International Journal of Art & Design Education

The Trouble With Ruskin…

Volume 22.3   2003



Art teaching is a uniquely satisfying job. More than anyone else in education, we in Britain remain, for the most part, the authors of our own syllabuses in spite of occasional skirmishes with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) and those who would box us in. Our mystique remains unassailable. Yet, within these ramparts, is a profession riven by a philosophical chasm, which is peculiar to this country and occasionally manifests itself with disagreement, rancour, entrenched opinion and self-righteousness. Central to this divide is an unhealthy retrospection, which has skewed the debate about art and art education in Britain for the better part of a century and a half. The contention of this essay is that this malaise can be traced back to John Ruskin, the polemics of his Two Paths diatribe and his ‘predilection to admit a moral element into the assessment of artistic values.’