Children, Liberalism and Utopia: Education, Hall-Dennis and Modernity in Ontario’s Long 1960s
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In 1968, Ontario’s Department of Education released a report entitled Living and Learning: The Report of the Provincial Committee on Aims and Objectives of Education in the Schools of Ontario, which quickly came to be called the “Hall-Dennis Report” or simply “Hall-Dennis” after the names of its chairmen, Emmett Hall and Lloyd Dennis. The Report urged Ontarians to accept a new vision of education, one in which students were no longer organized in classes, their progress no longer measured by grades, and their experience no longer characterized by the painful acquisition of subjects but rather by a joyous and open-ended process of learning. The Report marked a significant moment not only in the development of Ontario’s educational system but in Canadian cultural history. In its outline of a new, “democratic” system of education for Ontario, one that it associated with the highest ideals of progress, liberalism, and humanism, Hall-Dennis revealed not only the high ambitions of liberal utopianism in the 1960s, but also suggested the extent to which its proponents sought to tame the forces of radicalism and maintain the pre-existing socio-economic order, albeit under the daunting and increasingly fragmenting circumstances of high modernity.
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