About twenty years ago, Abraham Kaplan delivered a lively and memorable paper to the American Philosophical Association on the aesthetics of the popular arts. Appearing during the heyday of formalist criticism of the arts in America, the clear condemnation of the popular arts in his opening paragraph surprised no one. But many things have happened in the last twenty years to make us want to rethink the casual identification of popular art with "dis-value" that Kaplan takes for granted: the rise in popularity of folk music, the transformation of rock and roll by the Beatle's and others, the advent of poster art, the ever increasing sophistication of advertising, the power of television, the seriousness of film critics, the strong presence of modern dance, and full scale attempts (at least in the 60's) at street theater and guerilla theater. Al l this, during the gradual eroding of the dominance of formalist criticism, ought to make us reevaluate popular art once more. Moreover, there is a special reason why professional educators should think carefully about popular art. To a significant degree, teachers transmit cultural tastes. If they have nothing to say about the art that a vast majority of students are already committed to, they will lose credibility in recommending the exploration of the so-called high arts. Although I am not advocating an acceptance of the position, it is clearly the case that for the majority of children through young adults, Springsteen, not Bach, is the boss.
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