A Foundational Post Deserves a Foundational Tribute

To begin this blog on professional reading as it applies to education and how professional reading has shaped and influenced my life, I thought I should include a tribute to one of the foundational leaders who has helped me along my way: John Dewey. Many gems many be found among Dewey’s writings that may be applied today. With the talk of cutting costs by cutting librarian positions in some school districts because of the rising price of fuel, I selected the following text from Dewey’s work The School and Society (1900, 1915, 1932). The following paragraph comes from the chapter titled “Waste in Education.”

To go back to the square which is marked the library (Chart III, A): if you imagine rooms half in the four corners and half in the library, you will get the idea of the recitation room. That is the place where the children bring the experiences, the problems, the questions, the particular facts which they have found, and discuss them so that new light may be thrown upon them, particularly new light form the experience of others, the accumulated wisdom of the world–symbolized in the library. Here is the organic relation of theory and practice; the child not simply doing things, but getting also the idea of what he does; getting from the start some intellectual conception that enters into his practice and enriches it; while every idea finds, directly or indirectly, some application in experience and has some effect upon life. This, I need hardly say, fixes the position of the “book” or reading in education. Harmful as a substitute for experience, it is all-important in interpreting and expanding experience. (p. 85)

If I may be liberal with the word “waste” here, today I find that school librarians are not valued, in general, as highly as they ought to be or as Dewey envisioned. In your experience, are students bringing their problems and questions to the school library in conjunction with the classroom where they may discuss these problems and questions with others and with the accumulated knowledge of the world? Are students interpreting and expanding upon the experiences through the use of library resources?

OR, are students conducting imposed queries about topics or reading from a restricted set of books on their tested/benchmarked reading level? Is the education we offer students limiting their interest and motivation to learn?