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CLOUTIER, JEAN-BAPTISTE, educator, author, and magazine editor; b. 24 Nov. 1831 in Saint-Nicolas, Lower Canada, son of Jean-Baptiste Cloutier, a sailor, and Rose Gingras; m. there 12 April 1853 Amanda Lambert, and they had two sons and one daughter, all of whom survived him; d. 28 Jan. 1920 at Quebec.

Jean-Baptiste Cloutier began teaching in his native village in 1849, at the age of 17. In 1852 he came before the Catholic Board of Examiners of the City of Quebec and was granted an elementary-school teacher’s diploma. When the earliest normal schools opened, in 1857, he enrolled as a student teacher in the École Normale Laval at Quebec. He was said to be “exceptionally talented.” On 15 July 1858 he received the first diploma awarded by the institution, which qualified him to teach in model schools, and he became principal of the one at Saint-Nicolas in September. He was appointed professor at the École Normale Laval on 25 Nov. 1859, succeeding Félix-Emmanuel Juneau*, and he would hold this position until 30 June 1891, teaching all subjects, including English, vocabulary, and pedagogy. His qualities as a man of culture, a good teacher, and an innovator in methods would often receive recognition, notably at the school’s golden jubilee in 1907.

In the course of his long career, Cloutier published a number of textbooks. Despite the mounting wave of grammar texts, he brought out Éléments de la grammaire française de Lhmond at Quebec in 1873 and Devoirs grammaticaux gradués en rapport avec la grammaire de Lhomond, d’après la méthode analytique, suivis d’un tableau des sons et articulations de la langue française in 1874. Both would go through several editions. In 1875 he published a reader with the words divided into syllables, entitled Le premier livre des enfants ou méthode rationnelle de lecture. It used the phonic system that he and Abbé Pierre Lagacé had introduced at the practice school attached to the normal school. His Recueil de leçons de choses: à l’usage des écoles primaires, modèles et académiques, des collèges, couvents, etc. came out in 1885. It dealt with the three natural kingdoms – animal, vegetable, and mineral – and with many useful pieces of common knowledge. In the preface Cloutier explained, “There is no one today who does not know that [object-lessons] are one of the most powerful educational methods the teaching profession can use, since their purpose is the simultaneous cultivation of all the child’s intellectual faculties.” The book included object-lessons previously published in the magazine L’Enseignenrent primaire, to which he added elements from other writers such as his future son-in-law Charles-Joseph Magnan*, Bishop Jean Langevin* of Rimouski, and Belgian and French teachers. All of Cloutier’s textbooks were approved by the Council of Public Instruction.

Cloutier tried to systematize the organization of education in Quebec. In a lecture on uniformity in teaching before the Congrès Pédagogique de Montreal in 1880, he deplored the glaring lack of training among teachers who had obtained only a diploma from the Catholic Board of Examiners. In his view, the study of pedagogical science required particular attention. He also deplored the fact that it was so difficult for teachers to attend professional conferences and he spoke out vigorously against the rule that forbade women to take part in them even though nine-tenths of the schools were staffed by women. “I do not see why women are excluded from these interesting and instructive meetings,” he declared, “while in Europe they play a leading role at them. In France, Belgium, Switzerland, [and] Italy, women teachers have a very distinguished place at conferences. They give practical advice at them, just as men do, read papers, [and] participate in discussions, and all this without the slightest difficulty. Why should it not be the same with us? It is good to draw the attention of the authorities to this important question.” Cloutier explained that, for some, uniform teaching was synonymous with uniform books, whereas for him the textbook was only an aid. Quoting the axiom “the teacher has to teach,” he based his reasoning on such great pedagogues as Johann Amos Comenius and Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, although he had some reservations about Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

To improve the pedagogical training of teachers, Cloutier proposed, among other things, that they should all receive a professional journal. Thus in January 1880 he launched L’École primaire, which he financed and edited until 1897, when he would pass the torch to his son-in-law, Magnan. A year after it was founded, it became L’Enseignement primaire. A bimonthly, it began at a time when there was tremendous competition among the various pedagogical journals, which had led to the demise of Le Journal de l’instruction publique in June 1879. In the second number of L’École primaire, Cloutier issued a clarion call for the support of those he termed “gentlemen of the clergy.” He declared that he wanted, by his private initiative, to fill the gap left by the disappearance of Le Journal de l’instruction publique, which, unlike his journal, had received large grants from the provincial government. Not until 1883 would he himself have any support other than that of subscribers.

Each issue contained official documents, lead articles on various pedagogical questions, and lessons and exercises to help teachers prepare for their classes. One feature of his magazine, according to Cloutier, was that its price of one dollar made it affordable; moreover, the men who wrote for it were “practising teachers.” He followed the example of European journals and tried to echo the voices of Catholic pedagogues in France and Belgium. In return, as was only fair, L’Enseignement primaire became known abroad, being quoted in such publications as L’Éducation in Paris and L’Abeille in Brussels. Cloutier saw fit to enliven the journal by including reports of religious, political, and literary events in the Old World along with its more practical content. This aspect worried educational circles because France was going through tremendous upheavals in church-state relations, and there was concern that these changes might be introduced into Quebec. However, Cloutier showed great prudence and in 1881 explained his stance: “We do not attach to that famous word progress the same meaning as it has in Europe, where it is invoked to strip the church of its most sacred rights and deprive it, through unspeakable and indescribable persecution, of the eminent services of the many religious bodies whose zeal and piety . . . are beyond all praise.”

While he was relatively circumspect in his editorials, he was less so at meetings of the Association des Instituteurs de la Circonscription de l’École Normal Laval, of which he would remain a member until his retirement in 1891. He regularly denounced the starvation wages paid to women teachers and he fought hard to get a decent pension for teachers’ widows. In 1886 he took a public stand on this question when he wrote a memorandum jointly with Urgel-Eugène Archambeault* about the 1881 statute that set up a retirement and assistance fund for primary school teachers. He spoke often on union matters and delivered lectures dealing specifically with pedagogy. These occasions gave him the opportunity to propose such activities as reading circles and teachers’ institutes, which were suggested to him by American and Protestant experiments.

In 1897 the government decided to stop funding L’Enseignement primaire, forcing Cloutier to announce the closing down of the “one and only French-language bulletin in [North] America devoted to pedagogy and methodology.” Magnan, who had been a contributor to it since 1885, took over in 1897, buying the magazine and doubling the number of pages. In 1898 the Catholic committee of the Council of Public Instruction recommended to the government that it send L’Enseignement primaire free of charge to every Catholic school in the province. This practice was maintained until the journal ceased publication in 1937.

Jean-Baptiste Cloutier, who lived to be 88, spent his retirement tranquilly among his own family. His grandson Jean-Charles Magnan would describe him as a kindly old man who cultivated his tiny urban garden, an affectionate grandfather who initiated a young lad into the joys of gardening and object-lessons. In 1920 death finally came to the man who was regarded as a pioneer of the lay pedagogical press in Quebec and who, in the words of Charles-Joseph Magnan, was “one of the most interesting figures among the educators of the second half of the 19th century.”

Thérèse Hamel

[In addition to the monographs mentioned in the text, Jean-Baptiste Cloutier published various articles in L’Enseignement primaire (Québec). A listing of these contributions compiled by the author is preserved among the research files in her possession.  t.h.]

Other noteworthy publications by Cloutier include: Pédagogie: conférence sur l’uniformité de l’enseignement au Congrès pédagogique de Montréal ([Montréal, 1880?]); “La presse pédagogique dans la province de Québec,” BRH, 4 (1898): 147–49; and, in collaboration with U.-E. Archambeault, Mémoire sur la loi 43 et 44 Vict., ch. 22, établissant un fonds de retraite et de secours en faveur des fonctionnaires de l’enseignement primaire (s.l., [1886?]). His address at the 50th anniversary of the École Normale Laval appears in the commemorative publication Les noces d’or de l’école normale Laval, 1857–1907 (Québec, 1908), 98–102.

ANQ-Q, CE1-21, 25 nov. 1831, 12 avril 1853; E30/38, no.407; 39, no.444; P-456. P.-P. Magnan, “L’école normale Laval de Québec; quelques notes,” Le Soleil, 7 juill. 1928. Paul Aubin, L’état québécois et les manuels scolaires au XIXième siècle (Sherbrooke, Qué., 1995). Réal Bertrand, L’école normale Laval; un siècle d’histoire (1857–1957) (Québec, 1957). Bibliothèque de l’Univ. Laval, Catalogue des manuels scolaires québécois (2e éd., 2v., Québec, 1988). École Normale Laval, Souvenir décennal de l’école normale Laval, 1857–1867 (Québec, 1867); Comité des fêtes du centenaire, Centenaire, école normale Laval, Québec, 1857–1957 (Québec, [1958?]). Roger Girard, “L’établissement de l’école normale Laval et la transmission du cathéchisme” (mémoire de ma, univ. Laval, 1992). J. Hamelin et al., La presse québécoise, vol.3. André Labarrère-Paulé, Les instituteurs laïques au Canada français, 1836–1900 (Québec, 1965), 198, 268, 313–14, 318, 331, 333, 394, 424; Les laïques et la presse pédagogique au Canada français au XIXe siècle (Québec, 1963). C.-J. Magnan, “Éducateurs d’autrefois – anciens professeurs de l’école normale Laval – 1 – M. J.-B. Cloutier: 1831–1920,” BRH, 48 (1942): 139–45; “J.-B. Cloutier,” L’Enseignement primaire, 41 (1919–20): 386–87. Hormisdas Magnan, La famille Magnan établie à Charlesbourg en 1665; quelques notes sur la famille Magnan établie à Saint-Cuthbert en 1775, puis à Sainte-Ursule en 1852; les familles alliées: Béland, Bruneau, Lemieux, Paquet, Cloutier et Tardivel (Québec, 1925). J.-C. Magnan, Confidences (Montréal, [1960]). T.-G. Rouleau, Notice sur l’école normale Laval de Québec pour l’exposition de Chicago (Québec, 1893).

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Thérèse Hamel, “CLOUTIER, JEAN-BAPTISTE,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed October 1, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/cloutier_jean_baptiste_14E.html.

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Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/cloutier_jean_baptiste_14E.html
Author of Article:   Thérèse Hamel
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1998
Year of revision:   1998
Access Date:   October 1, 2023