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School Consolidation in Maritime Canada: The Educational Legacy of Edgar L. Morphet and His Disciples, Country School Journal, Vol. 5 (2017), pp. 31-47.

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School Consolidation in Maritime Canada:
The Educational Legacy of Edgar L. Morphet and His Disciples
Paul W. Bennett
Saint Mary’s University
One-room schoolhouses organized in a multitude of small, locally controlled school districts
once dominated the rural and small-town landscape of Maritime Canada. From the 1920s
to the 1960s, one-room schoolhouses were gradually supplanted due to school consolidation,
which was most actively promoted by influential American educational administrator Edgar
Morphet (18951990) and a new breed of twentieth-century educational planners. Driven by a
relentless “bigger is better” philosophy, Morphet and his Canadian disciples came to dominate
school planning, design, and organization in the Maritime provinces (Nova Scotia, New
Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island) despite regular and ongoing resistance from rural
communities. Clear signs of that resistance still survive today in family discussions around the
kitchen table.
For the past ninety years, U.S. researchers and policymakers have debated the effects of school
consolidation. Some school finance managers have argued that to reduce educational costs,
administrative operations must be streamlined by increasing the size of schools and their student
populations. Yet small-school researchers contend that money invested in larger schools and
districts does not necessarily lead to reduced costs. Whatever one’s view, the consolidation
movement has had a profound effect on U.S. and Canadian public schools. The National Center for
Education Statistics (NCES) reports that in 1920, the U.S. had 171,000 schools, but that number had
dropped to only 100,713 in 2008-09.* How did such a drastic change occur? The following
historical analysis by Professor Paul Bennett reveals much about large-scale consolidation by
comparing the movement in three Maritime Canadian provinces. He makes the case that American
“educrats” like Edgar L. Morphet and his disciples heavily influenced the consolidation movement
in Canada through Morphet’s required school administration textbooks.
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School consolidation emerged gradually from the 1920s onward and was touted as an
educational panacea in the late 1950s by a rising class of post-war education planners and
administrators. Much of the rationale for and momentum behind consolidation was driven by that
new breed of North American education-system managers known today as “educrats.” Foremost
among them was Edgar Leroy Morphet, a leading professor of educational administration and a
towering figure in the field (Figure 1).1 Born into a farming family in Grass Creek, Indiana, he
graduated from Grass Creek High School in 1913 and the Indiana State Teachers College in
1918. He went on to complete his Ph.D. at Teachers College, Columbia University in 1927. He
rose from teaching in a one-room school in rural Indiana to the lofty heights of Chief of School
Finance in the U.S. Office of Education. Throughout his forty-year career, he advanced to top
state administration posts in Alabama and Florida, published a major comparative study of
America’s state education systems, and, as a renowned University of California education
professor, conducted organizational studies for state education authorities across the nation.
Morphet exerted perhaps his greatest long-term impact as a prolific textbook author. His
classic text, Educational Administration: Concepts, Practices and Issues, dominated the field,
appearing in four editions from 1959 to 1982, reportedly selling more copies than any of Elwood
Cubberley’s single volumes on the history of American education.2 As textbook author and
mentor, he deserves to be recognized as the “father” of North American school consolidation as
well as a pioneer in the emerging “science” of education management. His academic papers and
“cookbookish” textbooks not only explained the intricacies of school management practice but
also extolled the virtues of larger administrative units and school consolidation.3 Morphet’s
planning principles and models were required reading and became a virtual catechism for
aspiring principals and other administrators. By applying educational finance principles, he and
his academic disciples did much to entrench a new bureaucratic ideology based upon economies
of scale, operational efficiency, optimal school size, and the allocation of pupil places.4 Much of
the standard lexicon and many common educational planning assumptions can be traced back to
Morphet’s textbooks, including proposed optimal school and class sizes, the recommended
pupil-teacher ratio, and building capacity ratings of students per square foot or “pupil places.”
Morphet’s work exemplified “top-down” organizational planning in its rawest form.
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Edgar L. Morphet and Educational Planning
With the publication of his 1948 volume The Forty-Eight State School Systems, Edgar Morphet
emerged as perhaps America’s leading expert on school finance, education planning, and
operational management. Together with two colleagues, R. L. Johns and T. L. Reller, he
produced educational administration studies and specialized in preparing aspiring administrators
under the aegis of the National Council of Professors of
Educational Administration, the leading professional body
for senior academics in the field.5 School organization,
managerial practices, and education finance were Morphet’s
specialties, honed when he was a high school principal,
finance and facilities manager, and senior education finance
officer. From 1939 onward, he was a strong proponent of
“unification” or the merging of small schools and
administrative units.6 His philosophy was clearly expressed
in this passage from his best-known textbook:
The chief function of a school district is to make it
possible for citizens of the area to provide for the
organization, operation and administration of an adequate, economical, and effective
educational program for those who should be educated in and through the public schools.
Any district that fails to carry out this function satisfactorily is an ineffective district. The
ineffectiveness may be due to the attitude of the people, the limited size of the area,
inadequate human or economic resources, [a failure] to recognize or meet emerging needs,
or, to any combination of these factors.7
In textbooks and reports, Morphet urged education administrators to pursue the establishment
of larger units of administration as the best guarantor of more economical and effective
operations. His works also gave a kind of social-scientific sanction to the closing of small
schools and the centralization of school facilities. He assumed that reorganizing school districts
by consolidating smaller units would provide more equality in the provision of resources, as well
as equalize and extend educational opportunities in rural districts. In the case of Newark in
southern Alameda County, California, Morphet was the architect of a controversial 1962-1964
“unification plan” to merge area schools across the entire township. Under fire from Newark
citizens who opposed consolidation, he intervened in January 1964 in an attempt to nudge the
Figure 1: Edgar L. Morphet
The Terre Haute Tribune (IN),
December 10, 1948.
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delayed unification forward. Eventually, he admitted in the local newspaper. “Get on with
[consolidation],” he said, because it was “the most feasible plan under the present conditions.”8
Morphet and his disciples also promoted larger schools by recommending and endorsing
school plans with a minimum school size. “Whenever [it is] practicable an elementary school
should have sufficient pupils to warrant at least 2 teachers per grade or age group,” Morphet
advised, “and a junior or senior high school should have at least 100 pupils in each age group.
He repeatedly recommended, “Elementary and high schools having at least twice this
minimum are usually in a position to provide a more adequate program at a more reasonable
cost.”9 Building upon these organizational principles, North American education administrators
planned and established schools larger in size, organized in blocks of six or twelve classrooms,
and broken up into divisions of three or more different grades.10 Adopting Morphet’s
philosophy and criteria for school organization and management would have profound
implications for not only the emerging “science” of education management but also the future of
small schools everywhere.
The “Bigger Is Better” Mantra in Maritime Education
The seeds of school consolidation were sown in the Maritime Provinces long before Morphet and
the school planners introduced the systems to make it happen. As early as April 1923, Pastor
James Boyle of Havre Boucher, Nova Scotia, used the Bulletin of the Nova Scotia Teachers’
Union to make the case for the larger county unit as the basis for the entire system. “In Nova
Scotia’s rural and village education,” he claimed, “the district unit is one of those hardy pioneers
which has survived the passing of the primitive conditions out of which it rose. The ox team has
given way to the automobile and the airplane,” he continued; “the lighted pine knot and the
candle have gone out before the electric light but the district school unit, the same ‘pitiable
beggar,’ is still with!us.”11 The whole one-room school system had to go, P. E. I. Chief
Superintendent H. H. Shaw claimed in 1928, “not . . . because it is old, but because it is
outgrown. It hampers development like a tight fitting garment on a fast growing boy. The life of
the people unfolds, it develops, and new forms, new systems, must be evolved to meet the new
School consolidation resurfaced in November 1938 when the Nova Scotia Council of Public
Instruction initiated the Commission on the Larger School Unit. It reported that, as of 1940, the
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provincial school system remained predominantly rural and still essentially organized in one-
room school sections. Of the province’s 1,758 total school sections in 1939,
1,490 (84.7 percent) were rural sections,
233 (13.3 percent) were village sections, and
45 (2.5 percent) were urban, located in incorporated towns and cities.
The system was administered by 5,400 local trustees assisted by some 1,600 secretaries; but only
3,500 teachers were employed throughout the province. In rural sections, there were four
officials for each teacher. Presented with these facts, the Commission’s mandate was clear: to
provide the case for “the adoption of a unit larger than the present school organization prevailing
throughout the province.”13
The Commission focused almost exclusively on the financial defects of the existing system.
The school section system, according to Superintendent Henry F. Munro, was “inefficient,
wasteful, inequitable and hopelessly out of date.” Among the identified problems were the gross
inequities in assessment bases (with village assessments ranging from $700 to $166,667), huge
variations in tax rates (from $0.36 per $100 of assessment to $20.00 per $100), the large number
of local school sections requiring assistance with tax payments, the inability to collect local
taxes, administrative overhead costs and duplications, and the lack of special programs (for
artistic and practical arts) in most rural sections.14
In the case of eastern Nova Scotia, H. M. MacDonald, acting as an official in the Department
of Education Rural Branch, identified a serious attendance problem and provided a detailed cost-
benefit analysis for each proposed consolidation. Of the 1,758 rural schools, only twenty-nine
had an attendance of 95 percent or more, and only five were in Cape Breton. For consolidation to
work, MacDonald insisted that school transportation grants were absolutely necessary. His
analysis of school costs in Antigonish County made it clear that consolidation was driven
entirely by the potential for cost reductions. Combining schools, he fervently believed, had
significant “financial advantages.” After summarizing the advantages, he claimed that it all
boiled down to a matter of dollars and cents. In a statistical analysis of fourteen Nova Scotia
counties, he proposed eighty-nine consolidations affecting 1,981 school sections, thereby
affecting 4,555 pupils.15
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Figure 2: Early School Consolidators: School Inspector H.M. MacDonald on the left and the Antigonish
Municipal School Board, 1942. Photo courtesy of Antigonish Heritage Museum, Antigonish, NS.
Antigonish County served as a model for the entire consolidation scheme. MacDonald
attempted to demonstrate how consolidation might be used to achieve two interrelated
objectives: reducing education costs and providing higher teacher salaries. In Antigonish
County, he proposed twenty-six separate consolidations with indirect savings of $4,689 and
direct savings of $3,115. In his forecast, he projected consolidating twenty-six out of sixty-six
rural sections!for a total saving of 10 percent in education costs while providing teachers in the
affected areas with a forty-one percent hike in their salaries. Improving teacher salaries was
conceived not only as a means of addressing the chronic problem of teacher retention but also as
a useful carrot making the whole scheme more palatable for displaced rural teachers.16
Consolidating schools and centralizing administrative facilities became official Nova Scotia
Department of Education dogma after the publication of the 1954 Pottier Commission Report.
The Commission saw “an increasing demand for consolidation of schools” mainly because
“small schools” become “harder to justify as time goes on.” As transportation and
communications advanced, stubborn “local pride and prejudice” would inevitably wane in rural
Nova Scotia. Consolidation offered cost advantages such as fewer required teachers, but the
Commission cautioned against overestimating the financial advantages. There was plenty of
room for further consolidation, but the Commissioners recommended that administrative
reorganization be “undertaken and developed as rapidly as financial and local conditions
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With school consolidation on the ascendancy in the 1950s, the “bigger is better” educational
philosophy became a virtual mantra for Morphet and his disciples in the United States and
Canada. The modern phase of massive school consolidation was signaled by the introduction of
regional schools, a modernist invention marking the arrival of what John Kenneth Galbraith once
called the “technostructure,” which only compounded the challenges confronting rural dwellers.
Such bureaucratic systems and ways of thinking were highly incompatible with the prevailing
values in most local communities. It took a young economics professor, Jim McNiven, to see in
1978 that the advance of systematized forms of organization, including larger school districts,
was a harbinger of fundamental social change. “School reorganization,” he contended,
exemplified “a multi-faceted attempt to [remold] the nature of rural society, and failing that, to
depopulate those rural areas where resistance to this process [was] greatest.”18
Rural Resistance to the Larger Unit
Promoters of larger school districts met stiff resistance, particularly in the rural areas of the
Maritimes on Canada’s east coast. Until the 1940s, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince
Edward Island were predominantly rural, most people living either in villages or the countryside.
The whole region remained steeped in the values of rural society. McNiven likened the
Maritimes to a “peasant society,” borrowing the term from British sociologist Guy Hunter.19
Such societies are characterized by an overriding concern for stability. Like so-called “conserver
societies,” the Maritimes retained a simple hierarchical social order led by “headmen” where one
community remained “remote” from anotherfrom “the village over the hill.” Each village
remained reasonably self-sufficient, both economically and socially, having its own general
store, schools, churches, and other social services. Early twentieth-century Maritime society was
penetrated by urban-bureaucratic organization and values, but it tended to resist social changes.
Until the 1960s, even small towns in Maritime Canada retained social organization and
networks that were more in keeping with “rural society” than with the emerging urban-industrial
order.20 Whether it was Kentville, Nova Scotia; Hartland, New Brunswick; or Montague, Prince
Edward Island, most social organizations and groups were small, consisting of one to five
people, and only three organizations maintained regular workday activities: the local plant, the
hospital, and the regional school. Each of these was an extension of provincial or national
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complex organizations. Venturing farther out into the surrounding countryside, most interaction
was a “face-to-face, small-group” activity within a “very simply organized society.”21
Rural folk reacted to the incursion of “modernizing forces” with a healthy strain of
skepticism. Whether engaged in farming, fishing, or the timber trade, rural Maritimers held firm
to their rurality and saw themselves as “independent commodity producers” at odds with forces
of social change.22 Status in small-town and rural areas was accorded to people by their
personalities and ways of doing things rather than by their titles or formal positions. Politics was
highly personal with many priding themselves on being on a first-name basis with the Premier or
regional ministers. People tended to represent themselves rather than work through groups and
agencies. Any organizations that existed tended to be simple ones, having one or two layers of
authority. The things that mattered to people were friendship, kinship, and religion rather than
social status. When public institutions like regional schools arrived in rural communities, they
were oddities, introducing urban bureaucratic ways and sparking resistance.23
One of Morphet’s ardent Canadian followers was Professor George E. Flower of Toronto’s
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, a staunch advocate of larger school districts.
Flower welcomed the prevailing trend toward larger local education authorities with their
advantages for financial control and educational planning. In 1964, he published a widely read
textbook, How Big is Too Big?, and adopted that theme for his Quance Public Lecture that year
on the challenges facing public education. Reacting to the common criticism that smaller units
fostered closer personal relationships, he argued that public accountability could be decentralized
and preserved within the larger local unit.24
Flower remained an unabashed centralizer, albeit with a few reservations. In December 1967,
he published an influential article reprinted in Nova Scotia’s Journal of Education. “Larger and
fewer school districts,” he proclaimed, were the wave of the future as the “tiny horse-and-buggy
district” gave way to “the larger motor-car area.” In his view, larger reorganized school districts
were better because they not only met the needs of “our youngsters today,” but also provided
“the best possible value for every dollar spent.” He summarily dismissed every possible
objection to “bigness,” even public concerns that larger districts were “too monolithic, too
impersonal.”25 Flower also relished the definite signs pointing to “greater centralization” in the
form of provincial control over local school authorities.
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The Big Wave of Administrative Centralization
Each Maritime province responded to the movement for school modernization and consolidation
in its own fashion. Over the course of the 1960s, the Larger Unit emerged triumphant as all three
provinces, one at a time, embraced the logic of school-district consolidation and school
amalgamation. The interventionist Liberal government of Louis Robichaud was first out of the
gate with a sweeping 1962 consolidation scheme. Prince Edward Island followed suit in 1966,
and finally Nova Scotia took a more cautious, incremental, district-by-district approach.
New Brunswick Programme of Equal Opportunity. Advocates of the larger school district
model drew inspiration from New Brunswick’s 1962 Royal Commission on Finance and
Municipal Taxation. The Byrne Commission proposed a sweeping reorganization of that
province’s school system. It recommended a drastic reduction in the number of school districts
from 422 to just thirty-three, and the total takeover by the province of the funding of education.
The Louis Robichaud government endorsed the plan in January 1962 and gave it a name, The
Programme of Equal Opportunity. In the Maritimes, New Brunswick led the way in
consolidating the entire system, cutting back significantly on the responsibilities of local school
The Byrne-Robichaud plan drew heavy critical fire. Opponents charged that the sweeping
changes threatened local democracy and predicted that it would centralize power in the Premier’s
hands. Many New Brunswickers feared that the scheme signaled the Acadian Catholic-born
Robichaud’s intention to pander to rural Acadian interests at the expense of the Protestant,
English-speaking majority. The Premier’s narrow election victory in October 1967 meant a
triumph for the larger school unit in the province. It was welcomed by consolidators like Flower
as a needed dose of “fiscal reality” that would “make sure that total available revenues for
education” were “expended equitably over the whole province.” The appealing popular mantra
of equitable “educational opportunity for all” was beginning to morph into “one-size-fits-all” to
provide “educational value for every dollar spent.”26
Nova Scotia The “Brokered” Amalgamation Plan. Nova Scotia responded with a more
modest Comprehensive School System Plan of its own. Larger school units were identified as the
solution for many of the system’s ills, particularly at the senior and junior high school levels. In
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1968, Premier G. I. Smith’s government passed legislation to permit the amalgamation of school
boards in selected regions designated as “amalgamation areas.” Municipal authorities were
authorized to enter into negotiations aimed at securing amalgamation agreements. Instead of
imposing a New Brunswick-style regime, the province attempted to “broker” agreements
between the Urban and Rural School Boards Association and the Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union
to smooth the way for the organizational changes.
The Nova Scotia government pursued school consolidation utilizing a rational, incrementalist
strategy. One district, Colchester County, was selected as the organizational “guinea pig” to
assess the potential for amalgamations on a larger scale. A team of outside consultants provided
a report itemizing the financial and programmatic advantages of “unified comprehensive
services.” Unlike New Brunswick, Nova Scotia inched toward amalgamation through a
protracted series of negotiations.27 The “let’s make a deal” approach guided by Education
Minister Gerald Doucet secured compliance while minimizing the degree of local resistance.
While Nova Scotia was piecing together its consolidation plan, Prince Edward Island
experienced a rather rare tumult of educational change.
Prince Edward Island The Comprehensive Development Plan. In Prince Edward Island, the
long-delayed consolidation of schools was achieved through a virtual “educational revolution.”
The whole educational infrastructure, dominated by rural one-room schools and offering limited
high school education, badly needed improvement. A Royal Commission on educational finance
again laid the groundwork. After years of vacillation, Conservative Premier Walter Shaw tackled
the challenge of restructuring the system. Generous funding under the federal Technical and
Vocational Assistance Act enabled the construction of new vocational schools in Charlottetown
and Summerside. A network of regional comprehensive high schools was built and by 1963
numbered fifteen schools scattered across the island. The spanking new high schools resembled
standardized brick boxes, but they engendered local pride as symbols of progress. While many
Islanders complained about the major expense of building these schools, the schools gained
public acceptance, especially in areas with few other public amenities.28
A youthful and dynamic Liberal Premier, Alex Campbell, toppled the Shaw government in
July 1966 and unleashed a torrent of change. Compared to the earlier reforms, the new push for
consolidation of rural elementary schools stirred up a Prince Edward Island hornet’s nest. A
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Toronto-based firm, Acres Research and Planning, was hired to tackle the potentially explosive
issue. Guided by the research of Alan F. Brown of Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, the
consultant’s report produced in August 1967 did not mince any words. “The present system of
education,” the report declared,” is inadequate by any measure. Immediate steps should be taken
to upgrade school facilities, curriculum and teachers.” His solution: “A complete reorganization
and consolidation of the school system appears to be the most appropriate action to take.”29
The “Big City” Toronto consultants were aghast at the state of the Island school system.
They claimed that little had changed over the past fifty years and that the one-room schools
remained the same as they had been when first established. Out of 25,265 elementary school
children, nearly 16,000 (or 63 percent) attended schools the consultants judged deficient. They
applied brutal logic in assessing the situation: “It is simply not practical to operate 412 schools in
a province with only 108,535 people,” the consultants argued. “In addition to the cost of
operating an antiquated system, 68 per cent of the buildings are one-room schools that are, in
many cases, totally inadequate or unsafe.” Massive consolidation seemed to be the only solution.
Replacing virtually all of the Island’s schools, the Toronto firm conceded, would be expensive,
but “education …provides a very high rate of return on investment.”30
Prince Edward Island’s Comprehensive Development Plan, spearheaded by General Manager
Del Gallagher, pushed forward with a large-scale system of restructuring and reform. In May
1969, an Education Status Report, These Are the Facts, was published and school consolidation
proceeded at a quick pace. It sparked a fierce public debate pitting community development
forces against staunch defenders of local identity and autonomy.31 An announcement of a ten-
year timetable (1966 to 1976) for eliminating all 252 one-room schools and all 258 two-to-five
roomers sent shock waves through many villages and other rural communities. Those losses were
more hotly debated than the replacement plan to build consolidated schools to meet the need for
449 new classrooms.
The most immediate and jarring impact of the Comprehensive Plan was felt by Island
students who were suddenly transported from little wooden schoolhouses to much larger
consolidated brick boxes (Figures 3 and 4). Leading Island historian Edward Macdonald, a
native of Newport, King’s County, was one of the children who made the transition. “For many
rural children,” he later recalled, “consolidation meant their first encounter with school buses,
their first exposure to children of other faiths, their first involvement in organized sports—in
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some cases, their first experience of running water and flush toilets.” Many rural kids were so
protected that they didn’t know any “bad words,” at least until their first recess in the
consolidated school playground.32
The Edgar Morphet Legacy in Rural Canada
School consolidation eventually became part of the plan developed by provincial education
authorities and driven by the new class of educrats consisting mainly of school superintendents,
Figure 3: Dramatic Change in School Design and Scale East
Tracadie School in 1920. Photo from Ann Wallace, Our Rural
Schools Through the Years: Eastern Antigonish County (Nova
Scotia: Antigonish/Monastery, NS, 2005).
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inspectors, and architects. School administrators in the Maritimes came under the spell of North
American experts like Morphet, who produced research that set school-size standards based upon
the provision of “a more adequate program at a more reasonable cost.”33 Following Morphet’s
criteria, school structures were designed to meet minimum size requirements. From 1960
onwards, elementary schools for six grades were constructed as six-room or twelve-room
structures. Three-grade high schools of 300 students required twelve rooms, and a four-grade
high school of 400 students was designed with sixteen rooms. Such school design theories
dominated educational thinking and unleashed a new wave of school consolidation. Between
1960 and 1966 alone, over 600 small one-school boards disappeared in Atlantic Canada.34
School consolidation came slower to the Maritimes than to Ontario and the Canadian West.
In 1966, school authorities reported that some 400 Nova Scotia schools still did not meet the
minimum standard of six rooms, and they enrolled over 78,000 pupils. An estimated 106 schools
had six to eight rooms accommodating another 36,000 pupils. Three out of five (59 percent)
Nova Scotia schools had eight or more rooms in 1966, and those schools housed 22 percent of
the total school population.
The biggest consolidation wave hit the Maritimes from the 1970s onwards. In 1972, Prince
Edward Island adopted a new school act that resulted, over time, in the dissolution of many little
community school boards, the establishment of five regional boards, and the consolidation of
most of the one- and two-room schools.35 From the 1920s until the late 1960s, the battle lines
were drawn in the struggle for control over rural education, especially in the Canadian
countryside. Sporadic skirmishes broke out between educational authorities and defenders of
local community schools. Education officials insisted that the little one-room schools were
outdated, wasteful, and inefficient, denying pupils the opportunities afforded by consolidated
schools with supposedly better trained teachers, gyms, auditoriums, and lab rooms. Resistance
persisted and Canada’s Atlantic region eventually became ground zero in the struggle for small
community schools.36 Since 2006, Michael Corbett of Acadia University and his colleague
Dennis Mulcahy of Memorial University have been championing a Canadian version of the
Human Scale Education movement. “For many decades of the twentieth century,” Corbett and
Mulcahy wrote in Education on a Human Scale, “school consolidation was considered
synonymous with school improvement, despite the fact that there was virtually no evidence to
support that assumption.”37
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School consolidation as espoused by Morphet and his generation of education planners
spelled the end for Canada’s one-room schoolhouse tradition. “For seventy years, rural
Canadians held tenaciously to the system that gave them control over their schools,” stated Jean
Cochrane in her popular 1981 book The One-Room Schoolhouse in Canada. To many rural
Canadians, consolidated schools were too expensive, threatening to drive taxes up, too dependent
upon unreliable transportation, and located too far from home for little children. The onslaught of
social and economic change, aided by consolidators and their plans, eventually led to the decline
and disappearance of the one-room schoolhouse system. Even today, asking rural dwellers
gathered around a farm kitchen table about their “lost schools” is most likely to evoke
bittersweet memories and the oft-voiced complaint, “They told us it would be up to the
1 See the profile of Edgar L. Morphet (1895-1990), professor emeritus, University of California,
Berkeley, written by his trusted colleagues T. Bentley Edwards and Theodore L. Reller, (assessed January 23, 2016).
2 Thomas E. Glass et al., The History of Educational Administration Viewed Through Its Textbooks
(Toronto/Oxford: Scarecrow Education, 2004), especially 91-98.
3 Paul W. Bennett, Vanishing Schools, Threatened Communities: The Contested Schoolhouse in Maritime
Canada (Halifax: Fernwood Publishing, 2013), 113-115. For an analysis of Morphet’s text and its link to
school consolidation, see Douglas Lawr and Robert Gidney, Educating Canadians: A Documentary
History of Public Education (Toronto: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1973), 250-251.
4 “Edgar L. Morphet, University of California, in Memorium, 1991,” accessed May 8, 2010, (accessed January 23, 2016). See also E. L. Morphet, R. L. Johns, and T. L. Reller,
Educational Organization and Administration (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1967), 269-271.
Paul W. Bennett, Ed.D., is founding director of the Schoolhouse Institute and
adjunct professor of education at Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, NS. Over
the past four decades, he has taught high school history, served as an elected
school trustee, headed independent schools, and written many policy papers,
academic articles, and news commentaries. He was co-founder of the Nova
Scotia Small Schools Initiative and is a well-known public advocate for
community hub schools. His two most recent books are Vanishing Schools,
Threatened Communities (2011) and The Last Stand: Schools, Communities
and the Future of Rural Nova Scotia (2013). Contact him at
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5 James D. Olson, “Experts Join Holy in School System Study,” Daily Capital Journal (Salem, Oregon),
February 16, 1950,1; “An Experienced Educator,” The Ogden Standard-Examiner (Ogden, UT),
December 19, 1951; “Federal Aid, Not Control, School Need,Greeley Daily Tribune (Greeley, CO), 30
August 1951, 2; and “Federal Project: Area Educators Arrive for Meet,” Albuquerque Journal
(Albuquerque, NM), March 21, 1968.
6 Henry Alves and Edgar L. Morphet, Principles and Procedures in the Organization of Satisfactory
Local School Units (Local School Units Project, 1938-11) (Washington, D.C.: United States Department
of the Interior, Department of Education, Bulletin 1938).
7 Morphet, Johns, and Reller, Educational Organization and Administration, 269.
8 On the Newark, CA, Unification Plan controversy, see The Argus (Freemont, CA), May 9, 1962,1; July
25, 1962,1; and January 8, 1964, 1.
9 Morphet, Johns, and Reller, Educational Organization and Administration, 271, 269.
10 Atlantic Development Board, Profiles of Education in the Atlantic Provinces: Background Study No. 5
(Ottawa, 1969), 240-243.
11 James Boyle, “The County as a Unit of Educational Administration,” Bulletin of the Nova Scotia
Teachers’ Union, 2 (April 1923): 2-3.
12 Annual Report of the Chief Superintendent of Education, Province of Prince Edward Island, 1928
(Charlottetown: Department of Education, 1929), xix. See also Jean Cochrane, The One-Room School in
Canada (Toronto: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 1981), 159.
13 NSDE Library, Report of the Commission on the Larger School Unit,” Journal of Education (January
1940), 11, 13-14. Under Canadian school law, after the introduction of so-called “common schools,” a
school section normally consisted of a local school managed by a board of school trustees. The Larger
School Unit Plan consolidated school sections into bigger geographic districts.
14 “Report of the Larger School Unit Commission,” 15-19.
15 H. M. MacDonald, School Consolidation in Nova Scotia (Truro: Rural Branch, Department of
Education, Eastern Nova Scotia, 1940), 6-8, 10, and 23-29 (Tables for Antigonish County Consolidation).
16 Ibid., 6, 7-12, 19, 29-30.
17 Nova Scotia, Department of Education, Report of the Royal Commission on Public School Finance in
Nova Scotia (Halifax, 1954), 51.
18 Jim McNiven, “The Impact of School Reorganization on Rural Lifestyles,” in, Educational
Development in Atlantic Canada, ed. Eric Ricker (Halifax: Dalhousie Department of Education, 1978),
274. See also J. K. Galbraith, The New Industrial State (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1967) for a fuller
explanation of the concept.
19 Guy Hunter, “Chapter 2,” in Modernizing Peasant Societies (London: Oxford University Press, 1969).
20 Daniel Samson, Contested Countryside: Rural Workers and Modern Society in Atlantic Canada, 1800-
1950 (Fredericton: Gorsebrook Research Centre/Acadiensis Press, 1994), 22-25. For a fuller explanation
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of the advancing urban-industrial order and its impact upon Canadian rural society from the 1870s
onward, see R. W. Sandwell, Canada’s Rural Majority: Households, Environments, and Economies,
1870-1940 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2016), 3-28.
21 McNiven, “Impact of School Reorganization,” 274.
22 Robert P. Swierenga, “Theoretical Perspectives on the New Rural History: From Environmentalism to
Modernization,” Agricultural History, 56 (1982), 495-502.
23 See McNiven, “The Impact of School Reorganization,” 278-279.
24 George E. Flower, How Big Is Too Big? Problems of Organization and Size in Local School Systems
(Toronto: W. J. Gage Limited, 1964), 19.
25 George E. Flower, “Local Government and Education,” Journal of Education (December 1967): 6-11.
26 Robert M. Stamp, “Government and Education in Post-War Canada,” in Canadian Education: A
History, ed. Donald Wilson, Robert Stamp and Louis-Philippe Audet (Scarborough: Prentice Hall
Canada, 1970), 449-450.
27 “Amalgamation of School Boards,” Journal of Education (May 1970): 10-19; “Nova Scotia’s
Comprehensive School System,” Journal of Education (October 1966): 17-21.
28 Edward MacDonald, If You’re Strong Hearted: Prince Edward Island in the Twentieth Century
(Charlottetown: Prince Edward Island Museum and Heritage Foundation, 2000), 271-272.
29 Wayne MacKinnon, Between Two Cultures: The Alex Campbell Years (Stratford, Prince Edward
Island: Tea Hill Press, 2005), 1-7, 13-15, and 35-37; Prince Edward Island Archives (PARO),
Development Planning for Prince Edward Island, Education (Toronto: Acres Research and Planning,
August 1967), 1, Appendix A-1 (cited hereafter as Acres Research Report).
30 Acres Research Report, 1-4. See also Verner Smitheram, “Development and the Debate over School
Consolidation,” in The Garden Transformed: Prince Edward Island, 1945-1980, ed. Verner Smitheram,
David Milne, and Satadal Dasgupta, 185-200.
31 PARO, D.W. Gallagher,“These Are the Facts (Charlottetown: Economic Development Corporation,
May 1969), Introduction and Acres Research Report, 38-40.
32 MacDonald, If You’re Strong Hearted, 272.
33 Morphet, Johns, and Reller, Educational Organization and Administration, 271. See also Bennett,
Vanishing Schools, Threatened Communities, 118, referencing C. Bruce Fergusson’s 1968 analysis of
school consolidations in Nova Scotia’s Colchester County.
34 See Lawr and Gidney, Educating Canadians, 250-251.
35 Atlantic Development Board, Profiles of Education in the Atlantic Provinces, 243.
36 Michael Corbett, “What We Know and Don’t Know About Small Schools: A View from Atlantic
Canada,” Country School Journal, 1 (2013): 38-52.
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37 See Michael Corbett and Dennis Mulcahy, Education on a Human Scale: Small Rural Schools in a
Modern Context (Amherst: Municipality of Cumberland County, 2006),
_in_a_modern_context (accessed January 23, 2016).
38 Jean Cochrane, The One-Room School in Canada (Toronto: Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 1981), 158-161.
For a more recent expression of that perspective, see Paul W. Bennett, The Last Stand: Schools,
Communities and the Future of Rural Nova Scotia (Halifax: Fernwood Publishers, 2013), 18-23, 66-74,
and 90-97.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Impact of School Reorganization
  • Mcniven
McNiven, "Impact of School Reorganization," 274.
These Are the Facts" (Charlottetown: Economic Development Corporation
  • D W Paro
  • Gallagher
PARO, D.W. Gallagher,"These Are the Facts" (Charlottetown: Economic Development Corporation, May 1969), Introduction and Acres Research Report, 38-40.
The New Industrial State (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1967) for a fuller explanation of the concept
  • J K See
  • Galbraith
See also J. K. Galbraith, The New Industrial State (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1967) for a fuller explanation of the concept.
If You're Strong Hearted
  • Macdonald
MacDonald, If You're Strong Hearted, 272.
How Big Is Too Big? Problems of Organization and Size in Local School Systems
  • E George
  • Flower
George E. Flower, How Big Is Too Big? Problems of Organization and Size in Local School Systems (Toronto: W. J. Gage Limited, 1964), 19.
The Alex Campbell Years 1-7, 13-15, and 35-37
  • Wayne Mackinnon
  • Between Two
  • Cultures
Wayne MacKinnon, Between Two Cultures: The Alex Campbell Years (Stratford, Prince Edward Island: Tea Hill Press, 2005), 1-7, 13-15, and 35-37; Prince Edward Island Archives (PARO), Development Planning for Prince Edward Island, Education (Toronto: Acres Research and Planning, August 1967), 1, Appendix A-1 (cited hereafter as Acres Research Report).
What We Know and Don't Know About Small Schools: A View from Atlantic Canada
  • Michael Corbett
Michael Corbett, "What We Know and Don't Know About Small Schools: A View from Atlantic Canada," Country School Journal, 1 (2013): 38-52.
Amalgamation of School Boards Nova Scotia's Comprehensive School System
27 " Amalgamation of School Boards, " Journal of Education (May 1970): 10-19; " Nova Scotia's Comprehensive School System, " Journal of Education (October 1966): 17-21.