ASFA-CW/Dance/VA Collaboration Photos + Kudos!

Here’s just a fraction of the photographic evidence (click here and here for slideshows) of yet another successful year of one of the coolest interdisciplinary endeavors in the ASFA universe! Writers, dancers — and this year, visual artists! — push envelopes, take chances, and (most of all) CREATE! TOGETHER!! #FunTimes. Many thanks to ASFA-DANCE’s Teri Weksler, who’s been the driving force behind this project, and to ASFA-CW’s Kwoya Maples and ASFA-VA’s Randy Gachet, who coordinated with Teri and the students to make this such an extraordinary learning experience for everyone involved. And, as always, thanks to ASFA’s core academic teachers and administrators, who adjust on the fly and help us fit this project into an already/always chock-full daily-weekly-semesterly schedule. (You guys are the best!)

Creativity is the New Coding


In my own poetry, I’m drawn to both repetition and pop culture (so-called low-brow entertainments, especially), so when I read a short article quoting NBA owner and Shark Tank co-star Mark Cuban predicting the imminent “automation of automation,” I was all ears. Cuban was touting the need, in a changing economy, for young people to develop their creativity and critical thinking skills over tech savvy. Then, synchronicity of synchronicities (see, I told you I like repetition), Dr. Michael Meeks, ASFA’s Executive Director, shared this article in a recent meeting: “We Don’t Need to Teach Our Kids to Code, We Need to Teach Them How to Dream” by tech-journalist Tom Goodwin.

It’s not that digital technology is bad. It’s just that it isn’t a panacea for all that ails us, and it just as often creates new challenges and voids where it addresses and fills more familiar ones. With that in mind, schools (and parents) are uniquely positioned to (re)emphasize the uniquely intangible things that help humans truly thrive.

A few pull quotes from the Goodwin article:

  • Think of people’s mental faculties as a set of concentric circles. At the core is the very essence of who we are: our values, how we think, what’s important to us, our personality and our behaviors. Over this layer, our skills are formed. Are we adaptable? Can we build relationships? Are we fast learning, good at music, great at languages, can we see things from different points of view? Around this we form technical abilities: the gathering of facts, vocabulary, and the processes of life…
  • Current schooling seems outward-in. We prioritize knowledge above all else. It is tested in exams. The best in school are those who can most easily recall information. Which was pretty helpful until like now, where information is immediate, everywhere and abundant. In a world of Fake news, being able to form opinions, criticize, evaluate, and see both sides of the story are far more vital than merely knowing things, absorbing stuff and parlaying it back robotically…
  • We don’t need to change everything now, but we do need to start forgetting the assumptions that we have made. The future is more uncertain than ever, but we need to make our kids as balanced, agile, and as self-reliant as ever in order to thrive in it.

The idea is that, in a world where cars drive themselves and there’s software to build software, we really are going to have to reimagine what human work is — and probably sooner rather than later. Yes, that’s maybe a little bit scary. But it’s also a potential boon to anyone who hasn’t forgotten how to imagine something in the first place. “Every child is an artist,” Picasso supposedly said. “The problem is how to remain an artist once [she] grows up.” This, it seems, is nothing less than the clarion call of 21st C. education. (#Aspire!)

This I Believe: Values and Evaluations

First Things First:

This is not school.

This is a shared (sacred) space for all of us to do what we love.

This is “How to Do What You Love.”

We’re here at ASFA because “what we love” has at least something to do with what’s on the white board below:

And what’s on this one below:

But how do we evaluate whether we’re doing “what we love” in the right way?

Turns out, “what we love” requires the ability to work autonomously.

That’s why self-evaluation is the most important kind of evaluation.

That’s also why outside objective evaluation (grades, numbers, etc) is (a) very difficult and (b) not very useful when it comes to the things we love to do.

I am not very interested in attaching a number or letter grade to you. I do it because I am required to do it.

I am very interested in giving you my honest, direct opinion about your creative process as I see it.

I am also very interested in getting your honest, direct opinion about my creative process as you see it.

I don’t differentiate my teaching from my writing.

Teaching and writing (and reading and thinking) are related components of my entire creative process.

They are the most important activities in my life and they’re guided by the white boards above.

They’re also guided by the materials we’ll discuss this week, including this article from a recent NY Times Magazine article: What If the Key to Success Is Failure?

I promise you two things: (a) I will always take your work seriously (even if you sometimes don’t) and (b) I will never give up on you and your creative process (even if you sometimes do).

I believe those two promises define whether or not I’m successful in my work at ASFA.

I ask only one thing of you: that you make those same promises to yourself.