Library Juice 4:8 - March 7, 2001
- A list of alternative publishers and links to their web sites
- Chronicle of Higher Ed discussion today on scholarly publishing
- School-Libraries.Org: Online Resources for School Librarians
- 411 for Government
- From Digital Divide to Digital Opportunity
- Webcast: Building the Virtual Reference Desk
- Put The Sun in your library
- Christopher Walker looks at LC Subject Headings
- Collecting and Safeguarding the Oral Traditions
- Version 35, Scholarly Electronic Publishing Bibliography
- Filters keep getting in the way of legitimate research
- ALA Presidential Candidates' Statements to SOL
- A Personal Narrative by Andrew Hartman, Radical Teacher
Quote for the week:
"We're trying to keep a library here that doesn't go goofy ... ."
Kevin Starr, State Librarian of California
(Quoted by Nicholson Baker in New Yorker article, 24 July 2000, p. 42)
[Found in Brian Smith's Laughing Librarian web site]
Homepage of the week: Tod Shacklett
Mitch Freedman for ALA President: http://www.Mitch4Prez.org
1. A list of alternative publishers and links to their web sites
The Minneapolis Community and Technical College Library compiled
this list of links based on AIP's Alternative Publishers of Books
in North America (4th ed.)
It is really a wonderful resource.
Thanks to Jessamyn for linking to it in librarian.net.
2. Chronicle of Higher Ed discussion today on scholarly publishing
The Chronicle of Higher Education is sponsoring a live, online discussion
with Manfredi La Manna, the founder of the Electronic Society for Social
Scientists, about his plan to challenge the dominant model in the
publishing of scholarly journals, on Wednesday, March 7, at noon U.S.
Eastern time. Mr. La Manna, an economist at St. Andrews University in
Scotland, argues that his model will make it possible for libraries to
subscribe to scholarly journals at much lower prices than those charged by
companies today. And at the same time, Mr. La Manna says that his model
will allow authors and peer reviewers to be paid. While these plans are
attracting considerable support from scholars, some of the major
publishers of scholarly journals question the viability of the project and
its assumptions. Mr. La Manna will respond to comments and questions about
his organization's plans and the state of journal publishing in the chat.
The Chronicle invites members of this list to read an article about his
effort and to join the live discussion at:
Advance questions are encouraged, and may be posted now. After the
discussion is over, a transcript will be posted at that address.
The Chronicle of Higher Education
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Revolutionary Idea in Publishing
Economists plan online venture to challenge dominance of
By DOUG PAYNE
More than a thousand scholars have lined up behind an economist from
St. Andrews University, in Scotland, who plans on using the Internet
and a new online-publishing model to challenge the dominance of some
of the world's largest academic publishers.
3. School-Libraries.Org: Online Resources for School Librarians
Maintained by Chico High School librarian Peter
Milbury, this is the sister site to his
School-Libraries.Net. This collection of online
resources has been selected and made available as a
way to assist school librarians make effective use of the
vast resources of the Internet and World Wide Web.
Links are organized into such topics as curriculum and
technology, collection development, information
literacy, etc. - aw
From Librarians' Index to the Internet - http://lii.org
4. 411 for Government
Search this database for over 500,000 government and
defense industry listings for a name, title, office, and
telephone number. Browse the Frequently Requested
Numbers for hospitals, public airports, prisons,
libraries, fire and police departments, DMVs, and more.
In addition, links to Web sites for federal, state, county,
and municipal governments; defense industry; and
military resources are available, along with links to
up-to-date news on nationwide vacant government
positions, recent appointments, and related information. - jh
From Librarians' Index to the Internet - http://lii.org
5. From Digital Divide to Digital Opportunity
"The signs of hope are discernible. Just as governments in the West
have begun to realise the need for public access, as well as private and
corporate access, in order to bridge the digital divide in their own
countries, so the G8 leaders have realised their needs to be similar
initiatives to tackle the digital divide between the North and the
"And remarkably, just as some governments have, belatedly, realised
that libraries can play an important role in this area in their own
countries, so libraries may help in the rest of the world. Is it too
much to hope that reinventing the wheel may be prevented?"
Lost Memory - Libraries and Archives destroyed in the Twentieth Century
American Library Association
Office for Intellectual Freedom
50 East Huron Street
Chicago, IL 60611
1-800-545-2433, ext. 4225
intellectual freedom @ your library
6. Webcast: Building the Virtual Reference Desk...
Date: Tue, 06 Mar 2001 13:54:05 -0500
The proceedings of the symposium on digital reference, "Building the
Virtual Reference Desk in a 24/7 World," co-hosted by the Library of
Congress and OCLC on January 12, 2001, can now be viewed at:
Linda Arret email: larr[at]loc.gov
Network Development & MARC Standards Office
Library of Congress voice: 202-707-1490
Washington, D.C. 20540-4102 fax : 202-707-0115
"Usual disclaimers apply"
7. Put The Sun in your library
I am writing to you from The Sun Magazine, a monthly
English-language literary magazine which publishes essays, interviews,
short stories, poetry, and photography. The magazine is not targeted
towards a specific audience, and it generally appeals to a broad
demographic of readers. The content of the magazine comes primarily from
unsolicited submissions (there are no staff writers), which allows for a
considerable diversity of voices to be represented within the pages of The
Sun. Although the content varies significantly, the general tone of the
writing tends to be very personal, interwoven with philosophical,
spiritual, and political themes.
The Sun recently received a grant from the National Endowment for
the Arts to donate subscriptions to three hundred public libraries across
the country. Approximately one third of the complimentary subscriptions
will be sent to libraries which reach out to traditionally underserved
populations. We are appealing for suggestions of specific libraries that
are located in traditionally underserved communities (such as economically
disadvantaged or predominantly non-white neighborhoods), or that have
established strong diversity/outreach programs. If you are affiliated with
a library which you think might fit this description and benefit from a
complimentary subscription to The Sun, and/or if you know of other such
libraries, please respond by Friday, March 9 to kezia[at]thesunmagazine.org,
or call The Sun directly (919-942-5282).
Office Assistant at The Sun Magazine
Thanks again for your help with this.
8. Christopher Walker looks at LC Subject Headings
The Library of Congress Cataloging Policy and Support Office issues
frequent bulletins detailing:
new headings, that have been forged so that adequate subject access can be
assigned to materials being published about new topics; and changed
headings, where the established form is being altered. Some of the
alterations are in pursuit of the ever-elusive goal of standardizing a tool
that has grown in tiny increments over the best part of a century; others
reveal shifts of emphasis, worldview, and culture. Some are quite
irritatingly arbitrary; others are concessions to fashion or to the
dwindling size of the database of shared Western culture that used to
underpin so many of our institutions.
Study of the headings list can provide some insights into what society, or
at least libraries and publishers, are interested in; and the list is one
measure for tracking the transformation of slang and jargon into common
use. This site containts excerpts from recent lists, annotated as the
whimsy takes me. In no case is any list complete; I excise the obvious, the
boring, and the trivial:
9. Collecting and Safeguarding the Oral Traditions:
An International Conference
Now available in the IFLA Publication Series
IFLA Headquarters, The Hague
22 February 2001
The preservation of cultural heritage in all the regions of the world
forms part of the primary focus of IFLA's Medium-Term Programme 1998-2001.
In addition, the IFLA Professional Board has identified 'preservation and
conservation of the intellectual heritage in the world's libraries' as one
of the Professional Priorities for the future work of IFLA. One of IFLA's
primary roles in this area is to ensure appropriate coordination of
preservation activities at the international level through programmes suc
as advocacy, training, and the development and dissemination of standards
and best practices.
It was with these priorities in mind that the IFLA Professional Board, in
consultation with the National Organizing Committee for the 65th IFLA
Conference to be held in Thailand, chose Collecting and Safeguarding the
Oral Traditions as the topic for the official pre-session seminar. The
seminar was held in Khon Kaen, Northeastern Thailand, immediately prior to
the IFLA Conference in Bangkok.
To reflect its commitment to the fostering of international library
activities, IFLA adopted a new format for this pre-session seminar by
holding an open satellite meeting rather than a closed invitational event
as had been the case at previous pre-session seminars. Participation from
around the world was invited and special emphasis was placed on encouraging
the participation of colleagues from the developing world and from our
colleagues in archives, museums, historical societies and similar cultural
The proceedings of this conference have now been bundled in a new
publication in the IFLA Publication Series.
Collecting and Safeguarding the Oral Traditions : an international
conference ; Khon Kaen, Thailand, 16-19 August 1999; organised as a
satellite meeting of the 65th IFLA general conference held in Bangkok,
Thailand, 1999 / edited by John McIlwaine and Jean Whiffin. * München :
Saur, 2001, X, 158 p. 21 cm
(IFLA Publications ; 95)
'The writers included in this volume tell us of their passion and energy
to preserve the threatened traditions of such countries as Papua New
Guinea, Fiji, Cayman Islands and even the far northern regions of the
Arctic Circumpolar Route. We read about unity in diversity, we read about
diversity in unity, we read about the old teaching the young and we read
about the young speaking to the old. We gain a better understanding of the
importance of family ties and how oral traditions contribute to the need fo
cultural roots, and we see examples of how traditional knowledge
contributes to the advancement of society and its identity.
We should remember as we read this volume the often quoted statement of a
Mali researcher who said that "every elderly person who dies, represents a
library going up in flames".'
Chair Professional Board of IFLA
This publication can be ordered for DEM 98.00 (IFLA Members DEM 73.50),
K.G. Saur Verlag GmbH.
Postfach 70 16 20
81316 MUNICH, Germany
10. Version 35, Scholarly Electronic Publishing Bibliography
Date: Thu, 22 Feb 2001 17:18:03 -0600
From: "Charles W. Bailey, Jr." <cbailey[at]UH.EDU>
Version 35 of the Scholarly Electronic Publishing Bibliography
is now available. This selective bibliography presents over
1,290 articles, books, electronic documents, and other sources
that are useful in understanding scholarly electronic publishing
efforts on the Internet and other networks.
Word 97: http://info.lib.uh.edu/sepb/sepb.doc
The HTML document is designed for interactive use. Each
major section is a separate file. There are live links to
sources available on the Internet. It can be can be searched using
The Acrobat and Word files are designed for printing. The printed
bibliography is over 100 pages long. The Acrobat file is over
330 KB and the Word file is over 400 KB.
The bibliography has the following sections (revised sections are
marked with an asterisk):
Table of Contents
1 Economic Issues*
2 Electronic Books and Texts
2.1 Case Studies and History*
2.2 General Works*
2.3 Library Issues*
3 Electronic Serials
3.1 Case Studies and History*
3.3 Electronic Distribution of Printed Journals*
3.4 General Works*
3.5 Library Issues*
4 General Works*
5 Legal Issues
5.1 Intellectual Property Rights*
5.2 License Agreements*
5.3 Other Legal Issues*
6 Library Issues
6.1 Cataloging, Identifiers, and Metadata*
6.2 Digital Libraries*
6.3 General Works*
6.4 Information Conversion, Integrity, and Preservation*
7 New Publishing Models*
8 Publisher Issues*
8.1 Electronic Commerce/Copyright Systems
Appendix A. Related Bibliographies by the Same Author
Appendix B. About the Author
The HTML document also includes Scholarly Electronic Publishing
Resources, a collection of links to related Web sites:
The resources directory includes the following sections:
Cataloging, Classification, and Metadata
Electronic Books and Texts
General Electronic Publishing
SGML and Related Standards
Charles W. Bailey, Jr., Assistant Dean for Systems,
University Libraries, University of Houston, Houston, TX
77204-2091. E-mail: cbailey[at]uh.edu. Voice: (713) 743-9804.
Fax: (713) 743-9811. http://info.lib.uh.edu/cwb/bailey.htm
11. Filters keep getting in the way of legitimate research....
Mark Rosenzweig writes on LISNews.com:
"I went to a public library several weekends ago in Easton, PA (Easton
Area Public Library). It was a bustling library which reaffirmed my belief
in the centrality of such institutions in communities large and small. I
didn't have my laptop with me that weekend, so while I was there at the
Public Library I thought I'd check to see if I had any e-mail (which I
couldn't do because of some 'technical' problem accessing Earthlink) and
then, since I had already signed up for the terminal time, I decided to tr
looking up some things on the web I was interested in following. They all
Guess what? 'Cybersitter' censorware prevented me from accessing those
One blocked site was a link from "Librarians With Attitude", a link to
Jessamyn West's (librarian's ) site. Several of the the search subjects had
the word "anarchism" or "anarchist" in them (as in "Anarchist Librarians
Web"). I was excluded from all of them, and then, later, even to some of my
own articles..And to more and more material having only to do with social
or political aspect librarianship!
I asked the librarian on duty at the reference desk why. She came back
with me to the terminal and (somewhat inappropriately) asked me exactly
what website I was looking up. I told her one and she tried it herself,
saying with a wink -- after I told her I was myself a librarian -- "I
wouldn't want to exclude anybody from a link from a site entitled
'Librarians With Attitude'".
WHen the link didn't come up, I asked (among other questions the answers
to which all revealed on the part of this pefectly charming librarian a
curiously unembarassed disregard of the Library Code of Ethics and the
Freedom to Read statement) why they were using Cybersitter when all the
terminals in the library were facing the reference desk, about ten feet
away and about ten inches apart, i.e. nobody could do ANYTHING which wasn't
going to be seen by the person to the left, the person to the right AND the
Reference Librarian, not -- I would imagine -- the ideal circumstance for
viewing pornography (or anything for that matter).
Why did they use an internet filter at all, I queried. Had they discussed
this and the issues involved among themselves. Were they aware of ALA's
position? Oh yes and she said, tellingly,they all agreed it was "So we
don't have to be 'policemen'".
I asked if that was a price she was willing to pay even though countless
patrons would be excluded from innumerable sites for no appparent reason.
No answer. But apparently, yes, it was the price they would pay. I checked
their internet use policy, which voluntarily included filtering, something
not even mandated by the local or state government. Not even inisted on by
the library board. It just made liiving with the internet so much easier.
"Why do you think I was excluded from the sites I was not able to access?"
I asked politely. She said "Probably because of the word "anarchist." "Oh,
I see. And that's acceptable?"
"You CAN ask to have Cybersitter turned off", she suggested, now
defensively (the written policy stated as much as well).There was no
unflitered terminal to use. I did want that. She said, unfortunately,
however, only the info-tech librarian on duty that day knew how to do it,
and he wasn't there. She made such a fuss about my wanting to access
blocked sites and having to turn off Cybersitter that anybody but me would
have been embarassed beyond words at having made the request, ANY request.
The reference librarian returning to her desk, I asked the young woman
sitting at the terminal next to me (a teenager and apparently a regular
patron) if she encountered problems with access to sites because of
Cybersitter. "Yeah, all the time."
I doubt she was trying to access hard-core porn sites.
So this is how internet filters are impacting intellectual freedom in
public libraries, even for research, like mine, of librarianship. And,
worse, this is how well-intentioned librarians, like the one I dealt with,
and her colleagues and director and board, are complicit in censorship. It
was as if, OF COURSE, "anarchism" was going to be filtered. I, a fellow
librarian, was expected to understand. I do understand, but I vociferously
object, and I have no compunction about publicly "outing" libraries whi h
blithely practice this form of censorship, no matter how benevolent and
polite and overworked the librarians are. There should be professional
consequences for violating patrons privacy and free inquiry through the use
Perhaps being shamed in the eyes of colleagues around the country will
make librarian/censors give a little more thought to internet policies
which make searching a game of "beat the censorware".
co-editor, Progressive Librarian
12. ALA Presidential Candidates' Statements to SOL
[SOL is "Spanish in Our Libraries"]
Date: Tue, 6 Mar 2001 01:09:58 -0800
From: "Bruce Jensen" <flaco[at]ucla.edu>
Hello, Rory. In case you're interested in these words from the 3 ALA
aspirants (from today's SOL 54):
Messrs. Haycock, Freedman, and Sannwald on Spanish-language library service
This year three candidates are running for ALA president. To help you get a
sense of where they stand regarding issues of importance to librarians
serving Spanish speakers, Flaco sent them the query below. Their replies
Language barriers present important challenges to library users and service
providers. Certainly the ALA could play an active and influential role in
helping librarians with their efforts to better serve growing communities of
SOL, which reaches more than 200 working librarians in the US and Canada
with its newsletter and discussion list, and many more with its accompanying
website, invites all three presidential aspirants to explain your
perspectives on this issue and describe any plans you hope to carry out
during your term in office. Your responses will be included in the SOL
e-newsletter and posted on the website. Thank you all for your
consideration, and best wishes for a good campaign.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Ken Haycock responds:
ALA needs to make a commitment to providing materials and resources designed
for our communities in a variety of languages. When I was a coordinator of
116 libraries for a large system we provided all materials in the fourteen
major languages of our clients, encouraged effective programming and as a
result developed strong bonds with our communities. ALA needs to do the
same. As we move into the @yourlibrary campaign, supported by millions of
dollars, we need to ensure that all residents come to know and understand
the importance of their local library and the impact that it can have on
their personal lives and their communities.
Thank you for the opportunity to address this important question.
For further information please visit the web site www.kenhaycock.com/.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Candidate for President of the American Library Association
Professor and Director
School of Library, Archival and Information Studies
The University of British Columbia
854C-1956 Main Mall
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z1
voice: 604-822-4991; fax: 604-822-6006
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Maurice J. (Mitch) Freedman responds:
I am committed to services to Spanish speakers. This commitment will be a
strong part of my presidency.
---As ALA President:
I will advocate for encouraging libraries to recruit and reward bilingual
librarians by paying bonuses for that skill. I will also recommend subsidies
for language instruction for librarians, library support staff, and patrons.
This will be included in a kit I will develop that will provide librarians
with tools to lobby for better pay for library staff at the local level. The
overall issue of pay equity and better pay for library workers will be one
of the most important concerns of my presidency.
I will use the full power of the office of the President to ensure that
ALA provides Spanish and other major language translations of all ALA
produced materials. Included will be materials in non-print formats, which
may be easier for ESL library users to work with. Note that I sponsored a
successful resolution in the ALA Council that directed ALA to prepare
materials in Spanish that are comparable to the English language materials
ALA created for the @your library campaign.
I will establish a Committee on Diversity made up of ALA affiliate group
appointed members that I will consult on all major ALA issues, including
important committee assignments.
---As part of my job I have been committed to services to Spanish speakers:
As the director of the Westchester Library System (WLS), I am proud of
several accomplishments that were especially important and valuable to the
Westchester community of Spanish speakers. Following is a list of some of
WLSs more recent initiatives:
The latest is a six-week course in rudimentary Spanish for the library
staff. It was an idea initiated by the Outreach & Adult Services Department
head, Robin Osborne. The goal is to train library staff so they will have
some understanding of what Spanish speakers are asking for, as well as give
them the skills to be able to give simple answers in Spanish.
One of the reasons I am so deeply committed to this Spanish class for
library staff was because of an incident that occurred twenty-five years ago
while I was head of technical services at one of the largest public
libraries in the world. At a meeting of all of the coordinators and the
upper management of the library, someone reported that one of the staff had
told a library user to speak in English because that is the language of the
U.S. The Spanish speaker left the library, probably never to return again.
I offered an opinion and a suggestion. I said that the librarian should
either be transferred to a branch that does not have Spanish-speaking users,
or, be trained in Spanish if she wished to remain at that branch. Either
way, no one should be insulted because of the language they speak. My
suggestion was for the library to subsidize Spanish instruction for its
staff as a way of providing better service to its Spanish speaking users.
WLS also created two literacy centers established with 8 PCs each, and
on-site paid instructors. The object of the centers is to help ESOLs develop
language and information literacy skills.
Lastly WLS recently published a bilingual Immigrant Resources Directory
listing all of the relevant service agencies in the County. The directory
was published both waysfront in Spanish; turn it over and the front is in
---As part of my professional outlook I am committed to Spanish speakers:
I have always been committed to serving everyone. I believe that the public
librarys greatness as a democratic institution is its commitment to serving
everyone regardless of his or her language, national origin, race, religion,
sexual orientation, physical differences, or ability to pay. My career
reflects achievements and activities in the library, in the ALA, and in my
personal life that embody that commitment.
Promoting diversity issues will be an absolute priority of my presidency.
Maurice J. (Mitch) Freedman, MLS, PhD.
Candidate for A*L*A P*R*E*S*I*D*E*N*T
Director, Westchester Library System
410 Saw Mill River Road Suite 1000
Ardsley, NY 10502
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
William Sannwald responds:
I think it is important to provide materials in the native language of
library users if there is a demand for this material. In my eighteen years
as Director of the San Diego Public Library, I have added collections in
many languages, and today materials in more than 100 languages are available
at the SDPL. In addition, the library's catalog is available in English or
Besides materials, the SDPL attempts to place librarians in branches who
speak the language and understand the culture of our users. Staff receives
a 5% salary bonus if they are able to pass a language test for those
branches that are determined to be bi- or multilingual.
The SDPL coordinates collection development with libraries in Mexico, and
the library has entered into cooperative agreements with Mexican libraries.
If you need more information, please contact me.
13. Radical Repression
A Personal Narrative by Andrew Hartman, Radical Teacher
On Friday, February 9, I was called into my boss's office and fired. I
was informed that I would be losing my job as a second-year high school
social studies teacher at the end of the school year. While this news is
certainly hard to swallow, it is not surprising. I am a radical teacher.
Radical teachers are not wanted in American public schools. As a social
studies teacher, critical analysis of America and its institutions can be a
risky endeavor. Encouraging young people to challenge the system is
dangerous. Having beliefs contrary to standard American ideology is not
wanted in the schools, and many times not allowed. Acting on those beliefs
is career suicide. My case is only one instance, but surely it can shed
some light on the repression raining down on independent thinking in
America and its schools.
As a new teacher, I do not have tenure. My contract must be renewed each
year until I have accrued three years. Administration in my school, and
most schools, has sole responsibility for deciding which new teachers will
or won?t return. This power is the perfect tool to weed out radical
teachers. Radical teachers new to the game have two choices. Choose to act
on your beliefs and risk losing your job. This is the choice I made, and
the results are in - I will be looking for a new job this summer. Or,
choose to accept your role as a servant to the institution, ignore your
beliefs, and hope to gain tenure. Most "radical" teachers choose the
latter, waiting for the opportunity to act on their beliefs when the coast
is clear. This option is rarely successful - the possibility of
institutionalization is very real. Educators who grow accustomed to
conforming lose track of why they entered the profession. Twenty years
later, they wake up jaded and bitter. These teachers enter the classroom
in a state of misery. They dislike their lives, hate their jobs, and
despise the kids. I have seen this process up close and personal. These
teachers are as lost to the profession as the ones who get fired in their
first years. It is important for social studies teachers to model passion.
If we as humans do not have passion in our lives, then we have nothing.
The passion that teachers like myself bring to the classroom is contagious.
High school kids are constantly labeled apathetic. The students I work
with display anything but apathy. If teachers possessed a fraction of the
passion these young adults display, this world would be a much better
My job was in jeopardy from the start. I helped form a club at school
known as Students for Justice (S4J). In my classroom, students learn of
injustices worldwide. They learn that injustices are not coincidental.
Injustices are perpetrated by individuals, by corporations, by governments,
even by our own government. The question students ask constantly is, "O.K.
So things are bad. What can we do about it? How do we fix it?" These are
answers that I do not always have. I point to history: the Civil Rights
Movement, anti-war protests, the Labor Movement. "How do I get involved in
something like that?" This line of questioning led to the formation of
Students for Justice. S4J is the natural extension of a classroom that
teaches cognitive dissonance. It allows the students to explore action and
organizing, rather than simply reading about it in a book. Doing is always
the best form of education. The students wished to learn more about
worldwide and community issues, as well as to explore injustices within the
school. One of the first school issues the students wanted to tackle was
Our school, located in a blue-collar neighborhood outside of Denver, with
a high minority population, is a key target for military recruiters. At
least once a week, military recruiters set up their booths in highly
visible locations in the building. Preying on the students who do not have
clear choices after graduation, the armed forces collect a large number of
future soldiers in our school. They pay the school to set up booths, and
it is well worth their money. Some of the students in the club wanted to
address this issue, so we set up our own booth in a different section of
the building. We sold Zapatista coffee and had anti-military literature
available for those who chose to indulge. Specifically, I helped the
students put together a list of top ten reasons not to join the military.
An example was, "The U.S Military protects the interests of corporations
overseas, thus increasing the gap between rich and poor." We did nothing
different from what the military does weekly, except our information was
not common knowledge, especially for high school students.
Administration did not see it that way. Some of the veterans in the
building, including a fellow social studies teacher, were shown the top ten
list and were furious. They immediately took their complaint to
administration, and within hours that very day I was sitting with an
administrator behind closed doors defending the list and the club. The
issue was now a school issue for the first time. Everybody in the school,
staff and students, was talking about the infamous list. We accomplished
something that had not happened in our school before - people were arguing
the merits of military recruiting in a high school. I paid a price for
newfound school-wide critical thinking - I was now a target.
While S4J was fighting to stay alive as a school club, I was fighting for
my career. My teaching and the material I brought to the classroom came
under fire. I was accused of teaching a political agenda. If teaching for
social justice is an agenda, then I am guilty. I was accused of trying to
push my socialist views on children. If teaching that human values are more
important than profit values is considered socialist, then I am guilty. I
was accused of teaching the facts with a bias and not letting the students
think for themselves, as if ?facts? exist in a vacuum, with no room for
interpretation. If teaching that African-American males are seven percent
of the American population, yet make up almost fifty percent of the prison
population, is not letting students think for themselves, then I am guilty.
I was told to be objective. Here, I defer to Howard Zinn and claim that I
have serious "Objections to Objectivity." For example, there were
complaints by other teachers that some of the posters hanging in my
classroom were offensive. Because of the complaints, I was forced to
remove posters of Che Guevara, Malcolm X, Bob Marley, Rage Against the
Machine, and anti-sweatshop posters made by students. When I responded to
administration with a complaint about another teacher's wall hangings -
sketches of all the Spanish Conquistadors - I was rebuffed. One of my most
audible opponents in the social studies department has a poster claiming
that Vietnam was a just war. Colleagues who stress objectivity teach the
merits of so-called "free" trade in economics. Is this not an agenda? Are
only facts being presented?
Administration informed me that it was necessary for them to find a
candidate that would ensure student success, thus implying that I was not
setting up my students to be successful. Recently, Brienna, a graduate who
was in my Government class last year, came back to visit me. When she
entered my class she was a very negative person - her father was in prison,
and she and her mom were barely scraping by on welfare. She was down on
school, only wanting to graduate in order to attend beauty school. Like
many poor whites, she was anti-immigrant and racist. When she returned to
visit me, she told me that my class changed her life. She is now attending
college and majoring in political science. Because of my class, she now
understands the true source of her anger. She is taking positive steps to
improve her life and society as a whole.
Josh, a current student of mine, told me that he wanted to drop out of
school but I was the only reason that kept him coming. This young man, a
sixteen-year-old "punk" in the eyes of most adults, has the potential to
make a huge difference in the lives of many people. He cares. But his
home life has caused him nothing but problems. He also has problems with
authority. I have taught him more constructive ways of dealing with the
problems of authority, and he joined S4J. It is a constant struggle for
him, but we have made serious progress. If he drops out, he will end up in
jail. In the eyes of my administration and most teachers in my building,
respecting authority at all costs will ensure success. The schools believe
that students should respect authority even when that authority is their
source of oppression.
Teachers also live with the repressive authority that exists in the
school. Many teachers understand the repression, but are scared to say or
do anything about it. There are too many rules, and arbitrary enforcement
of these rules keeps teachers in check. It is understood to be impossible
for any teacher to follow all of the policies. But when administration has
a problem with a teacher, suddenly the rules are dragged out of the closet
and thrown in the face of that teacher. My friend Andres, also a radical
teacher, experienced this first hand. Andres, a fourth-year teacher with
tenure, will not be so easy to dismiss. In order to begin the process of
ridding him from the school, administration must build a case. Minor rules
are arbitrarily applied. It is policy to call a student?s parent after a
third absence. Most teachers call parents as it applies to the situation -
a parent call does not always have a positive impact. It is true that
Andres committed an infraction, for which he has no defense - he did not
call a parent. Now he has a permanent scar on his record. Arbitrary
application of rules is another powerful tool used to weed out the radical
teacher, and scare other teachers into submission.
Radical teachers like Andres and myself are a threat to the "natural"
order of the school, and thus a threat to other teachers. Schools foster
an "us" versus "them" ethos. We must always back our fellow teachers in a
squabble with students, even if the student is being treated unfairly.
Many teachers view their teaching as fighting a war. Maintaining classroom
control, not allowing students to "act out"; these are victories. When a
student gets the upper hand, this is a defeat. If teachers like myself
strive to empower students, we are viewed as traitors in the war.
When I was notified of my future dismissal, I thought it was important to
inform some of my students, particularly S4J kids. The students were
horrified. For many of these students, I was the first teacher to be an
advocate of their needs. They felt that their concerns were not taken into
consideration by administration. Without my knowledge, they passed a
petition around school, explaining why I was being fired, and asked other
students to sign it. They garnered nearly one thousand signatures. When
administration discovered the list, they accused me of being selfish, using
students to my benefit. I was told by administration that personnel
matters do not involve students and that students do not have a say in who
teaches them. Kids must not only obey authority; they must also trust
authority to make decisions for them.
Schools are training students, especially poor and minority students, to
be good workers. The existing belief in schools is taught as follows:
Good workers respect authority.
Good workers do not think for themselves - they trust their boss to do
Bosses make decisions for workers, then tell workers the decision was
made in their best interests.
Critical thinking is not wanted in public schools. In fact, I was told by
administration that high school kids are not old enough to do the kind of
critical thinking I am asking them to do.
If poor and minority students begin to think critically, that would be the
beginning of the end for the system of injustice that now exists in the
schools and in society in general. Radical teachers like myself challenge
students to think critically, to think for themselves. Radical teachers
push young adults to question authority, to ponder better ways. This does
not fit the course planned by administrators. Administrators are a natural
function of the American public school institution. Administrators wield
the power necessary to maintain the status quo. Radical teachers are not
the status quo. Thus, while it is hard to swallow, it is not surprising
that I will be packing my bags in June. Next year, I will begin again.
"I would rather die on my feet than spend a lifetime on my knees."
5286 Quitman St.
Denver, Co. 80212
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