Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Map of Things to Come?

A new map -- here -- shows impending cuts to school libraries around the country. It comes at a time when my very own school district -- in Pasadena, Calif. -- has pink-slipped all of its librarians.

Studying this map, it's obvious that Pasadena stands out by choosing to get rid of middle and high school librarians. But any loss of a library is a problem. I know that everyone is blaming the increase of Internet use for districts' willingness to wipe out school libraries and/or librarians, but there's something else under the surface.

Reading, and the critical thinking that went along with it, was considered the bedrock of the educational experience back in my day. Building the relationship with a library was vital. I still remember what my elementary school library at Highland Oaks looked like. I remember exactly where I was sitting (and the way I was facing) when I read One Fish Two Fish by Dr. Seuss. The people at that school allowed us time to relax into the place, to play as we read, to love language.

Now, thanks to No Child Left Behind, it's all about teaching to the test. The "process" approach (the kind of project-based learning that has proved to be most successful in teaching) has been tossed aside. It's about pouring information into kids' minds so that they can test well right away. As my husband aptly points out, it's that kind of short-sighted, short-term thinking that has impacted journalism, with corporations' obsessions with quarterly profits. It might produce quick results, but it doesn't produce long-term gains or real quality.

So... research projects and independent reading aren't considered important in this quick-hit culture. We'll see soon enough if this approach works for the future -- my guess is that the positive results will be temporary. And when libraries, and the enthusiasms they spark, are lost, they're likely to be lost for good.

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