Everyone knows that the average librarian and the ALA are more politically left than the average American. Not that this means much in practice, since no one in Washington pays the slightest attention to the political ramblings of librarians or the ALA, at least as evidenced by the ALA's defeat on just about every political issue it as supported.
Also, the ALA does not usually represent or defend librarians in any way designed to help them find employment. One only has to think of the "librarian shortage" canard to see what I mean. You just have to read the mission statement and see the issues to see that librarians as such aren't very important to the ALA. It's the American Library Association, not librarian association.
But now the ALA has surprised me by reversing both of these tendencies with their position on the "No Child Left Behind" act, which, as we know, is one of President Bush's favorite acts. As you're probably aware, the "No Child Left Behind" act has been opposed for various reasons by many people. Public school teachers and their nefarious unions tend not to like it because they don't like the idea of pay raises being tied to student performance on standardized tests. Of course public school teachers and their unions don't seem to like pay raises being tied to anything other than them marking time in their jobs or moving up into a bloated bureaucracy or getting an "advanced" degree that if possible is even more ridiculous than the MLS, so intelligent and thoughtful people can dismiss their concerns as self-serving.
Plenty of Democrats oppose "No Child Left Behind," too. Coincidence? According to this article, Obama recently said he'd end NCLB if he is elected. According to this, Bill Richardson said to the DNC: "Look at the last twelve months. Not only are we still in Iraq, we still have the failure called No Child Left Behind." Many other Democrats think it needs an "overhaul," which seems to mean spending a lot more money on it without making it accountable in any way, and certainly without giving merit pay to teachers who improve student achievement. (Even if some Democrats secretly did like NCLB, they certainly wouldn't want to oppose any teacher's unions, because as we all know the teacher's unions just want the best for us and our children and to oppose them is to oppose education itself.)
The ALA seems to think the NCLB act is perfect, though, except for one crucial gap--that it doesn't include librarians. This just astounds me, because something the ALA might ordinarily be opposing they support, and they are doing so in a way designed to get librarians jobs. I'm not conversant with the details, and since I have absolutely no personal interest in school libraries or public schools I'm not going to bother to make myself conversant, but as I understand it there's some rule about requiring teachers of various kinds, and since librarians aren't teachers, some schools get rid of their librarians so they can keep the teachers when the budget gets tight. Don't quote me on that. Someone at ALA was telling me about it in earnest tones, but I was distracted because it was almost 6pm and martinis beckoned. Regardless, we can count this as another instance where there isn't a librarian shortage at all. Usually the ALA lies to everyone about that. Why not now?
The ALA wants something called the "Strengthening Kids’ Interest in Learning and Libraries (SKILLs) Act" to be included in an overhaul of NCLB. It's important to have the informal "kids" rather than the proper "children," because otherwise the acronym doesn't work. Among other things, the SKILLs Act:
"* Requires school districts, to the extent feasible, to ensure that every school within the district employs at least one state-certified school library media specialist in each school library;
* Establishes as a state goal that there be at least one state-certified school library media specialist in every public school no later than the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year;"
In other words, for whatever reason, it wants to get school librarians employed. This is absolutely astonishing. The ALA is not only implicitly admitting there's no shortage of school librarians, but they're saying there's a shortage of school librarian jobs and they want a law to fix it. There are some "talking points" about how children don't learn anything without librarians , but I'm not sure many people believe that. Besides, there's a difference between having a library with people working in it, and having a "state-certified school library media specialist in each school library." The whole "state-certified" thing doesn't impress me at all, and I can't help but notice that many of the best schools in the country (i.e., the posh private ones) don't require all this state certification and educrat baloney for their teachers or librarians. But if you can't provide a great education, at least provide some state-certified people. It makes everything look official.
So there we are. Nothing to get me particularly annoyed. This is just my expression of astonishment that the ALA is working on behalf of the school librarians to get more of their noses in the public trough by act of law . . . I mean get more of them employed, and all but approving an act that the Republicans and President Bush support. If Laura Bush could just use her librarian mojo on her husband and and get him to support this SKILLs thing, the ALA might have to endorse a Republican for President.
At least one thing doesn't surprise me. The ALA is supporting a political issue that seems destined to fail, since if this article in the Washington Post is accurate, it looks like Congress may not reauthorize NCLB. No reauthorization, no SKILLs. And once more the ALA spends our dues for nothing.