The following is from the introduction to Frontier College Letters: One Hundred Years of Teaching, Learning and Nation Building, published on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Frontier College in 1999
For [over] one hundred years, Frontier College has gone where no one else would go. Its great moral argument is that it went where no one else had the imagination to go. If [.] workers in lumber camps or construction gangs had no possibility of getting themselves to schools, Frontier College -doing what was to become its motto -took the teachers and the instruction to them. If, as in more recent times, migrant workers recruited from Mexico or the Caribbean found themselves isolated in some five acre-wide Canadian greenhouse or endless fruit orchard, they might look up and find that the friendly and approachable worker standing next to them was a Frontier College volunteer.
For a brief, optimistic moment in the 1920's, the full text of higher learning, from Greek to Geology, was considered for offer from this mobile university without walls. But the staple of its makeshift classrooms always remained basic literacy. Inmates in prison or homeless youth populating the inner city street might be where they were due to a lack of education. Frontier College sought out these people and organized the instructors who met them in their own places and on their terms.
Frontier College has done its work largely through volunteers. The College invented the term 'Labourer-Teacher,' and perhaps its greatest gift has been its ability to inspire young men and women, from Norman Bethune, Benjamin Spock, and Isabel Mackey, to Roy McMurtry and David Peterson. It offered thousands of these young people the chance to move into outlying communities and camps and, once there, to support themselves by working shoulder to shoulder with the people who, at the end of the shift, would become their students.
[Frontier College Letters] is an episodic history built largely on letters, reports and other bits of written paraphernalia - fitting for an organization which placed its foundations so solidly on reading and writing. Frontier College, from the very beginning, has inhabited a literate culture, a culture of letters and the written report. And it is through the observations, insights, and dialogue of a voluminous correspondence, penned by youthful instructors while sitting at their rickety desks or propped up in their bunks late at night, that its history has in substantial part been recorded.
Larry Krotz, July 1999
From the Introduction to Frontier College Letters: One Hundred Years of Teaching, Learning and Nation Building, published on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Frontier College
Larry Krotz is a writer and award-winning documentary film maker. He lives in Toronto, where he writes for a number of magazines.
The sampling here represents a fraction of what is available in the collection, Frontier College Letters: One Hundred Years of Teaching, Learning and Nation Building. Visit the Resources section to find out more about buying the book.
Selected Frontier College Letters