The Subjectivism of Modern “Art”

While defending government schools with raging vehemence, the Chronicle routinely complains about nearly every aspect of those schools. They complain that funding is unfair, grading schools and districts is misleading, we aren’t paying enough attention to ESL and poor students, state skills tests of students are unreasonable, and on and on and on. A recent diatribe is an opinion piece by a “poet” whose work is used in the Texas state assessment tests (STAAR).

The “poet” admits that she can’t answer the questions pertaining to her own “poems.” As an example, one of the questions on STAAR asks why the “poet” used all capitals in one line. In the opinion piece, the alleged poet wrote:

It could be A. All caps is a way to highlight a fact, right? I guess I wanted to stress the fact that the feeling belongs to TODAY, but maybe the answer is B. Let’s see, today is not tomorrow, could be that. But climbing into the test maker’s mind, I’m guessing they want the answer C. But here’s the thing: I remember adding the ALL CAPS during revision. Was it to highlight the fact it arrived today or was it to indicate that it happened unexpectedly? Not sure. Move on, lots to cover.

The real issue here isn’t STAAR. It isn’t even education. The real issue is the subjective natureof modern “art.”

The poet admits that she has psychological problems, and “poetry” is her way of dealing with them. Based on the sampling that she provides, her method of coping is a stream of consciousness rambling about her emotional turmoil. The result is a confusing mixture of metaphors, random associations, and angst. Such disconnected discourse might be fine for a personal journal, but to call it poetry is to mock and degrade true poetry.

Aristotle said that the purpose of art is to depict life as it could be and should be. Art should show humans as heroes, not gutter clutching vermin. Art should show humans conquering challenges and achieving values, not wallowing in self-pity and neurosis.

Modern “art” is not about portraying rational values. Quite the opposite. It is about attacking rational values and elevating the irrational to a position of serious consideration. When a “poet” cannot even understand her own work, how is a reader to do so? In truth, they can’t, and each individual’s interpretation is considered as valid as another’s. This subjectivism goes beyond esthetics, but that is an issue for another day.

One of the sub-headings in the essay is “Parents, educators, legislators, readers of news reports: STOP TAKING THESE TEST RESULTS SERIOUSLY.” I suggest that everyone stop taking modern “artists” seriously.

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