Two weeks ago, the Library Loon posted about rigor and diversity in library school. As one might hope from a topic such as that, libraryland twitter erupted in discussion. The Loon’s basic premise–highly simplified here simply because all of you can go read the whole post if so inclined (and I hope you are)–is that too much of a demand for rigor in our programs will perpetuate the white dominance of the profession. There’s definitely a lot to think about here!
Let me begin with my initial reaction to the Loon on this subject: I thought her logic was flawed. Premise one: Rigorous admissions standards will tend to exclude non-white, non-wealthy, non-cis applicants. Premise two: rigor in coursework will tend to exclude non-white, non-wealthy, non-cis, etc., applicants. Therefore, rigor will perpetuate the white, female, cis-dominated library profession.
But this isn’t a valid argument. Valid argument: If A, then B. A. Therefore, B.
Premise one may be true. I have no personal knowledge as this premise applies to LIS programs; I suspect that it is very true in most, if not all, academic settings.
Premise two makes no sense. The content of the program should have no effect on the applicants.
And finally, the structure of the argument is flawed.
That was my reaction. While I was thinking this over in the days after the Loon’s post, I tried to Storify the conversations going on in response to it. I found something interesting. There were two other distinct conversations about “rigor” in the twitterverse that day.
One of the other conversations was about rigor in primary education; the other livetweeting and responses to various speakers at the Tufts Fletcher School Ideas Industry conference. Each of these highlighted important questions that we can and should consider when thinking about rigor in LIS education. First:
What does it mean, in LIS education, to be “answering questions the rest of the world cares about”?
This in response to the Northwest Evaluation Association’s article on Common Core math standards. (I’ve used the scoop.it link here because the article’s headline no longer–if it ever did–uses the word “rigor,” while scoop.it does.) Much of the conversation about rigor in primary and secondary education is about standards, or workload, or eliminating fun from elementary school. Rigor is not a good goal, according to these positions, very generally speaking.*
I suggest the following. We begin with the notion that admissions standards are not what we’re talking about when we talk about rigor. From there, we ask if our programs are answering (and asking) the right questions. Are we learning the basics that we need in order to be well-rounded librarians? Are we learning how to adapt traditional library theories and functions to an always changing library landscape? Are we learning how to advance the library and information field to serve modern patrons? Are we learning to ask questions, and to ask the right questions? What else would you add to this list?
And finally, we ask if we’re learning these things in an environment that encourages us to reflect, elaborate, discuss, and discover?
What do you think? Do these questions adequately reflect a definition of “rigor”? And are these questions consistent with a goal of a diverse profession? How does your program do against these standards? Is it necessary for all students in the program to treat the program with rigor for the program to be rigorous? I look forward to reading your thoughts on this.
More food for thought on this subject:
- (Sort of) on the question of whether it is the student or the curriculum that makes a program rigorous.
- On alternative conceptions of rigor.