In 1980, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund held a national competition to solicit entries for the design of the Vietnam Memorial. Any U.S. citizen 18 years of age or older was eligible to enter and 1,421 entries were recieved. The names were taken off the entries and replaced with numbers. A 21 year old college student by the name of Maya Lin won the contest with her design, beating out many famed and more experienced architects.
Every time I hear that story, I'm inspired by the fairness of the contest and the level playing field it offered to every participant. I realize this is a Utopian and completely impractical fantasy, but picture for a moment if the Newbery and Caldecott awards were judged that way. What if the committees didn't know the names of the publishers, authors or illustrators of the books under consideration?
Keep in mind that committees can only focus on the eligible books for the current year. If David Wiesner or Marcia Brown have an eligible book, it's irrelevant to the discussion that these illustrators have already three Caldecott medals. And it's irrelevant what the illustrator's race, age or gender is, because the only thing that matters is the book itself.
But is it really possible for anyone (no matter how hard they try) to be completely unbiased? What would the results look like if the awards were truly "blind" like the Vietnam Memorial competition? Such a thing is probably not physically possible, but wouldn't it be interesting if it were?
Usually, I answer my own questions. But, as Roger Sutton mentioned in his recent Horn Book editorial, I think a topic like this merits a good discussion. What are your thoughts about how these two major awards are chosen?