What is Art?

Jaylen H. - LLI Akron 

The definition of art is “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination... producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power” (Google Dictionary). If student speech is communicated through an online source and contains vulgar and/or violent material, it should be considered art as long as the writer had the intent to express and/or apply their skills and imagination, which indeed fits the definition of art.

In Andrew Wallenstein’s article, The Hip Hop Case that the Supreme Court Should Reject, he discusses the works of Taylor Bell, a senior high school student in Mississippi, and how his lyrics, his art, detrimentally impacted his life. Writing about current events in his school and publishing his work to YouTube, Bell aspires to be a successful rapper. Despite his work being a valid form of art, he ultimately ended up being suspended indefinitely for the topics he wrote about.

Although he used vulgar and violent material in his lyrics, it still is art, whether or not the listener appreciates it.

A successful rapper, Killer Mike, wrote on CNN.com, “We don’t assume that Quentin Tarantino, Stephen King or Johnny Cash carry out the sometimes extreme violence depicted in their art because we acknowledge it as art“ (Varsity).  Bell was using his freedom of speech to create art, but others didn’t interpret or accept it. They deemed it of being foul and vulgar similar to the majority of rappers today. Because Bell tried to be a great rapper like the people he admired, he was punished for expressing himself and creating his art.

Sources Considered:

  • Bell v. Itawamba Cty. Sch. Bd., 859 F. Supp. 2d 834, 836 (N.D. Miss. 2012).
  • Wallenstein, Andrew. "The Hip-Hop Case the Supreme Court Should Reject." Web blog post. Variety. 22 Feb. 2016. 
  • Liptak, Adam. "Hip Hop Stars Support Mississippi Rapper in First Amendment Case." Web blog post. Sidebar. The New York Times Company, 20 Dec. 2015. 
  • Stern, Mark, J. "Judges Have No Idea What to Do About Student Speech on the Internet." Web blog post. Future Tense. Slate, 18 Feb. 2016.  
  • Crowley, Brian. "Supreme Court Refuses to Provide Clarity on Discipline for Off-Campus, Online Student Speech." Web blog post. Education Law Insights. Lexology, 29 February 2016. 
  • "School was Right to Expel Student Over Violent Poetry." eSchoolNews. Eschool Media Sites. 1 Aug. 2001.