Dust from the Book Fairy

Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

So I found this video on Joanne Jacob’s website. It’s a great explanation of the problems with merit pay.
In my area, teachers do get value added scores. So much depends on the group of kids you start with, how well you get them to do their work, the backup you get from parents and administrators, etc., etc. My value added scores my first year in the classroom were awesome.  I beat the 20 year veteran teacher down the hall.  By a lot.  In a year when I felt like nothing was going right, I changed my classroom procedures a million times, and went home to cry quite a bit.  Plus, my own classroom assessment results were not so good.  The next year, we got more done, class was calmer, and my value-added scores were not as good.  Okay, so I know this is all anecdotal, but that’s what really convinced me value added scores were crap.  crap. crap.  So it’s nice to find somebody else to explain why they are crap, in a more scientific way. (Besides the fact that teachers who do not have a tested subject just plain miss out)!

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This post from I.N.K. (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids), along with something else I saw today, in the Des Moines Register via LM_Net, along with a parent asking me to pull books about a family member’s death for her child today, got me thinking.  Are there topics that just can’t be written about for children?  Not just difficult, (like the books about death, which I think are necessary), but taboo?

I think the question isn’t whether such books can’t or shouldn’t be written, but is there  a market for them?  Will parents buy them?  Will librarians? Should I purchase books about controversial Supreme Court decisions, like Roe v. Wade?  Or books about homosexuality?  Kids should know about these topics, but what age is appropriate?

I don’t think my library has any books about puberty, even.  Do other elementary (K-5) librarians have such books?  I don’t even want to imagine the giggling that would ensue over titles about puberty.  The art books with ‘nekkid’ people are snicker-inducing enough!  But I’m sure some of my students would want/need to read them.

Reading about the brouhaha in Iowa, I wondered today if my choice not to buy And Tango Makes Three for my library was driven more by the considerations that it really doesn’t fit into our curriculum, my book budget is limited, and it’s available at my public library, or by the fact that I’m almost certain it would be challenged by someone in my school community.  I’ve read it, and I don’t think it should be a problem, but I’m always amazed by what books parents have complained about.

I’ve never had anyone complete a formal challenge for a book, but I’ve had a few complaints.  One complaint was a dog book that showed puppies being born.  Another was Gee Whiz!, a book about urine.  The chapter book I took home and read on a whim one afternoon that had a graphic rape scene  had been on the shelf since before I came to the school with nary a peep from anyone about its content–I sent that one to the middle school, deciding it was too heavy for fifth graders.

How do other school librarians make these decisions?  How do you draw the line between censoring your collection and choosing books appropriate for your community?  I remember discussing it during library school, but I still struggle with those decisions at times.

Okay, this is a bit political, which I thought I’d try to stay away from here, but I couldn’t help it. NYC Educator is on my feed reader, and a recent entry had this very interesting graph from the Washington Post. If this is accurate, McCain’s tax cuts are almost entirely for the wealthy. The lower income brackets, who ostensibly need the most help, get the smallest tax breaks under McCain’s plan. That doesn’t seem fair to me. Obama’s plan will probably anger the wealthy, but it looks like the majority (60% of taxpayers) will be better off under his tax plan. You can click the picture to see the whole article, with a bigger graph.


I think Obama’s plan looks way better for me personally, and way more “fair” for most people. My definition of fair–shared often enough with my students that they can recite it:

“Fair is not everyone getting the same. Fair is everyone getting what they NEED.”