A year ago, I wrote about the “special class” in 1960s Saskatoon, of which I was a member, for a period. Last week, I found out that one of the few people I had reconnected with since that time, Marjorie Clelland, had died over four years ago. Caused me to wonder whether anyone has followed the careers of these class members. Something like a 49 Up, without the seven year intervals, and where the average age of the participants is 58.

At some point in the last fifteen or so years, I wrote to the Saskatoon Board of Education to express my admiration for what they had tried in the 1960s, for it all was an experiment, as I grew to understand. The science test that flamed me out in Grade 7 was in fact Grade 9 science; they were testing to see how far we could go. The vast majority could go that far.

The Board of Education replied. Apparently, there was one person who had initiated much educational reform in Saskatoon at that time. Dr. Name I Can’t Remember.

So many unique people, some with early challenges, including me, as it turned out. Like the child who had to leave after Grade 6, because he was developing ulcers (?!), or so he said. The frail blond boy who would burst into tears, standing in the middle of the class, beside himself when he couldn’t solve a math problem. The same boy who, in 1964, at the age of ten or eleven, taught us all about binary code, as an introduction to how computers were being developed. The child with rheumatic fever, who came and went, and came back. Always with a weak heart; always with a strong mind. One child who, at ten, had an artistic talent at least a decade ahead of his time. My first admiration for art came through viewing his. Left after Grade 6 when his father, a Minister with the Christian Reformed Church, accepted a position in Champaign, Illinois.

I don’t know how long the “special classes” continued. What I do know is that the segregation did not continue into high school, at least formally. There instead was effective segregation through streaming, as one of my classmates from that time told me. If you took two language classes in high school, such as French and one other, you ended up in a different cohort.

I have communicated with more than one student from that time who has mixed feelings about the program. Maybe because I couldn’t complete it, I end up valuing it more?
Postscript, November 22, 2011: Perhaps the Saskatchewan educator who influenced things was Dr. John G. Egnatoff. Don’t know for certain, but the name sounds familiar.


About brucelarochelle
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