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Whitelaw, Marjory.

Halifax, Nova Scotia Museum, c1985. 42pp, paper, $3.95, ISBN 0-919680-2 8-3. (Peeper Books).

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Adele Case

Volume 13 Number 6
1985 November

People view educators from very personal points of view. Consider the quotations: "The teacher is like the candle which lights others in consuming itself," and "Everybody who is incapable of learning has taken to teaching." Perhaps the poor esteem in which teachers are often held accounts for the few books on the lives of those who shape young minds. Whitelaw's slim piece of research, (museum -sponsored and government-approved), seeks to fill a gap by telling us of the life of Thomas McCulloch.

Thomas McCulloch: His Life and Times tells us of a versatile Scot who came to New Scotland as a minister, but who achieved greatest influence as a gifted teacher and as the founder of the Pictou Academy. An ordained minister of the Secession Church, a branch of the Presbyterian faith, McCulloch arrived in Pictou in 1803 with the intention of working as a minister-missionary on Prince Edward Island. Weather conditions did not permit his travelling there in the winter months, and indeed, his stopover lasted from 1803 until 1838, when he left Pictou to take up the principalship of Dalhousie College.

During his childhood in Paisley, McCulloch was given a good education by his father. Before he studied divinity, he had taken medical courses, and he had a lively interest in science (and specimen collecting) all his life. While a minister in Scotland, McCulloch studied literature, Oriental languages, and constitutional law, all of which he put to good use in the new land. The decision to open a school was forced upon McCulloch by necessity and by his own good sense. He was far better equipped intellectually than most itinerant teachers, and he wanted to properly educate his own children. From small beginnings, the stubborn, (some thought bull-headed), minister conceived a college and curriculum comparable to that offered by King's College in Windsor. His goal was to found a non-sectarian college that could train future ministers.

Much of the latter part of this book deals with McCulloch's failures, his forays into politics, and his writing. It is pointed out that he "spread himself too thin," but his successes show us that he accomplished much, perhaps at the expense of consuming much of his strength. In his fifteen years at Pictou, he instilled the need for liberal ideas. And his true success came, as it does with all outstanding teachers, with the excellence of his graduates. Among these are numbered premiers, judges, professors, and doctors. The pity with this tiny, mainly factual book is that we learn little about his personal life. Those who like delving into Maritime history will enjoy it, and it is recommended reading for all who believe, with Diogenes, that; "The foundation of every state is the education of its youth."

Adele Case, Britannia S.S., Vancouver, B.C.
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