Frontier College is the oldest adult education institution in Canada. Founded in 1899, it has brought literacy to the railway camps, lumber woods, native communities, disabled persons, and city streets of Canada for almost a century. It is a personal statement by its founder, Alfred Fitzpatrick, who objected to the brutal conditions imposed on a transient, peripheral working class who were neither sheltered by the union umbrella nor cared for by paternal management.
In that time of social ferment for labour, ethnic groups and women in a changing Canada, Fitzpatrick offered his criticisms and his blueprint for the future in this important book. He lambasted the government, business, and educational institutions for their lack of support for continuing or extension education that went beyond the urban centres and issued a clarion call for the established universities to convert "the whole industrial world into a university."
He tirelessly pursued the ideal of education as a right for all no matter their station in life. He challenged Canadian universities to come down from their "ivory towers" and "get their hands dirty," figuratively and literally, by recognizing the balance of intellectual, spiritual, and physical qualities every individual embodies. There have been many changes in Canadian society since Alfred Fitzpatrick's death over sixty years ago — a depression, a world war, a cold war, and now a "wired world" of computers and global communication systems.
However, the challenge that Fitzpatrick made to all Canadians during his lifetime still remains. That challenge is to take education and literacy to those who do not have it, whoever and wherever they may be.