Friday, March 18, 2011

PSSST! Over Here for the Truth ...

... about Vancouver's School Libraries

Recognize that any click on the link in this paragraph will represent a reader to The Courier, thus contributing to its online presence, and will likely be used as data to try to attract advertising dollars.  Go here if you can't find the print version.  The latest salvo into the midst of our Vancouver School District Learning Services Team, as well as intrusion into a school library and retrieval of the retirement considerations of a career teacher-librarian, can be found here:  "District Diversity Team costs $762,495: Teacher-librarians react to school book-banning effort" (The Vancouver Courier, Mar 16, 2011, EW09).

Thanks to Mark Hasiuk of The Courier and also to some well-placed and supportive tweeting, my blog readership more than doubled last week!  May consider advertising dollars myself soon.  Thanks too to stay-home VSB mom Julia who affirms my belief that Vancouver parents participate as models of the value of social responsibility and critical thinking -- that is, they do the research and corroborate the facts before believing everything printed in newspapers.  As we say to the kids, just because it's in print doesn't make it true.

Hasiuk gets the situation all wrong and he does this on purpose; his opinion piece is riddled with misconstruction and error.  For example, in this article:
  • He attempts to pit teacher-librarians against the Social Responsibility Team composed of teacher-mentors and managers.  This is not something we TLs feel at all comfortable with, nor are we comforted by this sudden convenient profession of support for school libraries.
  • He deliberately plays with figures -- when you teach full-time, are experienced, and have a master's degree and then you also teach a night school class and/or summer school, you get paid over scale because you work all the time.  Two days a week of work as an educator at the VSB or in a classroom costs the same, no matter which master's level, highly experienced teacher does it.  
  • Bible stories get weeded in the same way as other material; they do not occupy sacred space.  If they are not circulating well or are not aligned with curriculum, if they are worn or damaged, they go.  An overabundance of Christian picture books that appear to be simple fictional storybooks are not the same as The Bible or stories in the Bible.  Informational and reference books on Christianity, including The Bible as a primary source document, and materials from or about other world religions abound in VSB collections.  Students learn about their own and other cultures, including religious or spiritual beliefs.  Some books that are Bible stories do, in fact, exist at Carleton ... I checked using our web-based catalogue, the same library management automated system as is used to check availability of materials at the VPL.  
  • And as I work here at the VSB Ed Centre on the same floor as The SR Team, we talked -- quite literally in passing, shaking our heads while en route to the photocopier -- about how we could use this "tale told ... full of sound and fury" to advantage.  Let's collaborate: our district, a flagship for diversity initiatives, should create a more current, home-made checklist or set of guidelines to identify anti-racist materials that could be recommended by TLs and Social Responsibility educators for use in classrooms and for selection for school libraries.  We could update the MARBLES Bibiliography (where this stands for Multicultural, Anti-Racist Book Loving EducatorS) of Canadian books recommended for classrooms or school libraries. We should, in my view, be sending our materials and experts to the States! 
Who can find fault with any of that?  Well, the truth is, when you do a half-baked investigation to support a pre-determined thesis and additionally to construct a situation that is expressly aligned with ultra-conservative views, nothing anyone says will correct the direction of the story or clarify the account. 

Further, it is contrary to the teachers' code of ethics and standards of behaviour; it is not acceptable for one group of teachers to actively participate in lobbying to place greater value on its services over another group.  In an earlier blog, I allude to Philip Pullman's term for this; he calls it a "bidding culture" and it is often created as part of the neo-liberal agenda to force choices that cut funding to public services.  All teachers deplore the bidding culture and are cautioned against engaging in it. 
Let me state, as I did unequivocally on the phone during the interview with Hasiuk, there is tremendous respect for the work done by our VSB SR Team.  Hasiuk was not encouraged to make a pitch in the interests of TLs over this Team's.  My suggestion?  Of course you can let The Courier know how you feel about the use of lies and omission to create a "horsefeathers" editorial, but might I suggest you do it by slow mail.  This is least consistent with the intended purpose of such writing, that being to draw more advertisers through evidence of a substantial readership.  In your letter, tell them about your dissatisfaction with the level of journalism and the integrity of this writer; ask them not to deliver the paper any more. 
Continue to search the social media networks for alternative versions of the truth.  The interactive or Comments feature is the real strength of this blogging tool, so please use the opportunity to get involved in the discussion here too.  While I do admit to having editorial control, so far everything has been supportive of the work done by teachers and by those who are intent on making school a better, safe, inclusive place for kids ... and their teachers as well.

And finally, a personal message, stated emphatically:  Mr Hasiuk, quit this mindless and insensitive campaign.  I am very direct and generally don't "bristle."  If I failed to send the message of complete negation at your allegation of book-banning and at your obvious unwillingness to discern weeding or de-selecting from book-banning (although you were clear about this when we talked), please hear that message now.  Similarly, get the message that there is considerable support for our Social Responsibility Team, that teachers deplore the idea that, in the seemingly unending "million cuts" that have characterized public education under the Liberals, any one group would be chosen for elimination over another; please hear the buzz of irritation coming from here.  That this purports to be any kind of printable educational commentary, well that's simply ridiculous. 

Needless to say, I have greatly appreciated how much Mr Hasiuk has done for my readership numbers.  Thanks, Suzanne, for the word I needed:  it's all horsefeathers, and from me, he'd get a D for this stuff!  Sounds as though we'd be in agreement. 

Thank you, readers, for coming here today. Please share this with others who may be concerned at those who would foist their singular views on a diverse and caring system.  Further, from a legal perspective and perhaps most importantly, Mr Hasiuk might acknowledge the forward-thinking Vancouver School District for its work in the areas of social responsibility and diversit.  He might recognize that, in a post-Azmi Jubran v. North Vancouver School District context, school districts have the obligation to be pro-active on racism, homophobia and other forms of harassment and discrimination in the school system.  Most people are calling for more of this work, not less. It’s hardly a misplaced priority.

1 comment:

Aaron Fuller said...

Yes, we SHOULD be sending our materials and expertise to the States! Canada in general--and BC specifically, perhaps--is doing so many things right in education; why in the world should we consider making changes based on recommendations from "a lobbying group in California"?

Well said!