Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
He was born in Norfolk County in the then-colony of Upper Canada. He converted to Methodism at 18, and was forced to leave the home by his Anglican father. Becoming an itinerant minister in the Niagara area, his life in a minority religion formed his tolerant views.
Ryerson helped found the Upper Canada Academy, of which he was the first principal, in Cobourg; it later became Victoria College, now a part of the University of Toronto. He fought for many secularization reforms, to keep power and influence away from any one church.
Such secularization also led to the widening of the school system into public hands. Governor-General Sir Charles Metcalfe asked him to become Chief Superintendent of Education for Upper Canada in 1844. It is in this role that Ryerson made his historical mark.
His study of educational systems elsewhere in the Western world led to three School Acts, which would revolutionize education in Canada. His major innovations included libraries in every school, an educational journal and professional development conventions for teachers, a central textbook press using Canadian authors, and securing land grants for universities.
The Normal School at St. James Square was founded in Toronto in 1852, which was the province's foremost teacher's academy. It also housed the Department of Education and The Museum of Natural History and Fine Arts, which became the Royal Ontario Museum. An agricultural laboratory on the site led to the later founding of the Ontario Agricultural College and the University of Guelph. St. James Square went through various other educational uses before it eventually became part of Ryerson University.
He was also a writer, farmer, and sportsman. He retired in 1876, and died in 1882 having left an indelible mark on Canada's education system.
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