Friday, April 26, 2013

ACRL 2013 Conference Notes: Geoffrey Canada Opening Keynote

ACRL Opening Keynote
Speaker: Geoffrey Canada, President and CEO Harlem Children's Zone.
Date: Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 4:00pm

  • Opens the keynote by pointing out that President Obama is asking for funding to replicate his work and that of the HCZ. 
  • Librarians control knowledge of the world. Librarians understand how quickly the world and knowledge are changing. 
  • Those growing during the 1960s worried over the soul of America. Note the various assassinations during that time period: the Kennedys, MLK, Malcolm X. 
    • He sees 60 Minutes as a place of social justice, a show of hard news with a social message; he was featured on the show and interviewed by Ed Bradley.
    • Later, he realized that the show to be on was Oprah.
  • National trauma. The U.S. Senate is bringing forth a very watered down version of guns and background checks (we know now that the legislation failed to pass, link to CNN).
    • We have lost more children to guns in the U.S. since (at least) the Korean War. 
  • Problem: Millions of children not prepared for present nor future jobs and careers. This is a national problem.
    • Current policies allow kids to fail in schools. Men end up in jail. Women and their children end up in poverty and then continue the poverty cycle. Why is this allowed? 
    • Referred to the report "Ready, Willing, and Unable to Serve." From the report, Mr. Canada mentioned the following: Youths unable to qualify for military service due to lack of skills, felony arrests (at least 10% of youths). not being able to pass exams to get in (about 30%). Add in about 17% of youths are too obese to join the military. This is society's fault. 
    • Educated people know better and (usually) care for their kids to not allow them to fail. 
    • Overall, in the end we have to take responsibility for leveling the playing field. However, there are no plans to educate America's children. 
    • Education as a business has refused to change. A system where the business does not care for its customers fails. Education has been failing for decades, and no one has cared. 
    • Studies constantly confirm poor children lose ground over the summer months. 
  • Teaching is a real profession. Not just anyone should teach. A bad teacher will destroy a child. 
    • "If you cannot fire lousy teachers, ship them to good communities. Maybe they can afford a lousy teacher. Poor kids can't." And yet we do send the lousy teachers to the poor. 
    • And even then, good teacher or not, parents have to work for their kids' success. 
  • In a pinch, always do what rich people do. They only have one goal for their kids: college, and a good college at that. College level skills are the entry tools for the job market. 
  • Teaching: Hold all the community accountable for it. Provide arts, physical education, so on. You [rich people] provide them for your kids, so why not for poor kids? Parents of means know it's good. For poor kids, suddenly we "need data" to justify it (talk about a serious double standard). 
    • Providing comprehensive support is critical. 
    • In the end, our job is to educate. Do what it takes. Have to work weekends? Do it. Have better teachers and start working with the kids early. 
    • Mr. Canada gave the example of the 2-year old child who spills a cup of water. Consider the educated parents versus the poor parents and the different messages they give the child. Educated parents tend to give affirmative messages (it was an accident, these things happen, no big deal sort of thing)  versus the negative messages from the poor parents (that dumb kid can't do anything right, made a mess, so on). This has an effect on the kid's development. 
    • As a country, we can provide pre-K education. It is an investment that can and should be done. The truth is that money does exist to educate our children. 
    • We are willing and prepared to incarcerate kids who fail but not willing to pay to educate them, which costs less. For the cost of prison, we get no return on investment or good outcomes, yet we fail to pay to educate, which can yield benefits and positive outcomes. We have a failing strategy. 
  • Issue: the willingness to allow kids to grow up in danger: guns, crime, bullying (real and online), etc. Many parts of this country are not safe. When one lives in fear of not being safe, it is hard to concentrate on esoteric or any other ideas. Kids worried about their lives can't worry or focus on math, reading, etc.
  • Libraries are safe places to think and learn. 
  • Challenges: 
    • Make sure to provide youth with diverse range of opportunities. You never know what will save a kid
    • Think outside the box. 
  • We need teachers who know how to give kids what they need and ought to have. 
    • Part of our job is to open the world to kids until they find what they need to save them. We have to do this constantly. 
    • World is changing. We have to think strategically and lead change. 
    • Mr. Canada told the story of being a psychology major and struggling with a statistics course. He flunked his first exam. By luck, the professor helped him with a new book and line of thinking, so he managed to pass the class. It was not "slant." The guy got him to read two books. The professor figured out a way to keep students' egos intact and to work harder. 
    • We have to be prepared to think outside the box. 
  • U.S. is conditioned that if the kids are not yours (literally yours or belonging to your group), then it's "who cares," they are someone else's kids. We have to fight for all the kids, and it will be a fight. 
From the question and answer segment:

  • How do we make the "missing plan" happen? 
    • As big as the federal budget is, see the spending on war. Someone decided that was a priority (I would add that someone elected those who decided that was was a priority. After all, politicians do not just spring out of thin air). Why are kids not a priority that we sacrifice for? 
    • Average Americans believe their voices are not heard. A starting place is for Americans to actually get informed (and librarians can certainly can help with that. Just ask your local friendly librarian). Then, after you get informed, call your legislators and comment. Do not forfeit your voice to the lobbyists. Find groups that support your cause and work with them and support them. 
  • On educating teachers, especially if those teachers work, have families, so on. 
    • Teachers as a profession are just not paid enough. 
    • Get smart people, pay them well and a lot, then work them hard. Otherwise, who wants to work in a stressful job with bad conditions and poor or no wages? This is how you attract lousy teachers. 
    • Pay good teachers for their performance. If they deliver, pay them. This is better than paying for prisons. 
  •  How to raise awareness of issue of danger? 
    • Common response: "we did not expect it to happen here" (ain't that the truth? People always think it, whatever it is, will happen someplace else, until it happens to them).  But we are fine about Chicago or Detroit. We have kids growing on war zones, and this should not be acceptable. A sense of outrage is needed. 
  • Implications of Common Core Standards.
    • Good, but they are not still preparing the educators or the kids. All they did was change the test that kids did not pass before and make it worse. This is cruel. 
    • Changing teaching and learning strategies is needed. 
    • Librarians can help with this, if only they were given time. 
  • Community colleges often get the least prepared students. You can solve the issues when the students get to college. 
    • Use science and work on kids sooner, early. Education currently is run on myths. 
    • Need to connect support. Good schools throughout. Hold people accountable and have a good education pipeline. 
    • Need better connections between high school and college. Transparency means less places to hide. Again, accountability. This does mean stopping things like social promotion. 
  • Our college kids fail quietly and anonymously. We need to get information on those at risk kids as soon as possible. 
    • Look at the data, then work backwards. 

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