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In the late nineteenth century a new generation of reformers, believing that it was possible to free Canadian society from many of the problems of humanity, committed itself to a program of social improvements based on the more effective upbringing of all children. This commitment involved changing people’s definition of children: they are no longer seen as beings inherently sinful who could be shaped into adults by discipline and hard work, but rather as innocent plants, requiring a great deal of careful and therefore professional nurture.
Children in English-Canadian Society examines the growth of the public health movement and its various efforts at improving the health of children. It treats the new juvenile courts, with their use of family care as the preferred means of rehabilitation; and the schools, the main hothouse for this new society, where such activities as manual and vocation training, school gardening, physical education, and the conscious Canalization of immigrants were introduced. The revolution in attitudes and institutions was complete by the 1920s and for some fifty years it reforms have been an established part of Canada’s social life – some would say too established.
Professor Sutherland has a keen eye, both for the illuminating and for the typical, and has assembled this history from English-language sources across the country. It is a readable and important work that will interest social historians and all involved, in whatever capacity, with the care and development of children.