Saint John's Cathedral Boys' School

Saint John's Cathedral Boys' School

Saint John's Cathedral Boys' School (SJCBS) was founded in Selkirk, Manitoba, Canada in the early 1960's by Ted Byfield and Frank Wiens, who believed that boys were not challenged by the education system, and society in general. The two started an Anglican lay order called the Company of the Cross, claimed to be based on a reading of some of C.S. Lewis's writings. The Company of the Cross was under the authority of the resident bishop in Winnipeg, officially called the Diocese of Rupert's Land. The teachers (some without any teaching qualifications), were paid $1.00 per day and provided room and board. Two other schools, Saint John's School of Alberta and Saint John's School of Ontario were founded on the same ideas in later years. Arduous row boat trips (called "cutters"), later replaced by canoes, and snowshoeing, and dog sledding were parts of the outdoor "education" program. The school's founders had the idea that boys should be pushed to what they might believe is their breaking points, and this would "build character". Corporal punishment was a standard part of the school's administration of discipline and character building, including for academic failures.

The students ran the physical plant of the school, doing all the janitorial work, cooking and serving food, cleaning kennels, making and selling processed meat products door-to-door for fundraising, and raising sled dogs. One of the school's founders, Ted Byfield acknowledged that he would be arrested if he disciplined students in 2000 as he had during the years of the school's operation, though he appears generally unrepetent about the school's mistreatment of students [ [ Alberta Report 21 Oct 1996 article by Ted Byfield "Do our new-found ideas on children maybe explain the fact we can't control them?"] ] . Co-founder Frank Wiens appears to admit there were problems, though not with the basic ideological basis for the school [ [ Jan 2000 article in the Anglican Joural] ] . A boy died in the 1970's while on one of the school's lengthy snow shoe marches [ [ Calgary Herald newspaper article 08 Feb 2003] ] .

The school closed in the early 1990's; the Ontario school closed in the 1980's, struggling for funds and credibility after a canoeing disaster on Lake Timiskaming where 13 people died of hypthermia. The still operating Alberta School appears to have distanced itself from the use of corporal punishment though retains the same ideology about children. It has responded to the prior neglect of safety on outdoor activities with some safety training [ [ Saint John's School of Alberta website] ] .

The National Film Board of Canada produced a documentary about a canoe trip from the school in 1973. [ [ The New Boys; a documentary about a school canoe trip] ]

A former teacher and assistant headmaster, Kenneth Mackinnon Mealey, of North Bay, Ontario was charged in 2000 with 16 sexual offences, pleaded guilty to 5, dating back to 1982 to 1986 at the school. Apparently the school administration knew about the offences and fired him rather than reporting him [ [ CBC television report 12 Oct 2000, accessed 14 Aug 2007] ] . Two more lawsuits were laid against the Alberta school, but these were not for sex crimes, rather excesses of discipline and injuries suffered within the outdoor program.


External links

* [ Unofficial webpage for Saint John's Cathedral Boy's School, accessed 14 Aug 2007]

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