The American Library Association (ALA) has announced its support for “a coalition of more than 20 education businesses, associations and media groups―including Scholastic Inc., ESCO Information Services and the Association of American Publishers” which has just sent a letter to the U.S. Congress “to support dedicated school library funding in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which provides federal funding for national K-12 education programs.”
The coalition’s letter “asks Congress to incorporate the Strengthening Kids’ Interest in Learning and Libraries (SKILLS) Act in ESEA reauthorization, which would expand federal investment in school libraries in order to offer students the tools they need to develop critical thinking, digital, and research skills.” The letter reads:
For our society and our economy to succeed, schools must serve as equalizers that provide all students with access to the resources and instruction they need to thrive academically and to become productive and engaged citizens. That goal cannot be met without strong, professionally staffed school libraries. In too many schools across the nation, however, school library budgets and school librarian positions are being cut. Including SKILLS in ESEA will meaningfully contribute to reversing that cripplingly counterproductive trend.
This pattern is all too familiar in the UK, but it’s sad to see it showing up in the U.S> as well. “Recent data available from the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reveals that approximately 8,830 public schools across the nation do not have a school library and, among those that do, nearly 17,000 additional schools do not have a full or part-time state-certified school librarian on staff,” notes the ALA.
Helpful but not very. Look around and you’ll see the real problem. It includes:
1. Fatherless homes where the mother, even if she wanted, doesn’t have the time to encourage and help her children become readers. That’s true of all races, as Charles Murray demonstrates for whites in Coming Apart.
2. An unhealthy youth culture focused on self, feelings and obsessing over celebrities who are a bit less that bright. I know. I recently asked a quite intelligent recent high school graduate who the VP of the U.S. was. He didn’t know, although to his credit he was embarrassed. Most aren’t. They’re rather obsess over what celebrity is shacked up with what other celebrity.
Without intact families and a healthy culture books can do almost nothing. I can give a good illustration.
Circa 1990, I lived in upper-middle class neighborhood in Seattle with a healthy abundance of Jewish residents. I joke not. Within 100 yards of the nearest public library were two Jewish synagogues (conservative and orthodox). A librarian there told me that their library had the highest checkout rate in the city. So many books were checked out at any one time that it had three times as many books as it had shelf space.
During the summer of 1990, I did an internship in Washington D.C. Where I lived was in the transition block between gentrification and ghetto. A block in one direction were expensive homes. About two blocks in the other was the nearest grocery, one in which the clerk cowered behind bullet-proof glass.
The latter neighborhood had a well-funded public library. It was air-conditioned, so I often went there on hot days. Thousands of people lived within a few blocks, but often I was the only person there other than the staff. So few books were checked out that they overflowed the shelves and were stacked all about. The difference was not the presence of absence of a building and staff. It was a cultural difference.
That difference is not federal funding. It’s not the absence of libraries or books. It’s the difference between cultures and families—one Jewish with intact families who value education and one black with an illegitimacy rate that was probably around 70%.
People were trying to change that. I met a dedicated elderly black woman who told me she was trying to interest black children in Shakespeare because, “He has a lot about sex.” I was tempted to tell her that, if that was the only way she could get their interest, her task was hopeless, that their were a thousand themes in Shakespeare that those kids would be deaf to. That deafness was their real problem.
I recently adapted and brought back into print an 1879 novel written by an eyewitness, Albion Tourgee, to Klan violence in 1870s North Carolina. The author and his wife started a school for the children of recently freed slaves. The enthusiasm those children and their parents displayed for learning to read was amazing. It was also one shared by many poor whites and at one point in his story the poor whites and blacks were forming an alliance to get better funded schools.
The story, based on an actual event, failed when local Democrats, not even bothering to bring in their Klan arm, killed the young white man who was leading both groups and running for political office—needless to say as a Republican.
He and all those poor blacks and whites wanted was ruthless crushed, so much so that a disdain for education became part of both poor black and white cultures in the South.
Why is studying hard and reading books “acting black” among many black groups? Because that’s what they were taught through violence by the Klan and the very Democratic party that, until I was in the eleventh grade, had as it’s official Alabama state motto, “White supremacy for the right.’
And that brings up where I disagree with many conservatives. They keep pointing out that our current teacher-union-run public school system makes it particularly hard for inner city black children to get a decent education. They assume that, if they keep pointing that out long enough, the Democratic party will change. That’s stupid. Making sure the black underclass gets a terrible education is, for Democratic leaders ‘a feature not a bug.’
There’s actually a two-fold agenda:
1. Keep black people down, fearful and poorly educated so they vote Democratic. What had been their agenda to keep poor Southern whites a compliant voters became their agenda for black people.
2. Compromise and corrupt every black who demonstrates any talent at all lest he counter what the party is doing to the black underclass. And all you need do is look around to see just how successful that is.
One reason is that today’s black liberal politicians are filling an already well-established role under slavery, that of a slave overseer whose job was to keep the rest of his people in line. That’s Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Sharpton. That’s why they get treated with kid gloves. Its why an independent minded black like Justice Clarence Thomas gets slandered.
In short, there’s nothing wrong with that federal funding. It’s simply that it is for the most part as irrelevant as the long ago belief that bad smells caused disease and that a “pocket full of posies” (as the children’s song goes) could keep you from getting the plague.
–Michael W. Perry, co-author of Lily’s Ride: Rescuing her Father from the Ku Klux Klan