awarm.spacenewsletter | fast | slow

Growing schools

Hi all! Welcome to the third edition of A Warm Newsletter, which is harder and harder to produce as it gets colder here in Brooklyn. But here it is!

Last weekend, I attended the Critical Retrospective as part of the School for Poetic Computations 7 year anniversary exhibition. If you don't know it, SFPC is a small school here in New York that sits at the intersection of arts, computation and politics.

In their mission they say:

This is not a program to get a degree, there are large programs for that. This is not a program to go for vocational skills, there are programs for that. This is a program for self-initiated learners who want to explore new possibilities. This is a program for thinkers in search of a community to realize greater dreams.

This is exactly the kind of institution I want to support with the technology I build.

Anyways back to the Critical Theory Retrospective. I'm not entirely sure what Critical Theory is, but there has been a class taught on it at SFPC for the last several years, and the event was a panel discussion between folks who'd been involved, as teacher's, students, and TA's.

There were a couple comments that stuck out to me, highlighting how a place like SPFC actually comes to be, grows and changes. After many positive remarks from recent students and teachers, Ingrid Burrington brought up how different that attitude was compared to when she was teaching, which prompted Taeyoon Choi2, one of the founders, to talk about how the school has grown, not pushed by him or the founders, but by students and teachers, pushing for it to be better for them.

Later in the panel, Shannon Mattern who's faculty at the New School1, brought up the similarities between the early years of that institution and SFPC, and how the former had, of course, not maintained those qualities over it's 100 year existence.

I don't know if an institution that persists that long can maintain the same vitality of a school 7 years old, but I think it's worth trying to. One way is to make the creation of schools easier, working to remove the barriers that make people participate in a "old" school instead of a younger one. If we can have a steady supply of schools growing, we can better support a vital learning ecosystem.

What makes it easier for schools to grow?

Credentialing plays a key role (ofc I think that), and so do peer-to-peer models of learning, but there's a huge amount of factors that go into how people decide where to learn, and people are the fuel for schools. I'm glad I got the opportunity to see a piece of how the people participating in SFPC think about the unique value it brings to them.

If you're in NYC I highly recommend checking out their exhibition this Wednesday or Thursday. It's full of powerful works from students and collaborators, as well as talks about their unique pedagogy and curricula.

That's all I got this week folks. Like the students did for SFPCY y'all should lemme know how I can make this more meaningful useful for you.

P.S: I've been slowly reading, [Education In a Time Between Worlds] by Zak Stein, and a book club is slowly bubbling up on FNS (a learning forum I run). If you're interested, join in!

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  1. this might be a tad too late for some of those reading this, but Taeyoon had an excellent series of instagram posts on a practical guide to being an international student at american universities.
  2. Fun fact: one of the three universities I actually applied to at the behest of my parents and guidance counsellor.