My meeting with the NYC school librarians took place in an immense hall — apparently the second largest in New York after Radio City Music Hall — and while the upper, and upper upper tiers were not filled (I could just picture some event with a famous guest and the kid who just managed to find enough money to sit in that way last row nearly touching the ceiling, but still in the house) there was a large crowd — I’d estimate as in the 400s+. The event began with a talk by a VP from the Board of Education who emphasized the city’s commitment to the CC, along with specific tasks every student is expected to be able to perform this year, as well as the timeline, the sense that this is not going to happen at once. The audience responded well to my talk — I liked the big stage, gave me a chance to be a ham, a talk show host — to perform. But in a way the interesting part came after, as I spoke with the school librarians.
The responses I heard split into a few groups: some were excited, the secret history and NF lovers who perhaps had wanted to study history in college but got discouraged, or liked sharing NF with kids, but had always seem more emphasis on fiction, or saw the need for collaboration with teachers but had gotten their toes stubbed; some were daunted — if I have to compare and contrast treatments of a subject, do I need to buy two different books on every topic; if teachers won’t come to me, what should I do; and some were cynical — same old, same old — this is one more mandate, flavor of the day, soon enough another will come down the pike, I’ll keep doing what I’ve always done.
This split was perfectly normal and perfectly predictable, but the momentum, at least from those who sought me out, was towards excitment. It had a hint of a 1960s consciousness raising event, people realizing that they had always had a secret affinity for NF, for history, for engaging kids in thinking about texts, and now that road lay open. Clearly the VP was concerned about the librarians cyncism, hence both the specific mandate and the extended roll out. But I left impressed with their enthusiasm. I hope to get a chance to go to some schools and see what is happening in practice.