Frank Tate was Victoria’s first Director of Education. Reading his biography is an amazing experience. Here was someone who was passionate about education and an educational reformer. He addressed issues we think of as modern.
Tate was not content to be a routine inspector and embarked on a personal crusade to revive Victorian state education. He sped through his huge district, winning the loyalty of teachers by his gift for humour, anecdote and epigram, and by his seemingly inexhaustible flow of quotations from English literature, especially Shakespeare. He offered them a vision of a liberal curriculum, imaginative and realistic methods, and a gentler and more constructive discipline; he introduced them to the ideas of the ‘new education’, a loosely organized reform movement which was gaining popularity in Britain. He showed teachers, as they toiled for meagre salaries in century heat in their tin-roofed schools, that their task, although grossly undervalued by society, was one of importance and dignity. Through them, state-school children, previously offered a narrow and unappealing fare dominated by the three Rs taught rigidly and by rote, could be introduced to the richness and variety of a great culture.