A History of Assimilation: Dutch Immigrant Rural Schooling, 1947-1955
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In the aftermath of World War II, Canada entered a period of tremendous transformation. The years between 1947 and 1955 were marked by changes to the political, economic, and social landscape of Canada. Reconstruction meant not only moving away from a wartime industrial base and from debt to surplus but a remaking of a national identity. Slowly emerging as an independent nation during the postwar period, Canada struggled to define its national identity. From a Dominion imperceptibly tied to the United Kingdom through citizenship, trade, politics and culture, the increasing independence meant redefining that relationship, its national identity and Canadianizing existing structures. Of these constructions, long-held notions about assimilation were in dispute. The increased ethnic diversity resulting from reformed immigration policies intensified the pressure to quickly assimilate new Canadians into what was seen as the new world order. Older ideologies such as Anglo-conformity vied with emerging assimilation concepts such as pluralism for dominance, both destabilized by the ongoing dualistic nature of the French and English-speaking populations. Immigrants entering Canada during these years were caught in this flux. The turbulence, however, created an environment conducive to negotiating citizenship on an individual level. As such, these assimilation theories significantly impacted Canadian immigration policies and integration strategies. Education played a significant role in assimilating immigrants into Ontario’s dominant culture. Schooling provided an opportunity to indoctrinate immigrants in both the state and process of citizenship, which were considered integral elements of assimilation. This thesis, in particular, examines the assimilation of Dutch immigrants in Ontario’s rural schools during the years 1947-1955. However, schools proved a contradictory space for assimilation–demanding unquestioned conformity and yet allowing opportunities to negotiate citizenship.