The Pro-Life Generation & SFLA
At the forefront of the fight to defund Planned Parenthood is Students for Life of America, an organization on a mission to “abolish abortion in our lifetime.” Maybe it’s because ultrasounds are available that clearly show babies in the womb, maybe it’s because they understand the science behind life well enough to understand that the “blob of cells” pretext given by abortion promoters is a lie — but for whatever reason, many young Americans are taking a stand against abortion.
Students for Life of America (SFLA) has groups on college and high school campuses, as well as at law and medical schools. This is their mission statement: “Students for Life will create a culture where those most affected by abortion are empowered and equipped to recruit their peers to join our human rights movement, save lives on the front lines, lead local and national initiatives, and provide tangible resources while supporting those facing an unplanned pregnancy.”
SFLA campus groups recently collected about 200,000 pairs of baby socks which were taken to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., garnering nationwide attention. It was a means of drawing attention to some of the lives lost to abortions performed at Planned Parenthood clinics. In 2015, Planned Parenthood was responsible for 324,000 abortions, which represents one of every three abortions done in the U.S. during the latest year for which numbers are available.
After supposedly pro-life Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) was photographed with Planned Parenthood activists, Students for Life members staged a protest outside his office. Eventually SFLA President Kristan Hawkins and several West Virginia students were able to meet with him.
They tried to help Sen. Manchin understand that he’d been lied to by Planned Parenthood and that he’d been given bad information about the Center for Medical Progress tapes. The “videos depicting Planned Parenthood top executives discussing the harvesting and sale of aborted baby body parts” are accurate and two forensic reports confirm their authenticity.
They also made Sen. Manchin aware of the error in his previous statement that there were no abortion facilities in West Virginia. They informed him that there is an abortion mill in Charleston that is not affiliated with Planned Parenthood.
Students for Life has a continuing campaign called “We Don’t Need Planned Parenthood.” Planned Parenthood tries to say that they provide “women’s healthcare” but the truth is that they do very little besides abort babies.
Booths at campus events are manned by SFLA members who try to help fellow students understand that not only is abortion despicable, but that Planned Parenthood commits abortions almost exclusively. Under the leadership of current PP president Cecile Richards, “cancer screenings and prevention services have been cut in half.”
Planned Parenthood receives “over half a billion in tax dollars every year.” If PP was defunded, that taxpayer funding would go to Federally Qualified Health Centers, which “are in convenient locations, many of which serve low-income populations, and provide a much wider range of comprehensive healthcare than Planned Parenthood.” The Federally Qualified Health Centers provide actual health care centers, not abortion mills that sell baby body parts.
According to Kristan Hawkins, the reason Planned Parenthood “continues to receive government funding” is “because they spend millions of dollars in the political arena.” Not surprisingly, 99% of their political donations are made to Democrats. Some object to protests and student activism. They feel it isn’t dignified or a proper way for students to behave. In different times, this may have been the case. But Students for Life’s activism, such as standing with signs outside of Planned Parenthood fundraisers, actually works. It was a protest outside Sen. Manchin’s office that initially got his attention and led to his meeting with Kristan Hawkins.
Senator Manchin had previously voted to defund Planned Parenthood. He listened when SFLA members debunked the lies he’d been told. It appears that although he is a Democrat, he will again vote to defund the abortion provider. He was recently photographed with SFLA members holding a We Don’t Need Planned Parenthood sign.
In the same way that Women’s Suffrage and Civil Rights Movements used protesting to bring about change, SFLA believes that saving millions of unborn children is worth it. They maintain high standards during their demonstrations. When SFLA protests, they keep messaging on point; target the best locations to convey a message; dress in a way that shows respect for those they are trying to convert; and obviously no matter how vehement or aggressive the opposition, they remain non-violent.
This summer, an initiative of Students for Life of America called Rock for Life will tour the nation, setting up booths and meeting one on one with those who attend rock concerts and music festivals.
SFLA changes hearts and minds.
For more information, visit the Students for Life of America and the Rock for Life (RockforLife.org) websites. (Studentsforlife.org, 5-8-17 and 5-12-17) (Townhall.com, 5-20-17)
Heartbeat Bill Protects Unborn
The Eagle Forum Education & Legal Defense Fund, Faith2Action, and The Children’s First Foundation are working together to educate Americans about the federal Heartbeat Protection Act of 2017 (H.R. 490). Rep. Steve King (R-IA) is sponsoring the bill which simply states that if a heartbeat is detected, the baby is protected.
According to a 2017 Gallup Poll, seven of 10 Americans support the Federal Heartbeat Bill. Republicans favor it by 86%, and even a majority of Democrats (55%) favor the Heartbeat Bill.
When passed, the number of babies this bill will save each year is equal to double the population of Atlanta. Those who have signed their names onto the bill are champions for the unborn.
Big Story by Student Journalists
Six student journalists started out to write “a routine article” about their new principal for their high school newspaper but ended up creating national and international news.
The students found that the woman hired in March to take the helm of Pittsburg High School in Kansas had received a masters and a doctorate degree from Corllins University, which was an unaccredited “diploma mill,” not a legitimate college.
They found out more bad news about the woman who would soon become their principal. She was formerly the principal of Dubai American Scientific School, which the Dubai, United Arab Emirates education authority gave a rating of “unsatisfactory” from 2008 to 2012. The school closed in 2013.
Once the dubious degrees and her stint leading a failed school was made public by the high school newspaper, the town of about 20,000 held public meetings that resulted in Amy Robinson resigning as principal. News outlets from across the nation and around the world hailed the investigative prowess of the students.
Many in the southeast Kansas town were dismayed that a principal who would be paid $93,000 annually could be hired without the superintendent and the board of education completing a better investigation of her background. They made excuses for their mistake, saying that vetting would take place later — when the principal applied for a Kansas teaching license.
Pittsburg Community Schools Superintendent Destry Brown had said about Robinson, “I felt like she is very knowledgeable about what is going on in education today in college and career readiness, she is very familiar with Common Core, she knows about how a building works and about maintaining a safe environment.”
Brown says that in the future, the district “will be doing a background check and vetting credentials before any candidate is hired.”
In May, it was announced that the new principal will be Paul Bressler, who comes to Pittsburg after serving as principal of Paola High School, which is located about 1-1/2 hours away in another Kansas town. (The Wichita Eagle, 4-6-17) (USD250.org, 5-23-17)
Navigating Toward Abstinence Fifth in a series about making healthy choices
Navigator: Finding Your Way to a Healthy and Successful Future is the final workbook to be featured in this series about abstinence and helping young people make healthy choices.
Some who teach “comprehensive sex education” may have good intentions. But others are simply using the explicit material as another way to destroy families and bring down American society. Our children don’t need exposure to graphic sexual content. They see enough of that on television, in the movies, and all too often on their own cell phones.
The truth is that teens don’t need to learn how to have sex; they need to learn how to not have sex outside of marriage. It is dangerous to their physical, psychological, and emotional wellbeing.
The CCAP program works because it focuses on healthy living and helps students set and achieve positive goals. The program doesn’t rely on religious tenets or other topics that some might use as an excuse to keep abstinence programs out of schools.
Those interested in finding out more about abstinence education, the CCAP program, and the books recapped in the January through May 2017 issues of Education Reporter should contact Renate Ferrante the executive director of CCAP at RenateCCAP@gmail.com or phone 239-272-5092.
Vision: Goals and Dreams
Storytelling is a great way to draw students into a conversation. Chapter one of Navigator tells about a football coach at Georgia Tech who was offered a “high paying, high profile” job as head football coach at the University of Notre Dame. Just four days after accepting the job, the coach held a humiliating press conference during which he resigned after it was discovered that thirty years prior, he’d lied on his resume. This true story teaches students how mistakes made early in life can come back to haunt in later life.
One of a series of questions students are asked in the workbook is: “Do you suppose he ever considered that the false statements on his resume would one day be reported in newspapers and on television around the world?”
From the start, Navigator helps students begin to connect making choices with achieving goals.
Clarity: Seeing Media Clearly
The second chapter of Navigator helps students evaluate images that bombard them. It says, “Young people today live media-saturated lives, spending an average of 6-1/2 hours a day with media.”
An exercise asks students to name actors, musicians, movies, video games, and magazines. Then the workbook asks them to provide facts about the “real world,” such as listing which states border their own; naming their Congressional Representatives and one of their U.S. Senators; estimating the U.S. population; and identifying the location of Washington, D.C. The Teacher’s Guide says this exercise isn’t designed to “stump” students but to point out that they might know more about the world of entertainment than they know about the real world.
The workbook explains that media images are often damaging to students. It explains the concept of incrementalism: “the cumulative building, over time, of themes and images in which media norms are gradually but drastically changed.” The workbook says that sex scenes common on television today are as explicit as those published in pornographic magazines in 1974. The result of this media incrementalism is that “today’s generation is exposed to the most graphic and explicit sexual imagery that has ever been seen.” Students should be aware of this if they are to protect themselves and control their environment.
In addition to what appears on television, today’s teens have access to pornography on their cell phones and other electronic devices. The workbook explains that viewing such content has an impact on the human body and the development of the brain, which are reasons for teens to avoid it.
At the end of each chapter are questions for students to discuss with their parents. One example in this section is, “How has entertainment media changed since when you were a kid?”
Direction: Sexual Decision Making
Chapter three of the workbook says that abstinence isn’t about the past but instead is about the future. It is possible for every student to make the decision to save sex for marriage, regardless of past decisions.
The workbook says, “Abstinence is the only 100% effective protection from the possible physical, emotional, mental, and social consequences of sex before marriage.” A student who chooses abstinence saves all sexual activity for a future spouse. Many things are good when they are put in the right context; including sex. Marriage is the right context for sex and waiting until marriage develops the situation in which a marriage is most likely to succeed.
Navigator says that each day 1,700 American teenaged girls become pregnant and that 82% of those pregnancies are unplanned. Pregnancy makes it harder for a teen to get an education. Research shows that “most teen mothers are still unmarried 10 years after the birth of their child.”
A real-life story in this chapter of Navigator is that of Pam, a young woman who is grateful that her teenaged mother gave her up for adoption because she knew that would be best for her child.
Safety: Avoiding STDs
Chapter four tries to help students avoid the obstacles they would face if they contracted a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Approximately 17,000 new cases of STDs occur in Americans between 15-24 each day. Those who become sexually active in high school are likely to have more than one sex partner. One in four sexually active teens will contract an STD.
As former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop said, “When you have sex with someone, you are having sex with everyone they have had sex with for the last ten years, and everyone they and their partners have had sex with for the last ten years.”
Navigator tells students that television shows don’t portray actors going to a pharmacy for medications to treat genital herpes or another STD because that would be “a downer.” Yet, the problem is so widespread that commercials are aired for medications to treat these diseases.
Approximately 32% of people in America have an incurable, viral STD such as human papillomavirus (HPV) or genital herpes. A suggested class activity is to look at a website for the medication needed to treat such diseases. Students can view the side effects, which include headache, vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain, and dizziness; estimate the cost of the medication; and familiarize themselves with the seriousness of contracting such a disease.
Navigator not only introduces the various STDs but tells students that contracting any STD will include physical, emotional, relational, and other negative outcomes.
The chapter ends with the story of Maria and her daughter Sherri. When Sherri began to date, Maria suggested abstinence but said that if Sherri chose to have sex she should use a condom.
Although Maria felt she was “educated and informed,” she was unaware that condoms would not protect her daughter from STDs like HPV, the most prevalent STD in the U.S. today. Sherri contracted HPV, which led to cervical cancer. At age 20, this young woman now faces a full hysterectomy in order to save her life.
Strength: Resisting Alcohol, Tobacco, and Drugs
Chapter five aims to help students resist pressures to experiment with alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs, as well as non-marital sex. And there’s a connection between these things. Teens who use alcohol are seven times more likely to have sexual intercourse, to have multiple partners, and to get pregnant.
The teacher’s guide suggests having students practice pressure resistant tactics, which include speaking up, standing up, and walking away. This can help students avoid the “cascading effect” drinking or drugs has on maintaining sexual abstinence. Deciding ahead of time what they will and won’t do and practicing a statement of intent helps students when they find themselves in situations when clear thinking and quick action is crucial.
Students learn that teens who drink are 17 times more likely to die in a car crash than those who don’t. They also learn the physical effects alcohol and drugs have on their bodies and their decision-making abilities.
Character: Survival Skills
The sixth chapter of Navigator starts with an analogy about character and the survival skills of a high mountain camper. Just as a hiking camper needs to train and carry good equipment, successful individuals need to choose characteristics that are going to help them develop qualities that will allow them to thrive in the future. Faulty equipment means an unsafe trip just as character flaws are an impediment to becoming educated, employed, having successful relationships, and leading a meaningful life.
The workbook asks the question, “How is building your character prior to marriage like preparing for a mountain hiking trip?”
Students are asked what this statement means: “When it comes to character, the most powerful political leader and the poorest person in the world are on a level playing field.” One of the most important lessons a teen can learn is that no matter what people achieve in life, nothing is more important than their personal integrity; their ability to make solid decisions; and their willingness to take appropriate actions.
Workbook activities include having students define character qualities and assess their own level of self-control, patience, respect, honesty, loyalty, responsibility, and trustworthiness. Students are also asked to “explain how choosing to abstain from sex until marriage could demonstrate each of these character qualities.”
This chapter covers delayed gratification and students learn that “sometimes a positive feeling comes after, not before, a positive decision.” Making good decisions is learned behavior that becomes a habit.
A discussion point for students to have with their parents is: “Tell me about a tough decision you made and how it helped to build your character.”
Companionship: Developing Relationships
Chapter seven helps students understand that “dating” is most often a temporary relationship. It’s a time to get to know another person and become familiar with their values, friends, and family. A dating couple has the chance to see if they communicate well and have things in common, including shared goals.
When a sexual relationship develops before marriage, getting to know each other is inhibited by false intimacy. Sexual intimacy without the commitment of marriage ends up redirecting energy. It actually stifles the development of emotional intimacy, instead of allowing it to either grow or the relationship to end with relative ease because the people aren’t well suited to each other.
There are many reasons to choose abstinence. It is a decision that should be made before dating — a commitment by both individuals that they will voluntarily do what is best for both of them by setting boundaries, planning ahead, and protecting themselves from the physical and emotional damage caused by sexual activity before marriage.
The workbook tells students that when dating relationships end, each person should feel that he/she left the other person better off than when the relationship began. They should look back knowing that they treated each other with “honesty, respect, kindness, and caring.”
Destination: Preparing for Marriage and Family
Abstinence contributes to both the permanence and faithfulness of marriages. In chapter eight, young people learn that those who abstain until marriage have already learned lessons about delayed gratification and faithfulness to their future spouse, which enhances their commitment to that person after marriage.
The workbook quotes a young husband who says, “Now that we are married, I can appreciate even more deeply how important it was for us to wait.” He continues, “Not only do I get to share my life with my best friend, but we also share an exclusive bond that brings us closer in every way — emotionally and mentally, as well as physically.”
A teacher’s guide activity is to have students make three lists: the qualities they look for in a friend, the qualities they look for in a boyfriend or girlfriend, and the qualities they seek in a future spouse. Students may be surprised to find the similarities in what they seek from these three types of relationships, which helps them see that their current relationships should help them better prepare for future relationships, including marriage.
The workbook says that even those who come from homes broken by divorce can learn strategies to help them have a successful marriage. It says that once students understand the importance of their choices regarding tobacco, drugs, and sexual activity that they “can make an informed choice.”
Two University of Wisconsin at Madison employees are suing the state for denying payment for sex-change surgeries. A graduate student and a research assistant were born males but now wish to be considered females. The ACLU is helping them, claiming that “gender reassignment surgery” must be provided according to Obamacare mandates, and that denial violates “equal protection.” A spokesman for Gov. Scott Walker says, “We believe the policy adopted by the (state) is a reasonable measure that protects taxpayers from funding sex changes for state employees and complies with both state and federal law.” (EAGnews.org, 4-11-17)
Some are alarmed by the number of high-ranking Department of Education (ED) appointees who formerly worked for Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education. Bush is known as a proponent of Common Core, for which his organization has fallen out of favor with many conservatives. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was previously on its board. The Foundation also promotes so-called “digital education.” Other former Bush associates now at ED include Josh Venable, a Trump transition team member who ended up with a political appointment after two years at Bush’s Foundation for Excellence; Andrew Kossack who was formerly the Foundation’s deputy policy director; and Neil Ruddock who was with the Foundation for four years as regional advocacy director. (Education Week, 3-9-17)
A book titled Communism for Kids was published in March by the MIT Press, which is affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The publisher’s website says, “Once upon a time, people yearned to be free of the misery of capitalism.” It continues, “This little [112-page] book proposes a different kind of communism, one that is true to its ideals and free from authoritarianism.” The description says, “It all unfolds like a story, with jealous princesses, fancy swords, displaced peasants, mean bosses, and tired workers….” The book doesn’t mention Stalin, Castro, or other murderous Communist dictators.
Book of the Month
Confessions of a 21st Century Math Teacher, Barry Garelick, 2015, Modern Education Press, $8.50
As a long-term substitute math teacher in California, Barry Garelick sees the damage Common Core and other schemes do to student learning. He says that in an attempt to make mathematics “real world, relevant, practical, and applied” teachers and curriculum have been taken off course by “fast talking,” so-called experts who rely on no proof, just what they think is forward thinking and appropriate for “21st century learning.”
But math is math. It doesn’t change with the wind or the date. It is silly to ask students to “justify” the answers they get. Math is about showing how the answer was gotten, not why.
Garelick is a teacher who still believes that students need to know facts, and that they shouldn’t be taught that “they can just Google it.”
There is an attempt to mix math into other subjects, and other subjects into math. The educrats call it “integration” but it’s actually dilution. Students end up knowing little bits here and there about lots of things, but they know nothing deeply.
Common Core has made it so students who don’t get outside help from tutors (arranged for by informed parents) will never be able to study trigonometry in high school. Common Core slowed down math learning at a time when it should have been speeded up.
Garelick has a degree in math from the University of Michigan. After he retired from the Environmental Protection Agency in 2011, he got a teaching degree. His first book, Letters from John Dewey/Letters from Huck Finn, covers some of the challenges he faced. This one focuses entirely on math.
In his (mostly) traditional math classroom, the author employs the “I do, we do, you do” technique of teaching. This is not to be confused with “collaborative learning” as mandated by Common Core, during which students work together to come up with an answer to math problems, and it doesn’t matter if it’s the correct answer.
Confessions tells about various levels of math classes and the progress of individual students in those classes, which makes the book come to life. His mission is to teach students to know and like math so that even those who might not imagine it today could someday choose a field requiring math.
Readers might be surprised by a book about teaching math that reads like a novel and remains engaging through the very last sentence.
FOCUS: SFLA Protested Barbara Bush at Planned Parenthood
by Students for Life of America and Jillian Ferguson
Originally posted on March 1, 2017 at StudentsforLife.org. Reprinted with permission.
When Students for Life of America (SFLA) received the news that former First Daughter Barbara Pierce Bush would be the keynote speaker at a Planned Parenthood fundraiser in Fort Worth, Texas, we immediately decided to take action. We pulled together a group of people to protest at the site. We wanted to stand up for women betrayed by the nation’s largest abortion provider and proclaim that we don’t need or want Planned Parenthood.
Jillian Ferguson, SFLA’s Texas Regional Coordinator, who is also in the middle of touring the region with our We Don’t Need Planned Parenthood campus display, led the protest. The following is a description of what happened, according to Jillian.
Car after car pulled into the circle drive outside the Omni Hotel in Fort Worth, depositing guests right in front of us. Many of the women found clever little ways to include Planned Parenthood’s signature color – Pepto-Bismol Pink – into their outfits. Blazers, jewelry, shoes – pink everywhere. It was a Wednesday after all and, as we all know, Mean Girls wear pink on Wednesdays (as they did in the movie of the same name).
Our team of pro-lifers was about 20 people strong. We had members of the Catholic Pro-Life Committee, Texas Pro-Life Action Team, Sidewalk Advocates for Life, Pro-Life Waco, and Students for Life of America. We had a presence on both sides of the street, as well as covering both sides of the entrance. Everywhere people looked, they were going to see a pro-life sign. It was a perfect example of collaboration and unity in the pro-life movement.
I am grateful to everyone who came out for the peaceful protest.
The protesters greeted each other and the underlying tone was generally jovial until the masses of people started pouring in and reality set in. One woman said that over 1,000 people were attending. News outlets reported that the event raised “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
The thought that 1,000 of these rich, privileged people were going to sit around eating their overpriced salad and making decisions about “healthcare” for struggling communities made me a little sick.
It seemed ironic to me that most of the people that Planned Parenthood claims to help wouldn’t even be able to afford the cost of valet parking at this event.
Generally, the reaction to our being there was as expected – lots of disapproving head shakes, pursed lips, and clever little quips to our “We Don’t Need Planned Parenthood” signs. There were a few middle fingers but the reactions were mostly mild – personally I think that it was because they didn’t want to mess up their expensive attire.
A lot of people walking by on the sidewalk were taking pictures and videos of us and our signs; one young man gave us a thumbs up and thanked us for being there.
There was a pro-lifer who had a sign that made it unclear at first glance that she was against Planned Parenthood so she got a lot of “good mornings,” “hellos,” and smiles – they reserved their grimaces and snarky comments for me and the others, who were more obvious pro-lifers.
We had one counter-protester who held a sign supporting Planned Parenthood, demanding that lawmakers and “old, male Christians” stop trying to control her body. At first, I wondered why she didn’t join the rest of the pro-choicers inside until I realized that, like most people, she probably couldn’t afford the ticket.
The media coverage was amazing. There were at least five or six cameras out at a time.
I was interviewed at least half a dozen times. Some interviewers tried to trip me up with questions, like “Isn’t Barbara Bush an adult who can form her own opinions and views on issues?” To this I responded with something along the lines of “Absolutely! But I would hope that a woman as smart and savvy as Barbara Bush would do her research and cut through the propaganda and public relations to find out what Planned Parenthood is really about.” The rest of the questions were expected and standard.
I talked with media about how confusing it was that someone like Barbara Bush, someone who so clearly cares about people as co-founder and CEO of Global Health Corps, would lend her time, abilities, and talents to an organization that so clearly does NOT care about people, especially women. I also discussed how her decision to speak at an event for the nation’s largest abortion provider goes against everything her very pro-life father stood for during his time as president.
I thought it was important to communicate to the media that the Pro-Life Generation is standing up and rejecting the message of Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry. They continually perpetuate the idea that women aren’t strong enough to be successful AND be a mother. But the Pro-Life Generation knows that’s not true – we know that we are stronger and more capable than Planned Parenthood and its supporters would like us to believe.
Our presence at this Planned Parenthood luncheon was part of a larger, national movement that states that we don’t want or need Planned Parenthood. If our signs or presence encouraged even one attendee of the luncheon to look further into Planned Parenthood’s distasteful and even illegal practices, I consider the day a huge success.
Jillian Ferguson has a degree in Political Science with a concentration in international relations and a minor in math from Central Michigan University, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2016. She became involved in the pro-life movement during her sophomore year of college and soon became the vice president of the college Students for Life group. Jillian does her part to help change today’s current culture to one that values life from the moment of fertilization to natural death. She is the Southwest Regional Coordinator of Students for Life of America.
Replacing School Libraries with Computers Hurts Students
by Nancy E. Bailey
Originally published at nancyebailey.com on April 8, 2017. Reprinted with permission.
There are many ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all. ~Jacqueline Kennedy
April was School Library Month. We have always known librarians and libraries provide vital support to students and teachers in our public schools. But for years school districts have let go of qualified librarians and they have closed school libraries.
This is often attributed to the growing presence of online learning. In Jacksonville, Florida, cuts to school libraries have been fierce, with the idea that digital is better and schools must “evolve.”
But there is little research to show that competency-based education (digital learning) or more computer use helps students do well in school.
A research study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2015, indicates that students do better with less screen time, not more.
The OECD report suggests that when it comes to technology “too many false hopes” have been raised. With so little, if any, research to indicate that tech is better, why throw out what we know works?
Adding to this, a new report from the Illinois Library Association explains what happens when students lose their librarians and libraries. Without decent library services in their public schools, students go on to have great difficulty in college. They lack the necessary research skills to gather good information. They are unable to evaluate the importance of what they read.
A report released in April of 2017 in the ILA Reporter is titled “Data Back Up the Headlines: Adding Weight to Advocacy,” is a review of the downward spiral of school libraries in the State of Illinois and the Chicago Public School District (CPS). The authors Michelle Guittar and Kelly Grossmann examine the loss of libraries and librarians since 2010 in CPS alone. But this alarming trend can be seen throughout the state. And the nation.
They say parents should be concerned if their students go to schools that don’t have a good school library or a certified librarian or media specialist.
The authors analyzed an Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries (ERIAL) study, which was conducted at multiple Illinois academic institutions. This included Northeastern Illinois University. They found that those students who don’t have access to a qualified librarian and who don’t obtain library skills in their schools go on to experience difficulty with research skills in college.
The ERIAL study finds that library-deprived students struggle with the following:
• Basic information
• Literacy skills
• Doing academic searches
• Evaluating resources
• Getting help from information professionals
Adding concern to this report, it was also recently announced that seventeen school districts in Illinois, many with low-income students, are suing the state for inadequate funding.
While the state of Illinois short-changes schools by cutting programs and staff, they have mandated online school testing. This has meant the purchase of computers and tablets.
What proof do we have that this serves students well?
Illinois is not an isolated situation. Schools across the nation have been cutting their library services for years.
How many students have missed out on vital skills that would help them survive in college and future careers? It is wrong to assume that just because students can plug in a word on Google, they will be able to distinguish what is meaningful information and what is junk. It is also poor planning to ignore the importance of books to student learning.
How will students master college coursework if they don’t understand the rudimentary skills of obtaining and evaluating information?
This should not come as a shock to most parents and educators. We’ve known for a long time that schools with good librarians and libraries result in students who do better on standardized tests.
In 2011, the California School Library Association looked at test results from 2004 to 2009, and determined that children in schools with credentialed librarians did better on standardized reading tests. They determined that students got better reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) with a gain of librarians in school districts.
The following year, a Colorado study by the same researchers examined reading performance scores between 2005 and 2011. They found that school librarians had a positive impact on students’ standardized reading scores.
Yet, knowing this, states and local school districts have continued to eliminate librarian positions. This has been especially prevalent in poorer schools, where library services are essential. Many schools no longer have school libraries.
Last year WGBH in Boston reported that “surprisingly” many schools there don’t have functioning school libraries. The problem especially affects young children who are in their formative years and may not learn to value books and reading. This loss extends past Boston across the state of Massachusetts.
However, earlier that year it was reported that technology is a priority in that state. Schools were being outfitted with expensive digital devices. Students were to learn to repair the computers in their schools when they broke down. One public school opened with a price tag of $37.5 million; it has wireless projectors, white boards, laptops, and iPads in every classroom — including kindergarten. Students have access to media centers with more online ebooks than regular books.
Should we not question state and district administrators who have been so quick to jump on the technology bandwagon, cutting funds to school libraries and getting rid of qualified librarians? They have either not understood or ignored the extreme disservice they impose on students.
Not just during a month of library awareness but all year, every year, school officials and politicians need to recommit resources to hiring credentialed librarians and ensuring that students have access to top notch school libraries that serve their academic needs. Their futures and ours depend on it.
Nancy Bailey is a former special education teacher who holds a B.S., a M.Ed, and a Ph.D. Her website, nancyebailey.com, explores the problems facing public education. Her second book, Losing America’s Schools: The Fight to Reform Public Education, was published by Rowman and Littlefield in 2016. She is also the author of Misguided Education Reform: Debating the Impact on Students.