Friday, September 12, 2014

IBBY, Part Two

Last fall, delighted that IBBY would be so close, I bought airfare to Mexico City, before I saw the registration fees. I got a little sticker shock. $665 for the early-bird? But this is a different sort of conference. There's aren't add-ons, no ticketed events, many meals are provided, and frankly, the amenities justify conference registration fees. There is constant availability of coffee and tea (in ceramic mugs), snacks, bottled water as well as nicely branded bags and pens.

Also included is simultaneous translation. It's like the U.N.. You leave an ID and get a headset. The interpretation switches between English and Spanish depending on the language of the speaker. The distinction between interpreters reminded me of differences between translators.

This whole experience makes me cognizant we do things on a shoestring stateside. I'm guilty of it myself, planning a conference -- what can we cut? Who can we get to speak cheaply, or for little? It's our society, isn't it? I am suddenly feeling the small and false economies we relentlessly pursue in the market economy.

I've also become really aware of other countries' national engagement in reading promotion in general. The NYTimes piece about relative educational attainment seem aptly timed. I'm dogged by a persistent sense that the U.S. is behind is developing countries in particular posses this joy in education, in being an educated person, whereas we seem to have no real pride in culture, no shared culture, no interest in culture of other countries, just a ceaseless emphasis on work and satisfying the faceless corporate overlords. I think about the great library-building industrialist, Andrew Carnegie, and how he would have despised Thomas Friedman's column extolling the role of corporate mentor over educators' in shaping young people's successes, and our disappointingly offhand and cavalier president who doesn't seem to take anything seriously. I spent an unhappy night feeling down about this, but I'm returning today to be surrounded by optimists, to those whose believe in the abstract good, and that reading and education are part of that.

I used to feel very fortunate to be born where and when I was -- I'm still happy about when, but as I get older and see more distinctions between what has become American culture and that still existing elsewhere, I'm not so happy about where.

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