I live an interesting life: I get to research and write books that put me in touch with academic experts; I teach at Rutgers so I get to hear from colleagues like Ross Todd and the CISSL group about the latest research on, say, how young people use information; I write for young people so I am invited to schools; I know something about the Common Core so I get to meet teachers and librarians; I know many book publishers who need to learn more about kids, books, learning, and the Common Core; and I hear from you all here and in personal contacts. So I get a pretty good cross section of how everyone involved in the chain from idea to reader and back is handling the combination of transformation in education and shifts in technology. As one exceptionally knowledgable book publisher put it to me yesterday, we have “pandemonium.”
The word itself, if capitalized, is the capital of Hell in Pardise Lost, and Milton actually invented it (easy to see the origins: all demons). There is something apt about that as reversals run through so many of our recent fantasy and paranormal romance novels: Daughter of Smoke and Bone; the Golden Compass trilogy; even in a sense Twilight — Vampire = love = vampire = restraint = love. Something about our moment makes that judo move where hell is heaven and heaven is hell appealing to us. And just at the same time as we play with that device in fiction, in reality our schools are experiencing the lower case meaning of the term: uproar, chaos.
That, friends, is the good news. If anyone thinks they have a slam dunk answer on how to deal with CC, the digital world, students, and schools they are lying or misguided. We are in a time of exploration for everyone — how should a writer write? an editor edit? a publisher publish? a parent, teacher, or librarian purchase — right now these are questions, not answers. To take one simple example: a year or two ago I wrote hear in high excitement about smart boards. And, indeed, they have spread across our school systems like kudzu — where they are used, often as not, as very expensive homes for post in notes. Will ereaders repeat that story or change it? What will the CC look like when, as Jeff asked a few days ago, we have the assessments? Will we be back to NCLB high stakes, with CC as mere verbiage? Or will CC be the true transformation it can and should be. Why is this good news? Because we are in a time of experiment, that is all any of us can do: read, work with kids, pay attention learn, try, and report back. That is my fantasy novel reversal: pandemonium is good because in the chaos we are freed to experiment and learn. What could be better?