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.