Students from daycare to high school graduation have endured an unprecedented period of stress, isolation, faltering steps to keep something going, now ended in Ontario with an early year end and report cards. The debate about this virtual experiment in education, dominated by contracts, will now settle— no one wins.
Recently the media spotlight has turned to colleges, universities —the post secondary educational experience yet to come. This level of education has already suffered from Mr. Ford’s side swipe from last year’s funding mess and cuts.
Expect significant change this September whether it be a college diploma aiming at job ready training, to large first year classes in universities aimed at life readiness or the first step to post-graduate study. Educators have talked about the stress caused by practical- on linedelivery and even the bait and switch gimmick. The bait, The prospect of a high level classroom experience then the switch to on line instruction—and no discussion of possible refunds. Refunds from a system already straining to survive financially.
When it comes to arts instruction particularly, what is missing is the core need for one-on-one, small group live give and take between humans. The master-apprentice relationship is one way of expressing it. It strikes at our cultural sector, the very group of artists of all kinds who society turned to for uplifting experiences while warding off the pain of self isolation.
Who are these young people the Government has appeared to have forgotten? Musicians, writers, researchers, artists, craftspeople, those who feed our souls–who offer that escape from the stress filled lives we lead. That master-craftspeople relationship. The opera singers in today’s COC did not reach their heights learning to sing on line. Nor did the dancers in the National Ballet. Stratford, Shaw, Toronto’s Broadway and summer stock companies from Ontario’s resorts did not develop that instinct for timing from a computer. And what about the stars of tomorrow, be they ceramic or glass artisans, painters, film makers, writers and those young singers from the Canadian Children’s Opera Company—where will they get those moments of special learning, that one on one passing on or artistry that exceeds technique?
I worry that this conversation will get lost or frankly, never happen. We will face an economic pandemic sooner than later accompanied by a return to a society driven by austerity, raised taxes including a revamping of post secondary education that could leave our artists behind: our lovers of words, our champions of the voice, instrument, body and soul reserved only for the very wealthy to enjoy.
Don Graves is currently a landscape artist, and afficianado of Canadian mystery writing. He earned an Honours Degree in Music. He founded Sheridan College’s world renowned Music Theatre School and later served as their Dean, Faculty of Arts for 15 years.