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Schools library association


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Schools library association

  1. 1. Enquiring Minds – what is Education for and how do school libraries and librarians contribute ? By Francis Gilbert 1 Enquiring Minds – what is Education for and how do school libraries and librarians contribute ?
  2. 2. An outline of what I will cover  What is Education for?  Ideals: eudemonia (human flourishing), Independent learners, creators, motivated, happy, imaginative, moral.  Social control  Emancipation   My brief: “We would like you to base your talk on how school libraries and librarians can contribute to these ideals.” 2
  3. 3. Education as social control  Social control: this is possibly was the Victorian intention (Simon)  The school system preserves the class system:  Secondary moderns (holding pens for children)  Grammar schools (educating the “middle tier”)  Private schools  Elite “public schools”, educating the elite: politicians, barristers etc. 3
  4. 4. Social cohesion Prison 4 Social control – positives/negatives  Schools are about social harmony  Different social groups can mix together  Teaching is about nurturing dialogue between people  Assessment of abilities rooted in meritocratic principles  Blind obedience to arbitrary authority  Social, ethnic, gender segregation  School is about learning to be lectured to  Assessment pre-supposes failure
  5. 5. The “social control” library  A clear hierarchy of books which mirrors the social class system:  Simple texts for the “less able”, for the poor, socially deprived, or a policy of exclusion: you’re not welcome here…  More advanced texts for the elite, the rich, the advantaged middle-classes  A strong emphasis on social control: silence, the librarian as the custodian of the social/literary hierarchy  Key thinkers: F.R. Leavis, ‘The Great Tradition’ 5
  6. 6. Education as “emancipation”  Education as a utopian project to change society for the better; to enrich everyone’s lives both materially, creatively, epistemologically…  Political agenda has changed: “education, education, education” (Blair, 1997)  “Closing the attainment gap” is a key policy agenda for left and right. (EEF)  Non-selective academies and free schools replace grammar schools as the “elite” state schools in the eyes of Conservative government.  Focus upon FSM children.  Universities change their entrance requirements to attract students from diverse backgrounds. 6
  7. 7. But what is “emancipation”?  Traditional: Teacher-centred, authoritarian, rote-learning, drilling for exams, higher attainment in the traditional academic subjects: Progress 8, English, Maths, Science, MfL, Humanities (Gove/E.D. Hirsch)  Creativity: a “holistic approach”; child-centred, problem- solving, creating art, drama, poetry (Montessori, Steiner, Dewey, Robinson)  A middle ground which teaches the “traditional” subjects in creative ways, mediating between traditional and more child- centred ways of teaching (most state school teachers) 7
  8. 8. Paulo Freire  Education as liberation and emancipation  The starting point is people’s lives: your own life, your students’ lives.  Education has to be relevant to its context (s)  Paulo Freire writes in the Pedagogy of the Oppressed:  “The banking concept (with its tendency to dichotomize everything) distinguishes two stages in the action of the educator. During the first, he cognizes a cognizable object while he prepares his lessons in his study or his laboratory.” (Freire, p.61)  “Every prescription represents the imposition of one individual’s choice upon another, transforming the consciousness of the person prescribed to into one that conforms with the prescriber’s consciousness.” (Freire, p. 29) 8
  9. 9. Freirean questions  Principles: choice/disclosure is voluntary/ autobiographical  What are your first reading experiences?  What are your childhood memories of libraries?  What are your positive experiences of books as a child?  Conceptual reflection:  Can any of your experiences be possibly generalised to other people? 9
  10. 10. The Freirean librarian: dialogue  Emphasis on “dialogue” and listening.  The librarian listens to students’ interests, draws out from them what they like and enters a dialogue with them about the texts they want to see in the library.  This is an on-going dialectical process; the librarian “leads” students to other texts that enable an “opening out” of thought (Freire, Bakhtin, Robin Alexander) 10
  11. 11. The Freirean librarian: praxis  The librarian takes necessary social actions to change oppressive conditions: re-arranging furniture, thinking about displays, considering oppressive students and teachers within the library context.  Ownership: the library is a “shared” communal space, not “my library”, the use of pronouns is important.  The library is a venue for social justice: talks, council meetings, group work encouraged there. 11
  12. 12. The Freirean librarian: conscientization  The library is a place where consciousness both collective and individual is developed.  Constantly evolving: new words, texts, approaches are highlighted;  CPD shelf for teachers; get them into the library!  New ideas in the school are promoted there;  New texts are highlighted, interrogated, celebrated  New technology show-cased and questioned, celebrated… 12
  13. 13. The Freirean library: lived “experience”  The lived “experiences” of the members of the library are celebrated and show-cased:  Work is displayed  Books are published (self-publishing)  Students/teachers are celebrated  Links are made between lived experience and text  Cartoon bubbles for students talking about books they like…  Cards where students/teachers write about favourite books 13
  14. 14. The “emancipatory” library  Every librarian needs to ask continually:  What is the library for?  What are its aims/purposes?  Who is it for? 14
  15. 15. The Post-modern condition  The “School Matrix”…  The rigid military hierarchies in schools and state education generally (Sennett/Weber) Librarian is placed at the bottom.  Michel Foucault/Lacan: discourses of power. The hierarchy of the school, Ofsted, the demands of the curriculum, the advent of new technology “renames” the library as a “Learning Zone” or “Learning Resources Centre” (LRC)  “Resistance”: the librarian can experience the brunt of this…  Highly problematic: surely the whole of school is a “learning zone”?  Often an imposition; questions the centrality of the “book” 15
  16. 16. Post-modern questions  What are your thoughts/feelings about the key names that surround libraries?  What “language games” are played around the concept of libraries?  What are the connotations of the words “library” and “learning zone”, “LRC” for you? Do you think this affect how people behave in libraries? 16
  17. 17. The Enlightenment and the library  The library emerged as a fundamental tool of the “Enlightenment”, a storehouse for key texts, for rational explanations of everything; the rationale sureties of John Locke, Emmanuel Kant,  The “post-modern” condition questions the Enlightenment project: there is no “objective body of knowledge”; no vital canon; only multiple discourses; multiple forms of representation; everything is potentially a “text”; the internet questions the very existence of a storehouse for the “physical book”. 17
  18. 18. Re-thinking key concepts  Gender concepts (Judith Butler, Laura Mulvey) girls and boys as cultural concepts (George, “Girls in the Goldfish Bowl”)  Sexuality (Stonewall), gay people can get married.  Age; we are all learners (Claxton “The Learning Powered School);  Instruction versus dialogue; learning is a dialectical process, a dialogue with teacher and student, and it starts with what the students knows and builds upon that (Vygotsky ZPD), as opposed what the teacher knows and what the student doesn’t (deficit model)  The librarian is in a unique position to listen to students/teachers, and uses his/her position to respond creatively to students/teachers 18
  19. 19. The post-modern library  A radical “contextualisation” of books; find students’ passions, create “book bowers”, e.g. football section which has magazines, videos of matches, Nick Hornby, 19th century history which reveals the emergence of football.  A section called “Pink” which explores and contextualises “pink”, e.g. Pink “girly” books, Spare Rib, Attitude magazine, royal pinks  Don’t be frightened of “non-fiction” 19
  20. 20. Re-thinking assessment  Accelerated Reader & similar programmes; it can have its place in the “post-modern” library which is, by its nature, a “mixed-up” place, but it needs to be “contextualised”, and abandoned if necessary. The problem is the “point score” becomes the “point”.  The crying pupil…”that ain’t no good, George…”  Teachers/librarians need to trust their instincts in the moment, learn to assess in “real-time”; assess the emotional state of a student; their “life trajectory”; look at the “big picture”; describe rather “prescribe”… 20
  21. 21. Reclaiming the name of “library”  The primacy of the physical book as a marvel of human technology:  Reclaim the name by reclaiming the concept of “Libra”; of the book; the physicality of the book is important; its smell, text, pages.  The library as an “affective” space: a place which generates a specific atmosphere, a specific emotional climate. There are or could be possibly “silent times/places”, “talking times/places”, “game times”, “bring a friend time”.  Reinvigorate the idea of “browsing” in a physical space; children needed to be guided as to how to do this; teachers to model?? The pleasure of the browser in physical space as opposed to digital space?? Exploring and deconstructing this process is actually a complex subject: many students see an intimidating shelf of books; a reminder of what they don’t know; their reaction is negative; they are “frightened” to explore & teachers too! 21
  22. 22. The pleasures of reading  To get these things right requires a great deal of thought and dialogue (Robin Alexander/Bahktin)  It is an acknowledgement of the ambivalent position of libraries within the “post-modern” age  Ultimately, though it is about establishing the “pleasure of reading” in all its facets; affective, bodily, intellectual.  The library is a magical, mystical space; a rare space for people to fall in love with books. 22
  23. 23. Summing up  The shift from social control to emancipation  The “Freirean” approach which starts with the “learner” and acts in a profound, political way to nurture and enrich students’ lives  The “post-modern” condition; adapting to this; thinking creatively; reclaiming the name of “library”; establishing the primacy of the book. 23
  24. 24. Summing up questions  Is there anything you didn’t understand?  What do you think of my points? Agree/disagree!  How do you think libraries can become places of “emancipation”?  Is social control a big issue for you in your library? If so, why? What’s going on? 24