Following are texts associated with the chapter on “A Core Element: Education.”

They include:

Brother Anonymous
The Creation of the Ministry of Education
The Parent Report
CEGEPs and the Université du Québec
Greater Access of Women to Education
Following are texts associated with the chapter on “A Core Element: Education.”

They include:

Brother Anonymous
The Creation of the Ministry of Education
The Parent Report
CEGEPs and the Université du Québec
Greater Access of Women to Education

© 2011, Musée québécois de culture populaire. All Rights Reserved.

A Cleric Castigates the Educational System in Quebec

The year 1960 was rich in events and the publishing of The Impertinences of Brother Anonymous ranked among these events. This satirical tract was considered as one of the triggers of the Quiet Revolution. It originated with a letter from a teacher in Chicoutimi, Brother Pierre-Jérôme – born Jean-Paul Desbiens --, to André Laurendeau, editor of the newspaper Le Devoir, in reaction to a short article that the latter had published on the quality of French. It was the beginning of a long correspondence between the two men that ended with the publication of Desbiens’ book, under the alias Brother Anonymous. The Marist Brothers denounced joual as a boneless tongue. Moreover, he squared off against the Department of Public Instruction and its system of social injustices that privileged the classical college, a veritable national reserve of sacerdotal vocations, and the overwhelming presence of religion.

The First Bestseller in Quebec

The Impertinences... sold more than 130 000 copies, 17 000 of which during the f Read More
A Cleric Castigates the Educational System in Quebec

The year 1960 was rich in events and the publishing of The Impertinences of Brother Anonymous ranked among these events. This satirical tract was considered as one of the triggers of the Quiet Revolution. It originated with a letter from a teacher in Chicoutimi, Brother Pierre-Jérôme – born Jean-Paul Desbiens --, to André Laurendeau, editor of the newspaper Le Devoir, in reaction to a short article that the latter had published on the quality of French. It was the beginning of a long correspondence between the two men that ended with the publication of Desbiens’ book, under the alias Brother Anonymous. The Marist Brothers denounced joual as a boneless tongue. Moreover, he squared off against the Department of Public Instruction and its system of social injustices that privileged the classical college, a veritable national reserve of sacerdotal vocations, and the overwhelming presence of religion.

The First Bestseller in Quebec

The Impertinences... sold more than 130 000 copies, 17 000 of which during the first ten days of sales, not to mention 15 000 additional copies in English. Despite its success with the public, the book was less well received by the clergy, who attempted in vain to halt its publication. Its author, forbidden to attend the book launch, was sent to Switzerland where he completed doctoral studies. The fate of his immediate superior was less fortunate: Brother Louis-Grégoire was forced into a lengthy retirement in Rome and then exiled to the United States. It was obvious that the dollar book by Brother Anonymous had had the effect of a bombshell in Quebec in the wake of the Duplessis era.

© 2011, Musée québécois de culture populaire. All Rights Reserved.

School is not for French Canadians

"Education? Not too much! Our ancestors bequeathed us a heritage of poverty and ignorance and it would be tantamount to betrayal to educate our people" (translation). These words were spoken by Antoine Rivard, lawyer, Union nationale MLA and Solicitor General of Quebec from 1950 to 1959. His leader, Maurice Duplessis, also had a strange concept of education. He likened it to alcohol, and some people can’t hold their liquor (translation). For years, these two men and other Union nationale MLAs declared that Quebec had the best education system in the world. Yet, at the dawning of the 1960s, data far from corroborated this pompous assertion. Indeed, half of youths aged 15 to 19 no longer attended school. This generation mirrored earlier generations: in 1962, 54% of adults aged 25 had no education beyond the sixth grade. In 1961, Black Americans aged 25 to 29 averaged an additional year of schooling compared to French Canadians of the same age group. And as if this were not enough, the education system in Quebec was underequipped and its teaching staff – comprised primarily of Read More
School is not for French Canadians

"Education? Not too much! Our ancestors bequeathed us a heritage of poverty and ignorance and it would be tantamount to betrayal to educate our people" (translation). These words were spoken by Antoine Rivard, lawyer, Union nationale MLA and Solicitor General of Quebec from 1950 to 1959. His leader, Maurice Duplessis, also had a strange concept of education. He likened it to alcohol, and some people can’t hold their liquor (translation). For years, these two men and other Union nationale MLAs declared that Quebec had the best education system in the world. Yet, at the dawning of the 1960s, data far from corroborated this pompous assertion. Indeed, half of youths aged 15 to 19 no longer attended school. This generation mirrored earlier generations: in 1962, 54% of adults aged 25 had no education beyond the sixth grade. In 1961, Black Americans aged 25 to 29 averaged an additional year of schooling compared to French Canadians of the same age group. And as if this were not enough, the education system in Quebec was underequipped and its teaching staff – comprised primarily of religious community members --, was completely overwhelmed and running out of steam. In short, the situation was close to catastrophic, even more so since the job market was looking for specialized labour.

Qui s’instruit, s’enrichit (education for a brighter future)

A complete policy change was required. When they came to power in 1960, the Liberal government and Paul Gérin-Lajoie, Minister of Education, introduced a comprehensive education chart, a group of measures to improve education and make it accessible to one and all, without exception. Upon the recommendation of the Parent Commission, a Ministry of Education was created. Education immediately became a responsibility of the state and the clergy lost is prerogatives in the field at all levels, from elementary school to university. Like people elsewhere in the Western world, but with a time-lag of a couple of decades, the population in Quebec began to believe in the power of Instruction. As a sign of the times, the new leitmotif became Qui s’instruit, s’enrichit (education for a brighter future). And results were not long in coming. At the high school level, school attendance increased significantly from 1960 to 1970, in particular among youths aged 15, 16 and 17 (see graph). Post-secondary registrations exceeded 136 000 in 1970, compared to 58 000 ten years earlier.


© 2011, Musée québécois de culture populaire. All Rights Reserved.

Finding Solutions to Problems within the Education System

One of the new Liberal government’s primary initiatives in education was the establishment in 1961 of a Royal Commission of Inquiry on Education, better known as the Parent Commission. Its mandate was ambitious, to say the least: scrutinize the education system from every angle and recommend solutions to the many problems engendered by the system for too long. Presidency of the Commission was entrusted to a cleric with strong credibility, Monsignor Alphonse-Marie Parent, Vice-rector of Université Laval. Another commissioner was Sister Marie-Laurent de Rome, professor of philosophy and religion at Collège Basile-Moreau. The presence of two clerical representatives was interpreted by observers as a diplomatic coup by Paul Gérin-Lajoie, Minister of Youth. Five other individuals from the fields of education, information and industry completed the Commission roster.

The End of the Control of the Church over School

The Commission did a considerable amount of work. It received 349 memoirs, held audiences in eigh Read More
Finding Solutions to Problems within the Education System

One of the new Liberal government’s primary initiatives in education was the establishment in 1961 of a Royal Commission of Inquiry on Education, better known as the Parent Commission. Its mandate was ambitious, to say the least: scrutinize the education system from every angle and recommend solutions to the many problems engendered by the system for too long. Presidency of the Commission was entrusted to a cleric with strong credibility, Monsignor Alphonse-Marie Parent, Vice-rector of Université Laval. Another commissioner was Sister Marie-Laurent de Rome, professor of philosophy and religion at Collège Basile-Moreau. The presence of two clerical representatives was interpreted by observers as a diplomatic coup by Paul Gérin-Lajoie, Minister of Youth. Five other individuals from the fields of education, information and industry completed the Commission roster.

The End of the Control of the Church over School

The Commission did a considerable amount of work. It received 349 memoirs, held audiences in eight cities in Quebec, met with 125 education specialists, toured some fifty educational establishments in Quebec and observed what was happening in education elsewhere in Canada, the United States and Europe. Its findings and recommendations filled five volumes. Recommendations included the need to center education on the child and implement new structures (six-year elementary course, five-year high school course, and two- to three-year pre-university and professional course, etc.). The recommendation that elicited the most reaction was the controversial replacement of the Département de l’Instruction publique by a Ministry of Education that would coordinate teaching at all levels and ensure smooth passage through the levels. Catholic authorities for whom education had been a private preserve for decades were indignant, but then somewhat mollified when ensured that schooling would remain denominational. Likewise, they were invited to sit on the Conseil supérieur de l’éducation, a consultative organization.

© 2011, Musée québécois de culture populaire. All Rights Reserved.

The educational reform in the 1960s meant the end of a nearly two-hundred-year-old institution known as the classical colleges, controlled entirely by the clergy. They were replaced by high schools known as polyvalent schools. In the eyes of Parent Commission members, it was necessary to create a new level of education of at least two years to bridge the passage between high school and university or the job market. This new level of education became known as the CEGEP and offered general and vocational education. The first CEGEPs opened their doors in 1967. They numbered 12. Twenty-three others opened their doors between 1968 and 1970, nine in the following decade and five between 1981 and 2008. The number of students attending the college network increased rapidly, from some 72 000 at the end of the 1960s to more than 156 000 a dozen or so years later. Initial projections anticipated that only one quarter of CEGEP students would pursue university studies, while the others would register for vocational training programs. However, exactly the opposite happened, creating unprecedented pressure on Quebec universities that numbered only six: three French-language one Read More
The educational reform in the 1960s meant the end of a nearly two-hundred-year-old institution known as the classical colleges, controlled entirely by the clergy. They were replaced by high schools known as polyvalent schools. In the eyes of Parent Commission members, it was necessary to create a new level of education of at least two years to bridge the passage between high school and university or the job market. This new level of education became known as the CEGEP and offered general and vocational education. The first CEGEPs opened their doors in 1967. They numbered 12. Twenty-three others opened their doors between 1968 and 1970, nine in the following decade and five between 1981 and 2008. The number of students attending the college network increased rapidly, from some 72 000 at the end of the 1960s to more than 156 000 a dozen or so years later. Initial projections anticipated that only one quarter of CEGEP students would pursue university studies, while the others would register for vocational training programs. However, exactly the opposite happened, creating unprecedented pressure on Quebec universities that numbered only six: three French-language ones (Laval, Montréal and Sherbrooke) and three English (McGill, Bishop’s and Sir George Williams). Another profound change in the world of education was the creation of the Université du Québec in 1968 with branches in Montréal, Trois-Rivières, Chicoutimi and later Rimouski, Hull and Rouyn-Noranda. Finally, the regions were able to benefit from comprehensive university education, something they had demanded for years. The Université du Québec stood apart for its openness and roots in the milieu. It offered undergraduate and graduate programs based on new pedagogical approaches and promoted research.

© 2011, Musée québécois de culture populaire. All Rights Reserved.

After the Second World War, women had greater access to education in the Western world. In this respect, Quebec was no exception. In the 1940s, some twenty teacher-training schools (normal schools) for women were opened. From 1940 to 1960, female enrolment in professional programs at the Université de Montréal rose from one hundred to two thousand. Notwithstanding this fact, during the second part of the 20th century, the education system was geared first to boys. Society at large grappled with the idea that a woman could flourish outside the home. Of course, women were entitled to an education, but domestic science schools were growing rapidly. In pre-university and university establishments, women studying in typically feminine professions such as nursing and teaching were viewed positively.

On the recommendation of the Parent Commission, the Ministry of Education changed this order of things in 1964. Girls were now entitled to an education identical to that of boys. Within the span of a few years, the number of women studying at the post-high-school level increased dramatically, so much so that their numbers exceeded those of men in the 1970s. The s Read More

After the Second World War, women had greater access to education in the Western world. In this respect, Quebec was no exception. In the 1940s, some twenty teacher-training schools (normal schools) for women were opened. From 1940 to 1960, female enrolment in professional programs at the Université de Montréal rose from one hundred to two thousand. Notwithstanding this fact, during the second part of the 20th century, the education system was geared first to boys. Society at large grappled with the idea that a woman could flourish outside the home. Of course, women were entitled to an education, but domestic science schools were growing rapidly. In pre-university and university establishments, women studying in typically feminine professions such as nursing and teaching were viewed positively.

On the recommendation of the Parent Commission, the Ministry of Education changed this order of things in 1964. Girls were now entitled to an education identical to that of boys. Within the span of a few years, the number of women studying at the post-high-school level increased dramatically, so much so that their numbers exceeded those of men in the 1970s. The same phenomenon was observed at the university level the following decade.


© 2011, Musée québécois de culture populaire. All Rights Reserved.

Photography of Bother Anonymous

In 1961, Jean-Paul Desbiens, better known as Bother Anonymous, receives an award from the magazine, Liberté. The photo features, from right to left, Jacques Godbout, one of the founders of the magazine Liberté, Jean-Paul Desbiens and Gérard Pelletier, of the Éditions de l'Homme, where The Impertinences of Brother Anonymous were edited.

Yves Beauchamp
20th Century
La Presse, 26 juin 2010, page A21


Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

Acquire a historic perspective. Establish relations between Quebec as it was before, during and after the Quiet Revolution

Educational Connections (cross-curricular competencies)

Build on information (make the most of information).
Build on information (place knowledge in perspective).
Express one’s opinion (exercise critical judgment).
Take advantage of technology (make the most of information technology and communication).
Immerse oneself in a situation (apply one’s creative thinking).
Commit oneself to exploration (apply one’s creative thinking).

Educational Results

Encourage the student to examine the subject from a historical perspective.
Bring the student to understand the present based on the past.
Bring the student to express an opinion on this history.
Bring the student to develop critical thinking.

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans