At NBC’s fourth annual Education Nation Summit this week, libraries were more visible than in the past. The event strives to engage the public in solution-focused discussion about improving education and preparing American students for the jobs of the future. This year, the summit tackled the question of “What It Takes” to outfit students for success in the classroom and beyond.
The event (#whatittakes) kicked off with Anthony Marx, president of the New York Public Library (NYPL), welcoming the event to “his home” from the steps of NYPL’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. Erica Hill, co-anchor of the NBC program Weekend Today and host of the two-day event, also shared details about her experience as a parent volunteer in her son’s school library.
Librarians also were well-represented among the teachers and students gathered Sunday in the library’s Bartos Forum for a Teacher Town Hall meeting that was televised on MSNBC. Danielle Lewis, librarian and learning center specialist at Yeshiva University High School for Boys, was chosen to speak with Jenna Bush Hager, former first daughter and NBC correspondent.
“We are the most culturally diverse and under-appreciated individuals,” Lewis said of librarians. “We amplify the teachers’ voices and, together, we amplify the students’ voices.” Lewis was selected to attend the town hall because of her participation in NYPL’s Education Innovation Institute, a three-week teacher collaborative summer exploration program that exposes attendees to the resources of the library. The Institute also provides the opportunity to collaborate with other teachers and curators on incorporating primary source materials into classroom instruction.
Although there were other school librarians at the town hall, Lewis said she felt that it was important that the librarian voice be heard, and approached Hager—whose mother, Laura Bush, was a librarian—to participate. Lewis told School Library Journal that she believes that librarians have the “magic bullet” for dealing with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards.
Another shout-out for librarians came from David Coleman, president of the College Board, who, during his presentation on higher education, thanked all librarians for putting books into the hands of children.
However, not all exchanges during the event were complimentary.
At one point, Noah Gotbaum, member of New York City’s Community Education Council District 3, confronted Joel Klein, former NYC Schools Chancellor and current CEO of Amplify, from the audience. “You are not an educator,” Gotbaum said, questioning Klein’s motivation, and claiming that his involvement in education is solely now for profit. Amplify, a subsidy of Rupert Murdock’s News Corporation, is an educational company that is data- and tablet-driven.
Andrew Ross Sorkin, co-anchor of CNBC’s Squawk Box and moderator of panels on technology during the event, asked hard-hitting questions about the benefits and costs of technology. He said he fears that technology will result in less human interaction, and cited the potential theft of or damage to school-owned mobile devices as a cost concern.
A summit attendee questioned Steve Beshear, the governor of Kentucky, about his state’s lack of charter schools. He answered that he would rather use public money to improve public education.
An interesting comment came from Rex Tillerson, chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil. In an interview conducted by Tom Brokaw, Tillerson said he supported the Common Core and President Obama, and was glad that the federal government was using the standards as a measure for its Race to the Top funding. “I’m going to look at the states using the Common Core for my work force,” Tillerson added.
Also during the Summit, NBC announced the launch of its digital Parent Toolkit, sponsored by Pearson and with the National PTA assisting in the development. The site aims to help parents find resources to guide them in their child’s education. It is organized by grade and has the ability for a parent to track their child’s progress.
“We were excited to have opportunity to be a part of the development of NBC’s parent toolkit,” Otha Thornton, National PTA president, told School Library Journal. “Our Common Core parent guides will be easily accessible to all parents so they can help develop more dialogues between parents and teachers.” The site is still under development but as of now, unfortunately, has little mention of the role of (and the resources available at) school and public libraries.
Pearson’s CEO John Fallon: