I am trying to donate books from my parents’ house. Some were my own; an American Heritage Junior history series from the 1960s. The series covered history that has not changed and the books are in good condition. There is also a National Geographic National Park series which is in pristine condition. I know the latter is on DVD as I have the DVD set for all National Geographic magazines. It saves space but is not the equal of the nearly four decades of the magazines that I have and can’t donate.
I go to a local school whose library has no books. The principal is welcoming, but the librarian is new and wants time to get to know the curriculum, meet the students and the teachers. I approach another local school librarian, who finds the American Heritage system old. I ask him what history has changed that would make them outdated. He has no answer. The National Geographic National Park series he believes are too old for elementary school. In part, he is correct, although at 5th and 6th grade I would have looked at books like these. The local library where my parents lived only takes books to sell. I am wondering if we are that privileged a society or if I am just dealing with laziness.
I was never much of a reader when I was younger. I would go to the public library and for hours I would just pull books from shelves and read a little. The subjects were varied, as lots of things interested me and still do. The internet has partly replaced and expanded on this although I believe many young people just go on for instanteous answers rather than for questions. I wonder about librarians who are gatekeepers. They have limited shelf space and internal politics to accomodate, but I also wonder about age appropriateness. What I remember most about my primary education was the teacher who gave us a history series to read which was for adults. It was very difficult and frustrating at the time and required that I look up a lot of the words. My son’s middle school debate team was placed into a high school Lincoln-Douglas competition on judicial activism. They were a top middle school debate team, but this was their first Lincoln-Douglas debate and their knowledge of civics was cursory. They had to quickly upscale their knowledge of government and try to understand law. It was daunting and they had their clocks cleaned. They did however learn to play up academically as they would do athletically.
The future belongs to the educated elite from all backgrounds. They bring curiousity and discipline to what they do. If the gatekeepers don’t permit challenge and curiousity in the interest of addressing the interests of those less inclined we do our children a disservice. Since we do not know where this elite will come from we end up shortchanging all students.