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Passions in Poetry

On the Genius Think Again

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Member Ascendant
since 08-20-99
Posts 5896
Jejudo, South Korea

0 posted 05-21-2001 03:25 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Is anybody else addicted to Arts and Letters Daily and Sci-Tech Daily?  Anyway, I thought this article attacks the dichotomous thinking of today quite well:

Creativity and Spontaneity


Here's a glimpse:

"A liturgy of opposites has developed in the theory of education: creativity versus routine, spontaneity versus rules, imagination versus rote-learning, innovation versus conformity. Rousseau's myth of the noble savage, good by nature and corrupted by society, lives on; and in the face of all the evidence to the contrary, educationists go on telling us that children learn not by conforming to some external standard, but by "releasing their inner potential" and expressing their creative skills. Hence rote learning, facts and traditional routines are dismissed as irrelevant."

I don't necessarily agree with this guy on the specifics (I think there is some value to modern art -- at times) but in general, I gotta say it's about time someone said this.


[This message has been edited by Brad (edited 05-21-2001).]

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since 07-31-2000
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Statesboro, GA, USA

1 posted 05-21-2001 11:15 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Unbridled, unstructured, and undisciplined "creativity" is often very bland.  I see it in the world of poetry as well.  Sadly what is farthest removed from discipline and "rules" is sometimes the most applauded.  But the applause is given by those who are hoping no one will notice that they don't "get it".  It's the trendy, progressive, and hyper-artistic mind that can appreciate modern art, or so they say.  The traditional elements of style get coined as "backward" and "rigid", but what they usually offer as a valid replacement, is without substance and insipid.  I agree with the main points of this article.  

Trash is still trash, no matter how much it sells for in auctions.  (oops did I say that in public?)

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since 09-18-99
Posts 2641
Whole Sort Of Genl Mish Mash

2 posted 05-22-2001 01:56 PM       View Profile for jbouder   Email jbouder   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jbouder


You got my attention with this one.  Excellent article, by the way.  I wish more people were yelling its contents from the mountaintop (but I’m not going to hold my breath).

I believe, over time, the Educationalist error becomes apparent in the lack of progress of a typically developing child.  The damage becomes particularly pronounced in children who have educational or developmental delays.  

I have personally witnessed, for example, autistic children who have transitioned from a very well structured classroom where target skills are broken down into small component skills, and the small component skills are learned systematically until the target is acquired, into a classroom using a “self-directed” methodology.  Theoretically, according to the Educationalist, the children should flourish in such an environment.  The sad reality, however, is that nearly every child who transitions from the former, highly structured learning environment into a “self-directed” learning environment suffers significant regression, resulting of loss of acquired skills or, in some cases, reoccurrence of previously extinguished self-injurious or aggressive behaviors.

The Educationalist’s error, therefore, has caused real and lasting harm to these children.  If the error is not soon corrected, independence will probably not be an option for many of the children who, in the proper learning environment, have a very real and attainable chance of becoming self-reliant when they reach adulthood.

The article writer wrote:

Such thinking is contradicted by the obvious fact that self-expression is not innate but acquired: the self, too, is a social product.

This “obvious fact”, in my opinion, was nearly lost in the body of the author’s essay, but the point he is making is critical to recognize.  All learned behaviors are the product of some previous conditioning.  Take, for example, one of the most fundamental means of self-expression we acquire – speech.  Different speech sounds that comprise words were reinforced during very early stages of development in China, than those that were reinforced in England or the United States.  As language develops, those sounds and words are paired with objects or abstractions that elicit certain responses (whether pleasant or unpleasant) and those typical responses in the respective cultures shape the use of language in literature, oratory, and conversation.  Our social environment shapes so much of our behavior, that I would not be able to begin to try to discern the line of demarcation between my “self-expression” and conditioned responses.  Such a line, if I were to construct one, would probably be imaginary.

In my view, there is very little room in the conditioning process for randomness and spontaneity.  If an apparently random behavior is reinforced by chance, then the result could be either the a case of accidental learning, acquisition of superstitious behavior, or a behavior that has very little resistance to extinction (because there is no way to continuously reinforce that behavior).

I believe the foundation of great artistic ability is learned.  Genius may impact the speed at which requisite skills are acquired (i.e., become conditioned), but the simple fact of the matter is that a systematic approach to developing those foundational skills equips the child to begin to learn how to generalize (or discriminate) that acquired knowledge appropriately to create a beautiful piece of art.  Even “creative” behavior is shaped, however.  If you paint something and you are reinforced by the positive feedback you get from your critics, you are more likely to repeat many of the links in the chain of responses that were reinforced.  In a different social circle, the same painting may be harshly criticized and, in such a case, the chain of responses is less likely to be repeated (i.e., the behavior will be extinguished).

Thanks for providing me with a moment's distraction, Brad.  I enjoyed it.


Member Ascendant
since 08-20-99
Posts 5896
Jejudo, South Korea

3 posted 05-23-2001 03:24 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Yeah, I agree. I like Andy Warhol's soup can, Jackson Pollack, and many postmodern exercises in pastiche but in others I find nothing but trivial attempts to shock. The funny think is that those trivial attempts are just as full of dichotomies as the mainstream mindset. They aren't mind expanding, they're mind-closing.


I guess the educationist is reacting to the previous mindset of discipline (in Korea, the problems are almost the same except resulting from the opposite direction -- self expression without some structure is just as mindless as no opinion at all). I think the author here is attempting a somewhat conservative argument (I don't think it's conservative as such but my guess is that is his target audience) and that quote is not exactly a right wing point of view. I don't think it's right or left but leftists have seized it for a number of different political reasons.

As far as praise of self-expression goes, praise the work, not the result, and the results will come.  The not exactly new research studies are showing that praise of the result without concern for quality (Yes, socially determined quality.) actually hinders self-expression because nobody wants to endanger that fragile self-esteem.

Of course, if that self-esteem is so easily endangered, one wonders how firmly set it truly is.



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