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Archive for the ‘education’ Category

The Censor’s New Clothes, CLA Presentation

In censorship, education, intellectual freedom, LGBTQ issues, public libraries, school libraries, youth on December 4, 2010 at 1:09 pm

As promised, here are the slides from my brief presentation on the Revolutionary Voices book challenge in New Jersey. (Delivered at the California Library Association conference, Sacramento, CA, Nov 14, 2010).

Library law expert Mary Minow and school librarian Jill Sonnenberg joined me for a great overview on the ideological forces driving intellectual freedom challenges in libraries (from LGBTQ-themed books to Vamos a Cuba to Internet filtering). Mary clarified the meaning of Island Trees v. Pico and legal differences between public–school material challenges.

Jill talked about the ways filters are changing and limiting student’s ways of learning, particularly when it comes to active learning methods using content creation, critical inquiry and collaboration. She shared,

While most of us out there in the trenches will fight to keep important books on our shelves…[w]e are not fighting for students’ rights to create and collaborate…We stop at no when our districts or tech directors or network administrators summarily or arbitrarily ban blogs and wikis and social networking and media sharing and yes, even digital storytelling.” — Joyce Valenza (10/5/08, “2.0 is an Intellectual Freedom Issue”)

Jill left us with an excellent list of practical background reading, especially Doug Johnson.

Censored Book Contributors

A Message to LGBTQ Youth

I talked about the recent challenge against Revolutionary Voices in the context of a religious and political campaign against Obama appointee Kevin Jennings, while focusing on some of the learning and positive outcomes the challenge created. Most notably: both sides harnessed their ability to get the word out online and, therefore, opened doors for a (somewhat) transparent public debate. We need more of this.

I recently heard second-hand that another NJ library is reconsidering The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. The school apparently discussed making the decision quietly behind closed doors. Not every challenge results in a book removal, but transparency about challenges provides a crucial pulse-check and an invaluable learning opportunity for anyone engaging in the debate — especially local students.

On a related note: NJ school librarian Dee Venuto provides excellent documentation on the Revolutionary Voices challenge on Prezi.


YALSA Warns Against Rewriting History: As goes Texas…

In education, information access, youth on March 20, 2010 at 5:24 am

Reposted from YALSA blog, Friday, March 19th, 2010:

If you haven’t heard yet, the Texas Board of Education has approved a social studies curriculum that demonstrates a clear bias toward politically conservative ideology. (Washington Post, NYT)  In the words of one Board member: “I don’t care what the educational political lobby and their allies on the left say, evolution is hooey.” and, “The way I evaluate history textbooks is first I see how they cover Christianity and Israel. Then I see how they treat Ronald Reagan — he needs to get credit for saving the world from communism and for the good economy over the last twenty years because he lowered taxes.” (Interview on AlterNet)

Texas teachers constructed a curriculum, but Republican board members have peppered it with amendments including:

  • Rejection of the separation of church and state
  • Emphasis on the “conservative resurgence” of the 1980s and ‘90s
  • Giving the Black Panthers equal coverage along with Martin Luther King, Jr. in chapters on civil rights
  • Replacing the word “capitalism” in economics textbooks with “free-enterprise system”
  • Consistently rejecting requests to include positive Latino role models
  • De-emphasis of Thomas Jefferson’s role in the formation of the country

This is troubling for Texas, to be sure, but the other 49 states can breathe a sigh of relief, right?  At least that guy’s not choosing textbooks for MY state!


For decades, the Texas Board of Ed has had de facto veto power over textbook publishing in this country.  I first read about it in the mid-90s, in James Loewen’s remarkable book Lies My Teacher Told Me. Because the entire state holds to a single curriculum, whatever materials they select will automatically be purchased by every school.  That means that publishers would be foolish not to tailor their titles to the needs of this second-largest market.   The options available to schools in other states are curtailed because Texas wields such enormous power.  In other years, California (the #1 market) has had a mitigating effect, but this year cash-strapped CA is holding off on buying new materials.

This might be a good time to find out how textbooks are selected in your state, and what you can do to influence those choices in your community.

Karl Siewert

YALSA Intellectual Freedom Interest Group

Texas Board of Ed Rewrites History?

In education, information access on March 15, 2010 at 8:55 am

There’s been a good deal of coverage this week about the Texas Board of Ed’s proposed standards for school history curriculum. If you haven’t caught the news, the New York Times has a must-read article detailing some of the specific changes suggested. It speaks for itself.

Informing Innovation: No More Technolust

In academic libraries, digital reference, education on October 23, 2009 at 9:32 am

Today I’m blogging from a conference on student (and generally young adult) library users hosted by LAUC-B. I’m about to go into a breakout session with e-learning specialist Char Booth on community-centered research. Here’s a great new book:

Booth, Char. (2009). Informing Innovation: Tracking Student Interest in Emerging Library Technologies at Ohio University (A Research Report).

In it Booth presents practical tools for getting to know what tools and technologies local communities actually need and want. Yes, “research is where it’s at.” No more technology for technology’s sake. While Booth’s writing about academic libraries, the concepts and tools in this document offer valuable insights for public libraries and for nonprofit information centers. Speaking personally, this has been an area of my work for a long time — first, trying to select appropriate new technologies for then-Web 2.0 novice staff and community members (at a grassroots nonprofit), and later, researching and sequencing reference tools for public library users in Contra Costa County, CA. In all instances we need more models for thoughtful community research.

“This book by Char Booth examines one institution’s efforts to move away from technolust and towards a ‘culture of assessment.'” Read it.

Add ons:

Informing Innovation: Survey Instrument (PDF 268 KB): Download a template library/technology survey instrument, which can be adapted to customize a local environmental scan similar to the Ohio University Libraries project

Dynamic Webcast (Flash Video – Streaming): View a dynamic webcast of Char Booth and Chris Guder’s 2009 ACRL National Conference presentation, “If You Build It, Will They Care?”, which summarizes findings and practical applications of the Ohio University Libraries student environmental scanning project.

Linda Darling-Hammond for Secretary of Education!

In community organizing, disability, education, elections, racial justice, youth on December 5, 2008 at 7:48 pm

Linda Darling-Hammond is a friend of libraries, an advocate for the equal education of children with disabilities, a respected teacher, and she’s being considered for Secretary of Education.

According to Californians for Justice, this “Stanford professor and a leader in education reform . . . is not only respected among academics, she also has broad support among grassroots community organizers and educators because of her dedication to progressive education reform, and her commitment to closing the opportunity gap for low-income students and students of color.” Californians for Justice is calling on Obama to appoint Linda Darling-Hammond as Secretary of Education. Act Now to support her appointment.

Still not decided? Check out this week’s New York Times profile on her.

Then, email Obama.