"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time."
—T S Eliot (1959)
Public education in Alberta has gone through many transformations since Alberta joined Canada in 1905. In retrospect, the 20th century can be seen as a period of remarkable achievement in education in Alberta. Many of these achievements occurred amid considerable tension and conflict. Throughout Alberta's history, dedicated public school teachers have played an essential role in carrying out the cause of public education. On more than one occasion, Albertans have found the means to preserve the basic ideal of public education while adapting it to meet altered circumstances.
From time to time, Alberta's system of public education revealed its shortcomings. After making an irreplaceable contribution, for example, the one-room schoolhouse eventually became obsolete. Similarly, normal schools, at one time indispensable to teacher preparation, were ultimately replaced by faculties of education. Other advances in public education included amalgamating school districts, improving the standards for teacher preparation, introducing a program for preparing school administrators, revising the curriculum on an ongoing basis and extending public education to those who had previously been excluded.
A review of the major events in the history of public education in Alberta inevitably raises questions about the future. Which educational future will the public and the teachers of Alberta choose? Which stories from the past will inform their minds and inspire their hearts?
Some events in Alberta's educational history now seem quaint and old-fashioned. Others remain opaque. Still others evoke curiosity, nostalgia, pride or even anger. However these events impress us, they nevertheless remain, in the words of Kach and Mazurek (1992b), an invitation "to explore our educational past."
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