"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Boycott NCLB or McGraw-Hill?

There is good reason for SRA/McGraw-Hill to move into damage control over the dis-invitation of Patricia Polacco at the recent IRA Conference in Chicago. The New York Times has picked up the story, and school librarians are mad as hornets about the bare-knuckled arrogance that M-H has exhibited in this most recent assault on freedom of speech, that is, speech that comes up against that big NCLB gold-plated gravy train that SRA/M-H is riding. Not a good move, SRA/M-H--you don't alienate those people who are in charge of selecting the books that go into every children's collection in every library in the world. From the Times:

Ms. Polacco says the publishing house, McGraw-Hill, a sponsor of the convention, canceled her contract for two appearances because of its dual role as book and test publisher. McGraw-Hill says it only sought to stop an author with an agenda from turning its exhibit at the reading convention into a political platform.

"I see teachers across the country, and they come up to me with tears in their eyes and say we used to be able to do creative things" before the emphasis on testing that came with No Child Left Behind, Ms. Polacco said, explaining why she wanted to talk about the law. She accused McGraw-Hill of trying to benefit from her popularity yet censor her views. "If they want someone to stand up and say how wonderful No Child Left Behind is, then hire someone who feels that way," she said.

Even the most non-partisan onlooker would be impressed by the monetary connection between M-H and a federal education policy (NCLB), that same policy that appears now to be off-limits to M-H authors who are critical of the policy. One must wonder if SRA/M-H would have had the same slamming-door reaction if Patricia Polacco had planned to plug NCLB in her speech, or any of the vast catalog of materials that M-H is marketing to all the desperate school systems across America who have shifted their purchasing priorities from children's literature to the scripted reading instruction.

Here is part of the message that M-H left in the comments box at Schools Matter yesterday:
Ms. Polacco chose not to honor her commitment to SRA/McGraw-Hill. Shortly before the event, she began insisting that she wanted to use her appearances as a platform for expressing her personal views on public education policy. We respect her right to express her ideas; however, since the SRA educational presentations were focused on writing and children’s books, SRA did not believe that its exhibit booth was an appropriate forum for a public policy speech. Ms. Polacco’s statements about this event are inaccurate and unreasonable.

SRA’s intention was to have Ms. Polacco deliver four presentations that would inspire the people who have the greatest impact on educating our children – classroom teachers.
On the face of it, it would seem that there is nothing more relevant to the writing and reading of children's books than to challenge a national policy (NCLB's Reading First) that is intended to replace children's literature with the relentless chain gang de-coding Code embraced by the pseudoscience of Engelmann/Carnine, the marketeers of the DIBELS miracle, and SRA/M-H's own entry to straightjacket learning, Open Court (teachers refer to it as Open Cult for good reason).

Obviously, "inspiring the people who have the greatest impact on educating our children" would require Ms. Polacco to pretend that her own publisher is more interested in literature than it is in supporting the national drive to brainwash children for purposes of economic exploitation.

Did I fail to mention that McGraw-Hill owns Standard & Poors, which owns School Matters (not ever to be confused with this weblog), where you can find out where all the poor people in America live simply by looking up school test scores.

(Updated 12:09 pm)

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