"Maurice Dartigue and Education" by Mercer Cook (1903-1987)

An excerpt from Cook’s Education in Haiti (1948). Cook was an African-American educator and a diplomat who served in Nigeria, Senegal, and Gambia.

Viewed against the turbulent background of the 1900-15, the period 1931-46 was, in the main, a peaceful one. Two presidents—Sténio Vincent (1931-40) and Elie Lescot (1941-46)—duly elected in accordance with Haitian law, administered the country, albeit dictatorially when judged by North American standards. This era of relative tranquility provided an atmosphere favorable to educational progress, though poverty and… other problems… still confronted the school officials. Vincent had long been interested in education. In 1895 he had collaborated with L.C. Lhérisson on la Législation de l’instruction publique, an indispensable volume for the student of Haitian education.

Progress in education was certainly made under both presidents. New schools were built; many smaller schools consolidated; three new lycées organized; salaries raised; teacher training was improved; enrollment increased; a business-like organization provided; cooperation with U.S. educational agencies and institutions intensified. Much of this resulted from the efforts of an indefatigable young educator…. As director of rural education during part of Vincent’s administration, and minister of public instruction and agriculture under Lescot from May 1941 to October 1945, Maurice Dartigue established something of a reputation for longevity in high educational office and was able to apply many of his ideas under two successive presidents. He had opposition, however.

When Dartigue became minister, numerous Haitians feared that, in his zeal for practical education, he would sabotage the humanities. They remembered his close ties with the Americans: in 1929 he had been on of the two instructors at the Central School of Agriculture who refused to join the strike; subsequently he obtained his master’s degree from Teachers college of Columbia University. The adverse criticism mounted as he sent more and more young Haitians to American university and, upon their return, appointed them to responsible administrative posts. Throughout 1945 le Nouvelliste, oldest Haitian daily, conducted a campaign against those whom it derisively called the "Masters of…." Resentment increased he closed the boys’ normal school, altered the staff and curriculum of the girls’ normal school, inaugurated courses for lycée teachers, and adopted 65 percent as the passing grade in all schools instead of the traditional French rating of 5 out of a possible 10. As always, some of this opposition was sincere, but some of it also emanated from personal grievance or political ambition.