FOSIL Group member Darryl Toerien continues his feature series – Between the Library and the Classroom: Becoming Integral to the Educational Process – for The School Librarian, the Quarterly Journal of the School Library Association.
The School Librarian, Volume 69, Number 3, Autumn 202
In preparing for my presentation with Barbara Stripling at #SLALeaders 2021, I uncovered Norman Beswick’s extraordinary article for Library Review titled, The past as prologue : two decades of missed chances. He writes:
‘It is heartbreaking to recall that in 1970 it was possible to be very hopeful that a great new age of British school librarianship was about to dawn. It did not happen: and this despite the best activities of some school librarians and some local education authorities; and despite some positive statements by professional associations, and some research projects and official reports. It could be important to ask what went wrong. Although the circumstances may not recur, asking the right questions might give us helpful answers for when the campaign for school libraries starts again, tomorrow morning.’
I wondered whether, writing today, the article might need to be titled, The past as prologue as past as prologue : five decades of missed chances. While it remains important, and increasingly urgent, to investigate in detail what went wrong, now is not the time to do so. However, it is opportune to frame our inquiry.
Harold Howe, United States commissioner of education during the Johnson administration and senior lecturer emeritus at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, incisively observed that “what a school thinks of its library is a measure of how it feels about education”.
Howe’s observation demands a response. Given the generally poor condition that we find ourselves in, it is understandable why our response might be to demand that the school thinks more highly of its library, and to redouble our efforts to focus attention on the library. This, however, misses Howe’s profound point, which is that what a school thinks of its library is a consequence of what it feels about education. Therefore, to change what the school thinks of its library, we, if necessary, must change how it feels about education. This, in turn, requires a preoccupation with being integral to the educational process, or, where necessary, agitating for an educational process that the library is integral to, which, as we have argued, is an inquiry learning process.
Given that we are dealing with the reality of five decades of missed chances, most beyond our direct control, we have our work cut out for us. To keep us focused, as Dallas Willard reminds us, the true measure of success is how well we deal with reality.
The revolution will not be televised.