Patricia by Patricia

Patricia by Patricia
Patricia by Patricia

Saturday, April 16, 2016

1000 words! Where is a picture when you need it?

 When I got home from London this year, five New Yorker Magazines were waiting for me. I learn and am inspired by these journals, but read only selected articles that seem to reach out to me. So far, I believe the following articles are helping me to see the world in a different way.

Shut Up and Sit Down by Joshua Rothman, (New Yorker, Feb 29, 2016 p. 64) is a critical essay about leadership. Leaders are held on high and we hear a lot about training the leaders of tomorrow, which means there is presumed to be a science of leadership. It turns out a USD scholar Joseph Rost discovered over 200 definitions of leadership. At the two extremes are the leaders with magnetic personalities and the ones who are brilliant bureaucrats. Some rare examples combine the two. A charismatic person can learn the process of being a great bureaucrat, but maybe not the reverse.

If we feel we are in crisis we can be tempted to choose a charismatic person with no track record.  This is a big risk. If the crisis is perceived as large enough, that risk may be worth it. But Rothman points out that “a leader must cross paths with a crisis” to achieve greatness. It turns out that many politicians dramatize crisis to garner favor.

Leaders used to be the decision makers, now they tend to be seen as inspirational. The attributes we look for in leaders are more moral than administrative such as trustworthy, courageous, authentic. This means we look now for leaders in non-traditional roles. For example, I like to think of myself as a reluctant leader. I am in the story but, for example right now, I am also the story teller. Rothman might say I feed the need “to have and present a coherent version of the world”. In my case, that would be one which has a county wide arts council to aid our arts community. 

In the next article I am challenged to be the critic of that story above. Says You by Nathan Heller (New Yorker, March 7, 2016 p. 62) explores three requirements of a critic: “expertise, eloquence and attention”. Not so surprisingly, lots of bloggers now have those abilities….so the days of the professional critic may be numbered. Some may say this is a good thing, but I think that critics are wonderful because they are so devoted to whatever types of subjects they are reviewing that they spend hours learning and thinking about it and they are prepared to take a stance.  Yes, they should be knowledgeable, the writing should be very high quality but just having your attention guided to a certain subject is extremely valuable. It is validating just to make a work that someone deems interesting enough to spend the time to review.  

Heller says that critics fall into three categories: those who notice first when something important is happening; those who are so incredibly knowledgeable that they can floor you with context; and those you simply fall in love with as you imagine accompanying them to exhibitions. I can look at some of my purchases and see how the prices have escalated, but will that hold over centuries? Could I ever become learned enough to back up my choices very long term? I don’t want to be critical for the sake of a good read or send someone off to see something I could not recommend. I guess I might fall under the category of “seducer.” I want you to have a good time reading what I write. I want to tempt you to see for yourself and see more and more until you become as addicted as I am. When I make art, I want you to spend a bit of time with it and have a relationship with it. When I write about art, I really want the same thing to happen. Of course what I am doing now is writing about the writing about art. I hope you are still there!  

In the last of my three articles this month, Learn Differently by Rebecca Mead (New Yorker, March 7, 2016 p. 36) there is an exploration of a new alternative schools appropriately names AltSchool. Basically this is a school that aims to give students as much individual attention as possible to bring out and challenge their interests. The difference in this attempt from other schools is the data gathering systems that are put in place to leverage a new learning systems that AltSchool is developing. The teacher is made over into “a data enabled detective”, and these educators are backed by a large infrastructure of technologists.   Not only is the learning enabled by online sources, but students are tracked by digital reports and by still and moving images. The teachers give the software designer requests on how to make the system better. They work together to create programs and platforms. These schools are the prototypes for hundreds of schools that could be created and the programs could eventually wind up in public schools as well.  All this recording and reporting will generate tons of information. That is time consuming so they need new technology to make this more intuitive, but also to create the interpretation of such a huge amount of material possible. The computer which has the capacity to exceed that of a human better come PDQ. What we at SDVAN do know is that arts are vital to the learning process and this data might finally prove how valuable they are to our society.