Inside The School That Teaches Code Like Poetry

There’s an amazing elegance in computer code, if you look at it the right way. So why not teach it like that?

The School For Poetic Computation, which just opened in New York,
is latest educational establishment to leap onto the “learn to code” bus that’s being driven by the explosion in apps for mobile devices and the ever-deeper penetration of computer tech into every corner of life. But this new school is different. Instead of viewing code as purely functional, it teaches students that there’s an inner beauty, and perhaps even joy to code.


The school’s motto is “more poems less demos,” and one of the four founders excels at this sort of cross-discipline thinking: Zachary Lieberman, a man Fast Company called “part R&D geek, part performance artist, and part hacker” back in 2010.

As the New York Times points out, the school is a startup that’s already doing quite well: It already enrolled 15 students for the fall term, selected from 50 applications, each paying about $5,000 for their 10 week “course.” The Times describes the candidates as being both traditional and mixed-arts folk, including a beatboxer and a PhD candidate “who wants to use data visualization to highlight problems in the prison system.”

Many programmers do appreciate the internal beauty of code, including the writer of this article, who used to code professionally in a bunch of different languages. There’s an inescapable feeling that you are creating art when you think about the structure of a program and see the lines of text instructions printed on the screen. Writing code can feel like dipping into a different world, one where time just flits by.

The School for Poetic Computation seems destined to take this notion one step further by focusing on the aesthetic value of what code can do alongside the internal beauty of its construction. The school website notes: “Hopefully what we make at School for poetic computation is for people, not computers.”

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