Failure of Residential Schools in Student Preparation for Workforce Participation


As early as the early 1900s the Department of Indian affairs began noticing that residential schools was failing to prepare the students to participate in the Western economy as wage labourers and professionals. Beginning in 1913, agents began to oppose residential schools as the schools continually failed to meet academic and social expectations. Agent R. Blewett, in 1913, commented about the students from Crowstand School that "far too many girl graduates...turning out prostitutes, and boys becoming drunken loafers. Blewett also expressed concern with the number of desertions at the school and suggested that principle McWhinney should be removed, on the grounds that he was no longer able to properly take care of the institution. Another agent, in 1918, concluded that it would be "far better that they never [went] to school than turn out as ex-pupils...have done."

It should be noted that a prevalence of young Indigenous women engaging in sex work is likely indicative of alienation from the Western market economy. That is, residential schools failed to impart the level of education required to successfully engage the economy as wage labourers in positions such as domestic servants. In so doing, they also failed to impart the academic skills necessary to progress to post-secondary education, barring Indigenous people from attaining to professional positions which required further training. Disproportionate funding as it relates to providing education that is commensurate with the education afforded to non-Indigenous children continues today, perpetuating alienation from participation in the capitalist market economy. Where issues of substance abuse are present, the use of chemical substances as a coping mechanism for psychological trauma is common in survivors of neglect and abuse, of which both were frequently observed in residential and industrial schools. Addictions impede day-to-day functioning, further hindering the ability to obtain and maintain employment. The removal of Indigenous children from their family of origin served to detach them from nurturing, attachment and guidance in psychological and emotional development that family structures are intended to provide.
Sub Event
Department of Indian Affairs agents begin to oppose residential schools.