Sometimes earnest ALA Councilors want to use the ALA as a mouthpiece for their irrelevant (to libraries) radical political views.
And sometimes, they want to use the ALA as a mouthpiece for their well meaning but still irrelevant (to libraries) political views.
Such was the case last week when a well meaning Councilor proposed that someone write up a resolution for the ALA Council supporting H.R. 2437: Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning Act of 2011.
Here’s the email to the ALA Council list:
I have been tracking this bill for months, wondering when I should write a resolution. And it has recently gained more attention, I believe, due to the tragic shootings in Colorado and Wisconsin. Two more Senators have added their names as co-sponsors. It still has a long way to go. The bill has to do with requiring socio-emotional instruction in classrooms. Here is more information from Casel http://casel.org/. Emotional self-regulation is taught to students which includes anger management, etc. School librarians and teachers on Council, please feel free to correct me–I am simplifying quite a bit.
Here is part of the Bill’s text:
(6) Social and emotional learning programming also results in reduced problem behavior, improved health outcomes, a lower rate of violent delinquency, and a lower rate of heavy alcohol use.
I think the times is now to bring a resolution to the floor. I am so heartsick over what happened, as I’m sure you all are too. I just want to do something productive. Does anyone here want to co-write a resolution to support this bill with me?
If this resolution ever gets written, which it won’t, and ever passed, which it won’t, it would be yet another example of the ALA Council wasting its time on frivolous resolutions, and I say down with that sort of thing.
But there’s nothing frivolous about emotional self-regulation, AL! Yes, yes, I know. But let’s dissect this proposal a bit.
First, the Councilor is understandably upset about the recent mass shootings in Colorado and Wisconsin. But then she says she wants to do something productive…like write an ALA Council resolution, which is about the least productive thing anyone can do.
I could see supporting some sort of gun control bill as something productive to do, although the ALA Council should keep out of that since gun control isn’t a library issue, and, as I pointed out in Guns @ Your Library, there have yet to be any mass shootings in an American library.
Linking a bill supporting “social and emotional learning programming” to recent mass shootings is a tenuous connection at best. Both those shooters are violent lunatics, and a class on emotional learning wouldn’t have stopped them.
In addition, according to Govtrack, the House bill has about a 5% chance of being enacted. It’s still in committee. It doesn’t make much sense to pass a Council resolution about a bill that probably won’t even go up for a vote.
What’s even more useless than an ALA resolution is the bill itself. Uselessness isn’t an argument against legislation, at least for Congress, but it should be. The bill itself follows a decades-long trend of trying to solve all social problems through the schools.
American students rank poorly in international tests for reading and mathematics. If schools can’t teach students basic skills very well, why would we expect that they could teach things like “emotional learning”?
The schools are already supposed to teach kids about reading, writing, mathematics, sex, and drugs. Adding emotional learning will take away time from the basics.
The lesson is that librarians shouldn’t try to use the ALA to address non-library issues. There are other organizations for that.
Besides, it’s best not to make yourself conspicuous when a bunch of gun-toting lunatics are about. Council meetings aren’t exactly heavily fortified. As Colorado and Wisconsin proved, there’s no safety in numbers, only in bunkers.