• About Farm School

    "There are obviously two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live."
    James Adams, from his essay "To 'Be' or to 'Do': A Note on American Education", 1929

    We're a Canadian family of five, farming, home schooling, and building our own house. I'm nowhere near as regular a blogger as I used to be.

    The kids are 18/Grade 12, 16/Grade 11, and 14/Grade 10.

    Contact me at becky(dot)farmschool(at)gmail(dot)com

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    William Morris, from his lecture "The Beauty of Life"

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    English architect CFA Voysey (1857-1941)

    "The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall, nations perish, civilizations grow old and die out; and, after an era of darkness, new races build others. But in the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again, and yet live on, still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men’s hearts of the hearts of men centuries dead."
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    "Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtile; natural philosophy, deep; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend."
    Sir Francis Bacon, "Essays"

    "The chief aim of education is to show you, after you make a livelihood, how to enjoy living; and you can live longest and best and most rewardingly by attaining and preserving the happiness of learning."
    Gilbert Highet, "The Immortal Profession: The Joys of Teaching and Learning"

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    "No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem."
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    Attributed to Groucho Marx in "The Groucho Letters" by Arthur Sheekman

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    Alice Roosevelt Longworth

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    Jean Hagen as "Lina Lamont" in "Singin' in the Rain" (1952)
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We cannot brag

What a country. And not quite a week after Canada Day.

Today, Monday, the Ontario government announced it would award Steven Truscott a $6.5 million compensation payment. In 1959 — 49 long years ago — the 14-year-old boy was wrongfully convicted of the murder of a schoolmate and sentenced to hang (the jury took less than four hours to convict him); he was the youngest person ever sentenced to death in Canada. In 1960, the sentence was commuted to life in prison, and he was released on parole in 1969. While in prison, Mr. Truscott was given LSD by psychiatrists to solicit a confession.

Not until 2007, 48 years after Mr. Truscott’s trial, did the Ontario Court of Appeal declare the conviction a miscarriage of justice and acquitted Mr. Truscott of the murder. The attorney general of Ontario apologized on behalf of the government.

In addition to the $6.5 million, Mr. Truscott’s wife Marlene will receive $100,000 for income lost while working ceaselessly to clear her husband’s name. Which, if you were curious, works out to slightly more than 10.3 dollars a day, not including weekends, and not including her efforts before they were married in 1970.

In the gallery of Canada’s wrongfully convicted, Donald Marshall, convicted at age 17 of murder, received a settlement of $1.5 million after spending 11 years in jail.

Thomas Sophonow was awarded $2.5 million after spending four years in prison.

David Milgaard spent 23 years in prison and was awarded $10 million.

Maher Arar received $10.5 million in compensation and an apology from the federal government in 2006 after he was deported to Syria by U.S authorities on his way home to Canada, imprisoned for 374 days, and tortured, under the American policy of extraordinary rendition.

In thoroughly unrelated Canadian news, the national sport’s annual free agent carnival was held last week.

Marian Hossa was signed to a one-year, $7.4 million deal with the Detroit Red Wings.

Brian Campbell signed a contract with the Chicago Blackhawks for more than $56 million over eight years.

Wade Redden reportedly signed with the New York Rangers for six years for an average of around $6.5 million a year.

Michal Rozsival re-signed with the Rangers, a four-year contract worth $20 million, up considerably from the $2.3-million he earned last season.

The Tampa Bay Lightning signed Ryan Malone to a seven-year contract apparently worth more than $31 million.

In the autumn of 1959, a few days after Steven Truscott was sentenced to be hanged, the late great Pierre Berton, then working as a columnist for The Toronto Star, wrote Requiem for a Fourteen-Year-Old. The poem, unlike the hurried trial, caused a public outcry and the following year helped lead to the sentence’s commutation to life in prison.

Requiem for a Fourteen-Year-Old
by Pierre Berton

In Goderich town
The Sun abates
December is coming
And everyone waits:
In a small, dark room
On a small, hard bed
Lies a small, pale boy
Who is not quite dead.

The cell is lonely
The cell is cold
October is young
But the boy is old;
Too old to cringe
And too old to cry
Though young —
But never too young to die.

It’s true enough
That we cannot brag
Of a national anthem
Or a national flag
And though our Vision
Is still in doubt
At last we’ve something to boast about:
We’ve a national law
In the name of the Queen
To hang a child
Who is just fourteen.

The law is clear:
It says we must
And in this country
The law is just
Sing heigh! Sing ho!
For justice blind
Makes no distinction
Of any kind;
Makes no allowances for sex or years,
A judge’s feelings, a mother’s tears;
Makes no allowances for age or youth
Just eye for eye and tooth for tooth
Tooth for tooth and eye for eye:
A child does murder
A child must die.

Don’t fret … don’t worry …
No need to cry
We’ll only pretend he’s going to die;
We’re going to reprieve him
Bye and bye.

We’re going to reprieve him
(We always do),
But it wouldn’t be fair
If we told him, too
So we’ll keep the secret
As long as we can
And hope that he’ll take it
Like a man.

And when we’ve told him
It’s just “pretend”
And he won’t be strung
At a noose’s end,
We’ll send him away
And, like as not
Put him in prison
And let him rot.

The jury said “mercy”
And we agree —
O, merciful jury:
You and me.

Oh death can come
And death can go
Some deaths are sudden
And some are slow;
In a small cold cell
In October mild
Death comes each day
To a frightened child.

So muffle the drums and beat them slow,
Mute the strings and play them low,
Sing a lament and sing it well,
But not for the boy in the cold, dark cell,
Not for the parents, trembling-lipped,
Not for the judge who followed the script;
Save your prayers for the righteous ghouls
In that Higher Court who write the rules
For judge and jury and hangman too:
The Court composed of me and you.

In Goderich town
The trees turn red
The limbs go bare
As their leave are bled
And the days tick by
As the sky turns lead
For the small, scared boy
On the small, stark bed
A fourteen-year-old
Who is not quite dead.


5 Responses

  1. Great post. Great poem too. I’d never read that one, nor heard the context for it. Just a correction on the math, though… the $100000 Truscott’s wife was awarded works out to just over $10 a day, not $0.10 a day, weekends excluded. Ten cents a day would mean there had been over a million weekdays since 1970, which obviously isn’t the case.

  2. Thanks, Miranda. Yes, the fingers weren’t co-ordinated with the thoughts last night, which is why I try not to post late at night, sigh. I’ve made the correction — thanks again : ).

  3. Hi Becky – a very stirring post…

    Hope you’re enjoying summer. I’m just starting to think about fall and of course, had to pop in to see what you’ve been up to! Between you and Melissa Wiley’s blog, I should be both encouraged and have quite a decent booklist going soon!

    Be well – Penny

  4. Powerful post!

  5. I just found your blog and i know im late on this but i just have to say how moved Iwas to read this poem! My heart just broke for that little boy back then!

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