“Most people don't realize how important librarians are. I ran across a book recently which suggested that the peace and prosperity of a culture was solely related to how many librarians it contained. Possibly a slight overstatement. But a culture that doesn't value its librarians doesn't value ideas and without ideas, well, where are we?”
Neil Gaiman

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Wither Thou Advocateth

I am fascinated by the number of conversations I have with parents, teachers, and administrators who respond to the continual slashing of public education with an apathetic, "What can do about it?  They don't have any money."  Replies like this are disempowering and allow the speaker to fall into a role of either victim or non-participant in the problem.  It places the burden of blame on someone else.  I've even encountered this attitude among teachers whose jobs could easily fall victim to the next round of cuts.  Quite honestly, all teacher jobs are at risk, but teachers who are outside of the regular classroom, which includes school librarians, PE, tech ed, family and consumer science, art, music, and foreign languages, are at the top of the list.

There never has been the elusive mythical "fat" in education.  We have cut things in many districts beyond the point of our ability to teach kids the skills they need to be successful in life.  We've moved from teaching kids to think and learn to teaching them to take and pass multiple choice exams.  It isn't unusual for me to be in a classroom and find kids unable to answer questions without a choice of "A through E".  Likewise, it isn't uncommon for students to turn to calculators for the answers to simple calculations and they don't often question the answer the calculator spews out.  There is a huge disconnect in understanding that technology is just a tool and it doesn't think for you.

If we continually buy into the attitude that there is nothing we can do and that we are mere victims in the situation, we are agreeing to be quiet advocates of continued destruction of public education.  There is a phenomenal amount of money in this country.  The key is finding a way to connect more of that money to areas that desperately need it.  We cannot afford to continue approaching funding for public education the same way we do today.  It isn't a viable model for rising costs. We also can't afford to continue addressing those rising costs with further cuts to staff and resources.  We need to begin the conversation about public education with the statement "this is what is required to educate a child."  And then we need to find a way to fund it.  If you are not a part of the conversation, part of the solution, you are part of the problem. 

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