There are two big things going on in the world of education this week. The first is The National Inner City Conference 2007. Sponsored by the Toronto School District Board and the Ontario Institute of Education Centre for Urban Schooling, the focus is on helping city kids get learned.
One of the major criticisms of the contemporary curriculum is that it is more concerned about training kids for jobs instead of teaching them how to think. Knowing the three Rs is good, but so are the arts. But in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings, don’t expect this afternoon’s announcement from Ontario Education Minister Kathleen Wynne on Ontario’s Safe Schools Strategy to include an influx of cash for drama programmes.
To see what a difference exposure to the arts can make, delegates to the conference should check out tomorrow’s opening of the Alternative Tentacle II show at XPace Gallery (58 Ossington). The show features work by students from nine of Toronto’s Alternative Schools shown in the context of a Queen St. W. gallery space. “We want to give the students the opportunity to participate in street level culture,” says Craig Morrison, curriculum leader and art teacher at Oasis, a transition school for kids who are at-risk of dropping out of the system altogether. “Art is a form of communication,” says Morrison. “If you just show student art in schools, you are producing work in a bubble, there’s no feedback.” Because the show features work from a diverse range of schools, there’s also an interesting narrative element in the way the show is hung. There’s no hierarchy, it just presented together in one big shout.
This is the second year for the Alternative Tentacle Show at XPace, and many of the students can now boast that they have exhibited work at places like AGO, Magic Pony, and the National Inner City Conference. Kirsten Webb, an Oasis student, says that Toronto’s alternative schools are “very valuable, but they’re not valued.” For the show, Webb and her classmates have been doing a lot of work with stencils and printmaking. They even built skateboards from scratch. Once an at-risk student herself, Webb feels privileged that alternative schools have introduced her to the arts. The exposure, she says, “could launch me somewhere I never imagined.”
Photo courtesy of Craig Morrison.