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Attitude Problem

As part of my endless quest for professional development, I am currently undertaking an online course via entitled "The Right to Education". ALIA sent through the link some months ago and it piqued my interest, despite the fact i'm not really an educator.  The course is based on the idea (or should I say "ideal") that all children should have access to free, quality education - regardless of their physical, psychological or social circumstance, but most of the content centres around the issues that prevent the realisation of this ideal.

It would be Captain Obvious of me to say there are a LOT of barriers to education. Poverty, location, geography, war, gender, resources; just to name a few. If you live in a war-torn country, or a community that struggles for basic food, water, shelter or safety - education is going to fall a little low on your priority list.  But here in Australia, in all the glory and random luck of our first world birthright, surely these things should not be an issue? We generally have a level of comfort and security that millions around the globe would envy. We have our basic necessities catered for, thus freeing our time to focus on other worthy pursuits such as education.

So why are so many kids in first world countries still falling behind?

If we put aside arguments on policy and procedure, the overwhelming consensus on our little forum is attitude. Lots of parents hold a negative attitude towards learning; "School is such a waste of time" or "It never got me anywhere" or the old gem "You don't learn anything useful at school". Over time, children internalise these messages and eventually form attitudes that become entrenched for life.  Maybe their parents did have a rough time at school and it was, for the most part, an experience best forgotten, but does that mean that their child is fated to have exactly the same experience?  Of course not.  I was the first person in my family to go to university. My parents struggled financially and had very humble jobs, but I know they could see better for my brother and I and they did their best to encourage, encourage, encourage.  I was lucky enough to have teachers that encouraged me as well. Those two forces in my childhood gifted me a thoroughly positive attitude to learning.

So will I ever get to the point of all this rambling?  Yes.  Attitudes.  It is so, so, SO important to encourage positive attitudes (and I mean for EVERYTHING; education, gender equality, social inclusion, human kindness) as early as possible.  Attitudes are so easy to establish and so hard to break.  Once an attitude coalesces, we tend to filter out and dismiss all the information we see that contradicts our view.  No-one likes to be wrong, so we further bolster our attitudes with information that supports what we believe to be true.  Look at us and how very right we are!

And so enter my Librarian training.  

Almost on par (well, not quite) with the Hippocratic Oath is my Librarian's pledge to be impartial; to not censor or impose my view on the collection or patrons.  Impartiality is a noble but grindingly difficult trait to cultivate, and often requires me to face up to my attitudes and question the roots of their development.  Awareness does, however, give me power.  When I see or experience something that makes me angry or that I immediately wish to dismiss as rubbish, I now say - STOP.  Let's think about a) why you reacted that way, and b) perhaps you should look deeper and search for more information on this topic to become better informed (you're a freaking Librarian, after all).  It's uncomfortable to challenge myself like that, but I believe it is healthy.  In freeing up my attitudes, I increase my acceptance of difference.  I open myself up to change and to the idea that I can be wrong, and to the notion that others might not agree with me but that doesn't mean we can't talk and learn from each other.  My current attitudes need not prevent me from learning all that I can about others, about the world around me, and about myself.

What started as a course to inform me how best to educate others, turned out to be a course that educated me in ways I didn't anticipate. If you, too, have a positive attitude towards curiosity and learning, I urge you to cherish it.  Feed it frequently.  It may be the one thing that will enable you to become a better person.


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