Blogger Lisa Nowlain

Kindness and civility?

kindness civility?

I wonder if the call for kindness in our profession in reaction to the Wilder Award change, and in the past, is related to the call for civility happening nationally. Both are often leveled at BIPOC, LGBTQIA, immigrants, or other vulnerable folks, and can feel like a call to…

sit down be quiet calm down

Let’s listen to what Ijeoma Oluo, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, Amelia N. Gibson, Dr. Dawn Quigley, Alia Jones, and countless other BIPOC are saying. For instance:

the stories any societies tells its childen have tremendous potential to shape how they behave as adults - debbie reese

The latest debate on the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award has brought up a lot of conversation online. What people are missing is that the conversation, and the way we have it, are actually connected to people’s physical and emotional safety – not specifically in the moments of conversations we are having, but in a culture that kills and oppresses BIPOC.when we shift culture by changing an award (bye Laura!) or really practice listening (not tone policing and specifically white people)

we are actually creating a world safter for all of us. as children's lirbarians, we should care about everyone's safety.

Lisa Nowlain is the Youth Librarian at Madelyn Helling Library in Nevada City, CA. She is also an artist type. She’ll be on maternity leave from the ALSC blog starting in August, but will be back in January!

11 comments

  1. Gary Hondel

    I believe that people are listening. It’s just that others don’t like to hear what they have to say. The other problem (and why it has come to this, in my opinion) is that the committee DIDN’T listen to what others had to say before they went ahead and changed the name of the award. A “conversation” is fine, but, unless it leads to an outcome, all the talking and “calming down,” and “listening” is pointless. I believe the decision to change the name of the award was based on popular hype and political correctness that members of this organization seem given to.

    1. Lisa Nowlain

      Hey Gary,
      There was a conversation among members of ALSC, are you a member? If so, you would have heard about it. I don’t believe popular hype and political correctness were the issue in the least. People have been speaking about these issues for a long time – even during the time of Laura Ingalls Wilder (especially by Indigenous people protesting the land grab by people like the Wilders, and by black people protesting minstrel shows depicted in Little House).

    2. Mari G.

      There was actually a survey that went out to ALSC members specifically concerning this name change. My initial thought when I read the survey was that they were changing the award name to rebrand it and bring more recognition to it, as most people aren’t even aware this award exists. All of a sudden everyone is so concerned about this award that no one outside of ALSC has ever heard or cared about. Lovely.

  2. John M.

    The conveyance of the message in a way that can be received by the listener is the responsibility of the sender. It is incumbant upon the message source to ensure the message can be received. The Wilder award is not a good example of this since the decision was made based on political correctness. It was not made based on sound learning science. Therefore the decision and subsequent message carries zero credibility and the receiver is under no obligation to listen.

    The Wilder decision needs to be reversed either partly or in whole. The decision is wrong on fundamental levels. The award could have easily been renamed The Laura Ingalls Wilder Growing Minds Award just for example, and there would have been very little if any pushback. It would have reflected both the growth Wilder undertook and the growth that we hope our children undertake.

    Instead the ALSC took a path that is brand damaging and a closed minded extremist approach, which is exactly what they are claiming to be battling against. They are emboldening their adversaries instead of neutralizing them. Reverse the decision and make it right.

    1. Lisa Nowlain

      Hi John M! As far as I’m concerned, it is “sound learning science” (not sure what you are specifically referring to, but I’m going to interpret it as research-based pedagogy?) to support all youth who are reading the books that we promote, including kids of color and indigenous kids who are targeted in Wilder’s books. I don’t understand what is closed-minded or extremist about changing the name of a legacy award to the Legacy Award – Wilder wasn’t stripped of her award, her books are not being censored, etc. I actually think it’s closed-minded to assume that an award name shouldn’t change, or that interpretations of books change, or that it’s political correctness rather than just general correctness to make an award reflect the goals and mission of the organization giving it.

      1. John M

        Hi Lisa,

        Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books do support all youth, as they represent the nation as it was. An African American child can learn just as much from her books as a European American child or an Asian child. Granted what they read may cause them to wince from time to time and see the world how it was, however, that is how it should be. In fact, it is very supportive to encourage them to read such books. Stripping her name from the award sends a very poor message to everyone and will decrease the awareness of her books. It places her books in a light of which they do not belong, that which no such type of an historical account belongs, no matter whom it is written by.

        There is zero reason that is based in learning science (the development and implementation of effective learning methodologies and solutions) for the award change that will cause children to learn more about acceptance and equality. It accomplishes nothing for them. The only reason it was changed was to satisfy personal and populist opinion a.k.a political correctness and a singular minded agenda.

        Extremism is defined as; the holding of extreme political or religious views; fanaticism. Stripping the name of Laura Ingalls Wilder from the award, in my opinion, is the result of extreme institutional political views. The action goes well beyond just changing the name of an award. It reverberates in the form of intolerance, exclusionism and populism which are not part of the American value system. It puts people at odds and supports the black and white view of the world. In fact, it accomplishes exactly what proponents are supposedly trying to fight against. That’s extreme.

        I take issue with your passive aggressive insult of closed-mindedness. Passive aggressiveness demonstrates a will and point-of-view that is not open-minded and lacks conviction. It shows the thin veneer of which a layer of hostility rests just beneath. For shame. I never said award names shouldn’t change. In fact, I promoted the changing of the name. What I did not promote was stripping her name from the award as it serves zero educational benefit for our children. It shows great open-mindedness to look at this situation and see that the decision was wrong, knowing still that her books may hurt the feelings of some readers. History hurts sometimes.

        The decision can only be justified as an emotional venture meant to neutralize American history and satisfy personal opinion and a populist agenda. It’s was the easy thing to do; a cop-out, a hit of an emotional opioid. A victory for exclusionist principles. It was the entertainment popping out of the cake at the conference. Great benefit and social advancement comes from doing things that are hard and unpopular with your supporters. Great political (institutional or otherwise) advancement comes from doing things that are popular with one’s constituents and easy; things that put a smile on the face of your supporters.

        The fact that such discussion has been around for a long time is irrelevant. Such an argument is easily countered by chalking up a decades long discussion as an institutional problem, not a need for such change. It demonstrates nothing of the sort. It does not indicate that the change was the right thing to do.

        Guess what? American history is ugly. It is horrible. We nearly wiped a people off the face of the earth. We killed, tortured, enslaved, mistreated, sickened and shunned millions. We stole land, we stole dignity. We stole life. We still do. Yet, that is America. Our evolution, which continues to this day is what America is about. It is our continued evolution and our willingness to accept and learn from our past that is the envy of much of the world. Such actions as stripping someone’s name from an award when the views and life of that person were well known for a very long time is simply wrong. It is wrong on a multitude of levels.

        In conclusion, you as well as other members need to stop including membership in your positions; passive-aggressively or otherwise. Membership has zero value in such a discussion. It is irrelevant. It does bring to the surface the “exclusionary thinking” which played a role in the decision and serves to strengthen the position that changing the name of the award was wrong. So on second thought, I guess, keep on doing.

        No one, member or not, can run from the fact that this decision was based on bias emotion. Sad.

        1. Mari G

          “No one, member or not, can run from the fact that this decision was based on bias emotion. Sad.”

          NOPE. When I first read the ALSC survey concerning this, I thought they were changing the name simply to rebrand it and make it better known outside of our little corner of library land. Regardless of the political football it’s become, the name and branding needed to change regardless.

          1. John M.

            Thank you Mari for your input. All input, substantive or otherwise is always appreciated. Reducing this politically driven decision to a branding issue is absurd and if in any way reflects reality is diabolical.

  3. Jaymes

    Thank you Lisa for the call towards kindness and civility. I know a conversation and several conversations have taken place (prior to the decision to change the name) about the representations of children of color and indigenous populations in literature, including Laura Ingall Wilder’s work. The angst that several are feeling may come from a place of fear which they themselves may not fully be aware of, like for instance the ALSC votes to change the name to a name more representative of their core values of inclusiveness and diversity and a few individuals respond by subverting the conversation towards censorship and character assassination when when no one discredited Laura Ingalls Wilder as a literary classic or suggested that she should be stripped of her award. Instead of playing into this current political climate of fear, libraries are in a unique position to lead us all towards a more inclusive and equitable society by setting higher standards on literacy and education. I agree with several who suggested using Mrs. Ingalls work as way to educate others about our history, which they can still do, I have read several of books (recently) and to be totally honest I see great lessons on courage, survival and family as it relates to frontier living, but I saw also see the mindset of white supremacy and privilege as it relates to the idea of manifest destiny and racial inferiority. I only wish we all could be honest about it.

  4. Alison

    Great post. Thank you, Lisa.

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