Scientia Est Libertas

It is almost forty years ago to the day that my family emigrated from the United Kingdom to Canada. We arrived on December 6, 1965, in Toronto at what is now Pearson Airport after a stopover in Halifax. I well recall being struck by the cold in Halifax as we deplaned and walked into the terminal. From Toronto we came through to Hamilton by taxi where we stayed for a few weeks in the old Sheraton Connaught in downtown Hamilton while awaiting the house we were going to rent in Ancaster on Lover’s Lane. We had come to Canada because my father had taken up a teaching post at McMaster University in Electrical Engineering. To be honest, I hated Canada at first. I had left two very close friends behind in England, Christopher Janaway and Harry Weinberg. We kept in touch by mail a little after I left, but I have essentially not heard from them for nearly forty years. And there were so many little things in Canadian culture I did not like. But I have grown to love Canada.

The high school I attended in Ancaster was Ancaster High and Vocational School (now simply Ancaster High School). We were there tonight, attending a performance of “Guys and Dolls” by Frank Loesser (1910-1959)—my daughter was playing in the pit orchestra.

Where my wife and I, and our son Nigel, sat in the auditorium was close to the wall on which were the pictures of the Principals from the past. The first two, Mr. Davidson and Mr. Rumball, were the ones who were Principal when I was there from 1966 to 1971. That Mr. Rumball would not have remembered me as a good student is an understatement!

Another Principal’s picture was there, whom I remember with much thanks. Mr. Richardson taught history when I was in Grades 12 and 13. Grade 12 we did “Revolutions,” which fascinated me at the time and gave me an opportunity to explore the French and Russian Revolutions in some detail. Mr. Richardson believed in getting us into the primary sources, something I have always believed makes for the best history teaching.

The motto of Ancaster High is Scientia est libertas—“knowledge is freedom.” I don’t think I paid it much attention during the time I was a student within her walls, though I was into freedom when I was there. Freedom from what I saw as the constrictions of western culture, freedoms from the rules of adults, freedom from the norms of society. But I traded one set of rules for the bondage of another conformity—conformity to the “freak” and radical student culture of the sixties.

It was not until I had left high school that I found the truth of Ancaster High’s motto: in knowing the Lord Jesus Christ there is freedom indeed!