Vol.XXII No.5 (Nov.–Dec. 1965)

This issue of Canadian Art was largely devoted to art education -- and familiar with my work at Athene, the editor invited me to write the following editorial. After some thought, I realized that in the brief space available I might best address education in Toronto in general, since my experience of both public schools and the Ontario College of Art and Design had been disappointing. In the end, I decided that what was fundamentally at stake was a change of heart towards both children and art students.

Four months later the journal addressed the subject again and to that edition I contributed the essay on therapeutic classrooms to be found elsewhere on this website.


Creative people are those who get involved with a thing for its own sake and not primarily for approval or gain, and our schools are not producing as many creative people as they might. It is a commonplace, acknowledged for instance by the Ontario Curriculum Institute, that too many children leave school with their basic trust shaken and their self-confidence undermined. That this affects the professional art scene is less obvious than that it affects the quality of life of the average citizen—whose symbolizing (art) activity becomes thereby a mode of conformity rather than of self-differentiation.

Nothing short of the millennium will change this completely; forces outside the control of education are always active, and education itself can never entirely break away from the mores of the society that sanctions it. Of course, theorists write about what might be done, planning curriculum reform or a new teaching method: for instance, much has been written on new procedures in art, language, physical education and. more recently, the so-called “new” math. Ever since Plato we have been waiting (and in many areas still wait) to move in the direction these writers indicate. But I think it is pertinent to ask whether this tendency to break education down into curriculum units should not be balanced by a parallel and more synthetic consideration of the school as a community. What is the context of human relationships in which creative growth best occurs? And does creativity become fully meaningful inside a tightly scheduled program?

It may militate against our best ideals that art occurs in school only when it is time-tabled to do so, that, as one provincial association for curriculum development recently put it, art should be taught as a preparation for leisure (rather than as an attitude to living), or that it should be alienated, by various strategies, from the popular arts of music, dance and dress, hair style and hero-worship. And it is certain that the creativeness of children is influenced by the relationships around them: for instance, we know that heightened self-confidence can bring an increase in “hostile” responses as well as constructive—something seldom acknowledged, although it has been the source of public anxiety towards the creative person throughout history, and is impossible to handle fruitfully without a soundly established ethos, whether in schools or art colleges.

Both the student and teacher create (venture inwards and outwards) most successfully, when they feel secure, but they cannot feel secure when relationships around them are built on the constant measuring of one person by another and on the constraints of authority. The tendency in such a case is for everyone to become academic in the most pejorative sense. Education needs not only new methods but new teachers, who dare substitute trust for authority, and spontaneity for formality. They could not stand on their heads those colleagues conditioned by the anxieties of years, nor would they overturn the present hierarchic structure overnight, but new things will grow only from their practical human example. If there is hope for a vast enrichment of our cultural life, it lies in the fact that a few such people exist, even in office. But they need vocal support. The time has come for Utopians to stand up and be counted, both within teaching and outside it.