elementary and high school students to be interested in and stimulated by outmoded materials which are five or seven years old, frayed and worn by use, and held together by tape? I was in a school not long ago where one of the science series being used was written before man landed on the moon. Can we expect a positive reaction to outdated information from the television generations we are now educating? In the last five years there has emerged a new emphasis on Canada, her people, her achievements and her struggles. How can the students participate in this emerging quest if materials are not available to them which reflect our way of life?

Canada is going metric. Quantification in new units of measurement is difficult. The cost of the replacement of mathematics texts with those which are metricated would take most of the per-pupil expenditure on texts for one year. The replacement cost of science materials, maps and globes demanded by our changing to the metric system requires a far greater rate of investment in new materials than it has been possible to make during the last few years. Certainly there are new materials finding their way into our classrooms but the number is ever decreasing. Each year the discrepancy will grow between what is necessary and relevant and what we have.

Earlier, I mentioned the "golden age" of publishing at which time the publisher had resources to develop programmes to work with and nurture Canadian authors, designers and a growing graphic arts industry. Publishing is a capital intensive industry, the risk is great. To develop a new reading programme for grades 1-6 will involve an expenditure of $500,000. A new mathematics and science programme will each need an investment of $250,000. How can the publishers meet their responsibilities if they know the buying pattern in Ontario of the most successful programme will not return the investment? Which Canadian publisher can persuade an author to spend up to five years of his free time researching and writing if the schools will not purchase a sufficient quantity to afford at least some recognition of his contribution. How much longer can publishers keep competent editors, designers and artists waiting in the back room for projects which should be produced but will not be. If these conditions prevail the flow of educational Canadiana will dry up. We will be forced to purchase more, not less, of foreign materials.

I have tried to express a real concern for the supply of, educational materials to maintain the vitality of our educational effort. I have also suggested the impossible position in which the publishers are placed if they are to respond to the educational needs of Ontario. Those who do not represent strong foreign agencies cannot survive as publishers in the present milieu. They will have no choice but to withdraw from educational publishing. As concerned citizens we must not let this happen. We must ask the question "What can be done?".

One of the educational trends mentioned earlier was decentralization, which has changed the power structure in education. Although financial control is vested with the provincial government, important decisions are made at the local level pertaining to the courses offered, the content in them and the materials to be used. We must remember that the process of decentralization envisioned by our government reaches beyond the school board, its educational officers, the principal and the teachers to you, the citizen. For one of the assumptions of decentralization is that the closer that decision-making is to the grass roots the more valid it will be. The assumption is only correct if we make our experience felt and our wishes known.

I believe we must assess critically and carefully our use of resources in education. We must establish our priorities. 'As tax payers, as parents and as citizens we must work with teachers and administrators to assure ourselves that the educational materials used by the students are excellent, that they are up-to-date, relevant, interesting, and that they reflect the best scholarship we can provide. How many of you are aware of the date of publication of materials our students are using? I find cold comfort from a report of the December election that all but 17% of the Metro school trustees were elected by acclamation.

The amount of money to make relevant educational materials available and educational publishing viable would represent only an additional expenditure of approximately one percent. Surely as our capital expenditures decrease and the debentures from the 50's and 60's are redeemed we can reorder our priorities to provide for this expenditure.

I believe a good textbook is a fine example of excellent, non-fiction writing. I have often asked myself why the media do not consider the materials used by the students important enough to review, for these are part of the students' experience in the formative years, when values are formed and when tastes are developed. Is it because of the traditions involved in book reviewing or is it because they believe we are not interested or that people do not care.

A special industry-government committee has been meeting for the past year and is considering a plan which, I feel, offers real hope to the industry and avoids the age-old problem of government hand-outs and subsidies. It is a recycling plan. A sum of money would be set aside by the Department of Education and school boards would be permitted to return outdated and outmoded educational materials for credit. The credit would enable them to buy new materials for our classrooms. I believe the possibilities of this suggestion should be explored fully.

Let me recall for you the words of O. J. Firestone, in Industry and Education, when be reminds us that "while Canada is a nation with bountiful natural resources, the key to rapid Canadian economic progress was the human factor, the skills of the people, their initiative, enterprise and creativeness. Although we owe a debt to other nations for their technical and scientific knowledge, in the end we had to educate and train our young people".

Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to be a publisher, to be part of this vital industry. We have produced much which is excellent and which presents the various aspects of our people and our nation. We will continue to make Canadian thought, feeling and identity known to the students in our classrooms with reasonable support from the institutions which we serve. The challenge is clear and time is short. We must seek ways, not only to maintain but also to improve the quality of education in Canada.

Mr. Edwardh was thanked on behalf of The Empire Club of Canada by Mr. Duncan Green, a Director of the Club.

20. J. Firestone: A Century of Canadian Development, (Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1969).

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The Learning Materials Crisis in our Schools

A review of the history of the sources of educational materials used in Canadian schools. Comments on the significant educational changes in the 1960's, and consequences in the 1970's. An exploration of what this crisis means to students, to the quality of education, and to the publishing industry. Also, suggestions or possible steps which can alleviate the situation. A discussion follows with statistics and examples.