by Pat & Terry Mooney
Manitoba Pageant, September 1961, Volume 7, Number 1
The Christmas exams of 1880 had ended and the little town of Gladstone was in an uproar over the competence or incompetence of their one and only teacher, Mr. Budge. As always, nine inspectors had come to witness the examinations - which in those days were oral - and to make certain that the school was run properly. On this occasion, however, the observers were split in their decision. Four of them were outraged at the apparent lack of control in the classroom and the out-right memorization of the answers by the pupils. The other faction, the majority by one, doubted that any such situation existed. So the whole town was at loggerheads and Mr. Budge's head seemed likely to roll.
The minority party contended that besides lacking discipline, the schoolmaster was not capable or had no desire to teach the proper subjects in the accustomed manner. The majority group denied the truth of this statement and the public was kept wondering.
Furthermore, the majority party wanted clear examples rather than general statements which might slander the teacher. The minority group complied. They asked anyone who could to admit that the reading had not improved since the last examination. This was a stab in the side and was not tolerated by the other party. They believed, that with the limited number of books available to the school, readers could not be changed easily during the year, and therefore any learning along that line was at a literal stalemate.
Then the minority faction asked Mr. Budge's supporters to explain the absence of Canadian History in the curriculum. The majority group denied the absence, saying that the subject was taught as well as could be expected considering the tools with which the teacher was provided.
The minority retaliated with the subject of Grammar. The parsing which was a major subject in those days - they said had clearly been memorized by the pupils with the help of the teacher. The opposition angrily denied this charge and retorted that the whole thing was an outright lie and that the inspectors themselves had chosen the words and sentences.
The minority group was insulted but wound up its attack by saying that Mr. Budge was obviously an incompetent teacher who had no right to influence the impressionable students with what was so obviously a bad character. They demanded he be dismissed. The teacher's supporters just as firmly demanded that he stay on to continue his teaching, adding, that to all reports, he was a kind, gentle man.
With this the town was left in a turmoil of indecision. It was evident that both sides, or at least one of them, were guilty of gross exaggeration, to say the least, and people were left to form their own opinion. Some wondered if it was not best to fire Mr. Budge just to be certain. Others were set against this. As the newspapers of the day do not mention the schoolmaster from Gladstone again we today are left to draw our own conclusion.
Page revised: 1 July 2009