Two Reasons I Won’t Use My Typical Opening Today

For the last several years, I have been opening my keynote addresses by describing something that I’ve learning in the last 24 hours. It was usually something that I’d run across on my iPad (Flipboard), or a conversation I’d had, or some other striking something that caught my eye.  Today, it would likely be the Olkaria IV Geothermal Power Plant just brought on line in Kenya with the assistance of Germany’s continued development of green energies.  I first learned about the plant from the Kenyan cab driver who took me from the St. Louis airport to my hotel yesterday.

But no story today.  The first reason is trivial though not insubstantial.  It’s time.  I’ll only have 45 minutes for my opening talk.  It’s usually closer to an hour.

The second reason is more important.  It is my audience; school librarians, students of library science, and supporters and administrators of school library programs.  I’m not launching into a demonstration of personal learning because librarians and their libraries are almost entirely about person learning.  Their patrons explore, examine, experiment and discover – in much the same ways that we all conduct our essential learning outside of school.

These authentic learning experiences are way to rare in the classrooms of our schools, and this is due not to the best intentions, reflections and inventiveness of our teachers.  It is my country’s continue obsession with market motivated and industrial methodology of public education.

Who Among Us is Explicitly Tasked with Helping Children Learn to Teach Themselves?

I would suggest that “YOU NEED OUR LIBRARIES!”

From the Texas Library Association web site

One of the upcoming events I especially look forward to is the Texas Library Association Conference in Austin. I’ll be part of a series of presentations for administrators about libraries and their evolving and increasing importance in a mouse-click world.

One component of my message came to me about a week ago during a conversation with someone who works with librarians across the country. I did not know her before this conversation, and so, do not remember her name now. It takes two meetings for me to remember someone’s name. No stickiness left in my brain.

During that conversation she said something to me that did stick. She suggested that for high school students, who are going on to college, the school librarian is perhaps the most important teacher they will have. I think that this was a gross understatement.

We talk hard about life-long learning, but I do not believe that it is figuring in to the procedures, policies, and pedagogies of formal education nearly as much as it should. Today, with everything changing so fast, the ability and proclivity to learn is as critical as the basic literacies were in my time.  Perhaps they should be the same thing — learning and literacy.

I often ask people, especially non-educators, “How much of what you do in your job or profession, did you learn in high school?” “ college?”  “In the last five years?”  “In the last month?” How much of living and working today is significantly dependent on our ability to learn? Imagine education focusing less on what’s been taught, and much much more on skilled, curious, resourceful, and habitual learning. Imagine a generation of super-charged learners embracing a day and time when almost anything is possible.

Coming back around, what educator in today’s schools, holds, as an explicit part of their mission, helping children learn to teach themselves. Why it’s librarians, those educators who are too often among the first to be laid off in order to balance budgets.

Such a sad and tragic lack of vision.