Jane Yolen, acclaimed author of more than 300 books and one of the original members of the Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), has written an outstanding letter to LAUSD administrator John Deasy, who has been in the process of devastating the already devastated school libraries in what is today, a large urban district competing as hard and as fast as possible to be America's worst, most hurtful, least-functional and pathetic public school system. My friend Bruce Coville has also joined the campaign to advocate for LAUSD libraries, librarians and library aides. Neil Gaiman has added his powerful support.
Not that Deasy cares. I'm sure he has no idea who Jane Yolen is, and possibly only a glimmer that Neil Gaiman wrote some book they made a movie out of. Neither Jane nor Bruce nor even Neil is a "person of color" always up for taking children out of school and class to march in the streets for the popular political pressure movement of the day. Nor, I am sure, do the high-priced attorneys hired to give the librarians the 5th Degree in order to preserve high administrator salaries and neverending $ billion building projects for schools with talking benches, filled with alienated, illiterate kids, care that the most beloved children's authors of the last 3 decades who have enriched countless children's lives and sparked imagination and a love of reading - are as disgusted as I have been (and I'm REALLY nobody) for a number of years with this Kafka-esque charade.
It's Red Scarf Girl time at LAUSD for the teacher-librarians and aides. All that is lacking is for Deasy to assign high-paid administrators to recruit students to denounce the librarians and begin to destroy what few books remain in the empty, little-used school libraries. This may not happen, however, as to do that would require that at least a few high-paid administrators leave their cushy offices. We are coming up on summer, with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees in the San Fernando Valley and well over the 90's in South Los Angeles. I know those administrators would never go there. They might see a line at the welfare office, get a whiff of body odor, and experience difficulty in locating a Starbucks.
I think that the librarians are safe for now from Red Scarf Girl tactics if only due to the weather and the inconvenience of travel in the greater Los Angeles area.
But the kids aren't safe, and have not been for some time. Children can't learn if they have no books to read: it's as simple as that. This is what we have come to. A tragedy and a shame. We are now reduced to individuals teaching children as they are able. We do not need administrators, we do not need more buildings, we do not need more "programs" and we do not need Jamie Oliver monitoring school cafeterias. Children could find breakfast on their own, and could possibly eat dinner at home with their families - or at a damn shelter if their families are caught in that mess! We do not need public school "reform" - we need . . . schools. Real teachers. Real classrooms. Real libraries. Real librarians.
The Los Angeles Times has done its best to reveal the truth of how LAUSD punishes students, teachers, librarians and everyone else actually involved in education to benefit the hierarchy of administrators and "officials," all while demanding more and more and more money and "power." The power to punish, harm and fail at the most basic tasks of public education.
This student said it best, regarding Rosemarie Bernier, librarian at Hamilton High School.
"You're really lucky if you meet a good librarian because they teach you how to succeed," says Sarah Robinson, 16. "I know I'm going to remember Mrs. Bernier for the rest of my life."
Among other things, Mrs. Bernier links on the Hamilton High school library web page to Diana Hacker's research and documentation standards. As a college English teacher, this makes me want to drive to that school, thank her profusely, and shake her noble hand. And cry.