Annoyed Librarian
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If There Were a Conspiracy…

I’ve been thinking more about the Dominican summer reading study, mostly about how useless it is for achieving what it seems to want: more and better funding and support for summer reading programs.  I’m all for summer reading programs, or at least summer reading, but even demonstrating that they help keep poor children from falling behind their peers in reading ability over the summer probably won’t help anyone.

I suggested last time that the arguments had to be political somehow. It’s only IF those in our society with the power to change things want every student to have good opportunities and be able to read sufficiently and critically enough to become successful, productive citizens that we will have adequate funding not just for summer reading programs, but for libraries and schools in general.

It’s possible that we don’t have adequate funding for public education in general, or at the very least that the funding is spread so disproportionately between the rich and the poor that millions of children are condemned to inadequate educational opportunities.

If that’s the case, and I’ll admit it’s arguable, but if it’s the case, then the powers that be in our society don’t care if everyone has equal, or even adequate educational opportunities.

Why might that be? The reasons could be many.  I’m not going to go all conspiracy theorist on you, but one could make a plausible argument that the powers that be want Americans to be ignorant and uncritical. Sure, some politicians talk a good game, and we hear moans and groans about how America is falling behind other developed nations in the rate of college graduates or people who can read or do basic arithmetic. We’ve been hearing this for years, even as funding for public education has declined.

It could be that the politicians are just lying, but it’s just as possible that politicians aren’t the powers that be, and the powers that be don’t even like politics. Politics just interferes with the flow of money, and that’s a bad thing.

It’s also possible by now that general education has plummeted to such low levels that it’ll never be any good. Think about it. Something like half of Americans base their beliefs about evolution on religion rather than science. The same half of Americans base their beliefs about global warming on politics rather than science. These aren’t exactly thoughtful or critical people.

Or think about the significant problems in the past few years.  The actions of investment bankers seeking short term gain over long term stability, combined with the actions of millions of foolish house buyers who somehow thought they could afford mortgages higher than their income because some bankers told them so, brought on an economic recession that has left millions unemployed or foreclosed upon and damaged everyone economically except the investment bankers themselves.

Or BP, putting profit over safety, had insufficient safety features on their oil rig, thus allowing millions of gallons of oil to spill into the Gulf of Mexico and damage not only the environment but the local economies in the Gulf region.

But somehow “government is the problem.”

If I were conspiracy minded—which I’m not, of course—I might think that the rich want to keep other Americans ignorant and uncritical, and keep the government weak and suspect, so that they can do what they like and forget about everyone else. Their only interest in government would be to make sure it enforces the laws and regulations that benefit them and keep their system going, while keeping everyone else sufficiently ignorant that they don’t question why they’re participating in a system designed to screw them over.

If there were such conspiracy, and I’m sure there’s not, then we might find such things as lobbyists writing laws to benefit their clients or old rich guys with television networks trying to whip the masses up into an anti-government frenzy. We’d find higher education funding cuts, and tuition rising dramatically faster than inflation so that fewer Americans could afford a college education. Or corporations defined as “persons” and their money defined as “political speech.” And other such stuff.

This is all very fanciful, I know.  But if something like this were the case, then librarians would be working under false assumptions, mostly because they’re so civic minded and gullible. Librarians think demonstrating that summer reading programs benefit children with no access to books will generate support for summer reading programs. That’s sort of like believing that evolution has no basis in fact because your minister tells you so. It’s apples and oranges, applying the wrong kind of evidence to answer a question.

But I’m sure this exotic scenario I’ve laid out, this bizarre notion of a plutocratic conspiracy, is nothing like reality. That the powers that be in America really care about the poor, and really believe that guff about equal opportunity and the necessity for educated citizens. And that the real problem is that librarians just haven’t proven how beneficial their programs are for the poor, what great equalizers public libraries are. Yes, I’m sure that’s the problem. Now we just need more studies.

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Comments

  1. Real Librarian says:

    Of course we need studies, that is what fuels academia.

    And we all know that academics who publish are the core of any field from law, to medicine, to education, to library science.

    Practitioners who keep people from getting their house foreclosed on or getting sent to jail on a trumped charge, helping poor sick people maintain their health, taking time to ensure that every student meets or exceeds their abilities, and maintaining information collections for current and future clientele. These people need to be drummed out of their prospective fields and re-educated so that they can flip burgers.

  2. Aj says:

    Politics aside, summer reading programs may very well keep children from falling behind their peers, but there is no way to ensure that those students who need the programs are able to participate in them.
    The children who show up for our programs have parents who already read to them every day and have a way to get the children to the programs.
    The other children have parents who are working or who themselves can’t read the notices about programs or who feel their kids shouldn’t have to “study” in the summer.

  3. Real Librarian says:

    Summer reading is a way for children’s librarians to keep their jobs.

    The kids that participate are the same ones who check out a bunch of books during the school year. They just don’t get prizes for it. They do it because they want to.

    The only way you would get some of the hard-core non-readers into the library is at gun point.

  4. noutopianlibrarian says:

    my fav post ever, AL! no need to publish this – just wanted to express my appreciation.

  5. Cpt. Vimes says:

    The problem is targeting, I think. Talk to those who care about promoting literacy about how summer reading programs help (or rather, IF they help). Giving the information to librarians won’t do much but inflate our notions or our own importance (and let’s face it, we don’t need that). Giving the information to literacy-minded politicians and civic leaders who control the budgets of libraries and schools could actually manage to do something.

  6. me too says:

    Gosh AL, you sound like me from the 60′s. Thing is, it’s still the same old thing: The strong f*&^ing the weak. Always has been that way and always will be. Thanks for bringing it to the fore again.

    UP YOURS to the secret societies at Yale and Harvard. John Kerry and his 7 million dollar yacht that he didn’t want to pay taxes on. No, I will never believe he gives a shit about anyone but himself, and certainly not the poor. Let them eat cake.

    Democrats blow and Republicans suck. There it is. Bring back the guillotine.

    [AL: I don't remember the sixties.]

  7. Thomas Lord says:

    You can absolutely tell that there’s no conspiracy like that as follows:

    If there were, the plutocrats would not want to bank on any one national bank’s currency – they’d press for laws that let capital flow freely around the globe. They’d set up a shadow banking system, largely outside of regulatory control.

    If there were such a conspiracy, plutocrats would not like strongly armed nation states in mutually defensive postures – they’d want strong military forces positioned to combat domestic guerrilla warfare with unified or at least heavily coordinated command across national boundaries. They’d want a “permanent enemy” whose mode of operation meant curtailing civil liberties.

    If there were such a conspiracy, plutocrats would be idle against all regional infrastructure degradation – letting things fall apart because, in the end, squatter cities are easier to manage.

    If there were such a conspiracy, plutocrats would spend their own money on such tangible wealth as to afford them personal mobility and security. They’d be heavily into things like owning multiple, secluded, potentially self-sufficient and defensible estates around the globe. They’d be into owning jets, big boats, and so forth.

    Someone close to me likes to say “There is no need for a conspiracy when everyone participating already agrees.” It’s true in a sense but misses the etymological meaning of “conspiracy”. It should be that there is no need for collusion when everyone participating already speaks with the same breath – that is, when they conspire.

    And it is not (as far as I can tell) like all those one might lump together as the plutocrats are evil plotters who want a held down underclass that, ideally, collapses under its own weight in a few years. My impression is that many are True Believers who imagine that the rough love they administer to larger society is for its own good and is the ultimate route to “progress”. As kings and queens of the world, they conflate their own well being and sense of security with what must be, somehow, good for everyone.

    And shame on them for that.

  8. Mary says:

    Mark today on the calendar, today I agreed with and fully support the views of the Annoyed Librarian.

  9. Real Librarian says:

    “Bring back the guillotine.”

    Sadly, there will be no one available to read the owner’s manual.

  10. Andrew says:

    “Sadly, there will be no one available to read the owner’s manual.”

    You’re making an awfully big assumption that the French Revolution even happened in the first place and that a guillotine was really used instead of being staged by printers of the era to keep the masses terrified.

    Your education might tell you those things are true, but my good old fashioned American intuition tells me Bastille Day was an inside job. And you can read all about it on my poorly written blog!

  11. Oh, it is simply delightful that AJ supports this vitriol. The Annoying Librarian with her cunning and wit, making a fantastic (albeit anonymous) contribution to this profession through anarchy, scratching the underbelly of dissatisfaction of her many minions and toadies.

    I find it superbly marvelous! Please do continue.

  12. Picard says:

    This research is more useful than 90% of the stuff that comes out of Dominican’s Library School.

  13. Real Librarian says:

    Amen Evil Librarian.

    Let’s destroy the profession from within while it is being destroyed from the outside by the Internets, budget cuts, etc.

    A good strategy.

  14. me too says:

    That which does not kill us makes us stronger. Why not point out a bugaboo or two about our profession. ALA is like republicans and democrats, they talk alot and accomplish nothing. While librarians have been reinventing themselves for the last 20 years, ALA continues to be the same old dog and pony show.

    I find is amusing — this discussion about the great piece of research from Dominican. One of our professions most highly regarded twopointopians teaches there.

    Maybe they need a few less classes about gaming in the library and a little more basic research methods.

  15. Oh Real Librarian, you truly do understand.

    me too, I would think some basic spelling skills should come before basic research methods in your case. Oh, did I say that aloud?

  16. me too says:

    i thot the hole point of blogging was that spellin and grammer weren’t impotent.

  17. joneser says:

    Where is Real Library, where I presume Real Librarian works, located?

  18. Real Librarian says:

    I work with the AL in the Real Library.

    I am going to ask for a pay cut so that the AL can have a raise. I am unworthy and think that the AL deserves much, much more than I do.

  19. Children's Librarian says:

    “Summer reading is a way for children’s librarians to keep their jobs.

    The kids that participate are the same ones who check out a bunch of books during the school year. They just don’t get prizes for it. They do it because they want to.”

    The sad truth is that we pat ourselves on the back for our incredible participation numbers for summer reading, when the truth is we are luring the kids in with prizes and no darn well that many of them are simply filling in their logs without actually reading. Do I really believe the Young Miss has read 3 chapter books since yesterday to complete the first level and get her incentive prize to keep going? Heck no. Do I give her the prize anyway? Of course. Do I believe that Junior, who just signed up for summer reading earlier this week, has really completed all the program requirements and is now eligible to spin the wheel for his fabulous finishing prizes? Of course not, but “spin away kid, spin away”!

    In the end, the kids who like to read will. The kids who don’t, won’t. The kids who have parents that encourage them to be readers will be encouraged. Other kids will simply never get that encouragement. The reality of librarians making a difference for those kids is pretty unlikely.

  20. Carlin agrees says:

    George Carlin shares your theory, AL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYIC0eZYEtI&feature=related

  21. Carlin agrees--better link says:
  22. Mr. Kat says:

    Now the real question is, is anybody REALLY all that surprised?