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

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

McGraw-Hill/NCLB, and the Freedom to Agree

From educator and author, Patricia Polacco:

To All Educators, Librarians, and Media Specialists
Regarding the cancellation of my appearance at the IRA in Chicago for
May2 and 3, 2006

A few months ago I was approached by The Buchanan Associates in Dublin,OH to appear at the International Reading Association Conference in Chicago on May 2 and 3, 2006. I was to be part of 5 events. Speeches, 'meet and greet' and book signings.

I was happy to accept the invitation which, I assumed, was coming from theI.R.A. and my publisher. It is always such an honor for me to spea and interact with teachers and librarians from around the country. But, then, a very disturbing turn of events transpired. My staff started receiving phone calls and emails from this firm in Ohio requesting that I furnish them with a detailed written outline of what I intended to include in my speeches. I assumed, of course, that this was asked so that a synopsis of my content could be included in a printed brochure furnished to the conferees.

You can imagine my astonishment when I finally called this firm and learned that this was not the reason. They requested my written outline because their 'client' wanted to make sure that I would not discuss my deep concern about NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND MANDATE...as well as my concern that there is a link between this mandate and the SRA/McGraw Hill Company who manufactures, prints, and profits from the sale of these tests to school systems all over our country. It was then that I closely reviewed all if the emails (I had not up until this time because I had been doing school visits and was not home until now) I then realized that the "client" that this firm referred to, but never names, was indeed, SRA/McGraw Hill! I also learned from the Officials of the IRA that SRA/McGraw Hill was indeed sponsoring the event that I had been invited to. I was shocked!

This "firm" insisted that my speech be "upbeat, non-controversial, and non-political"...I countered with the fact that the plight of the American teacher is far from "upbeat" and they are caught in the vice grip of the most controversial and political LIE that has ever been perpetrated on the American teacher.

I was also quite mystified as to why SRA/McGraw Hill would even select ME and invite me to be a part of their program knowing how strongly I feel about this entire situation. My speeches certainly do inspire teachers...I truly believe they are among the last hero's we have in our country...but I always mention the destructive path that is laying wasted to our schools and that is the No Child Left Behind Mandate! I did mention to them that I considered this broaching "censorship" and a violation of my freedom of speech.

Finally, after receiving numerous emails from this 'firm' that got more and more 'insistences'...I finally sent them a written refusal to alter my speeches in any way, Certainly I can moderate their length, but I refused to alter the content. I made them aware if they truly had a problem with this, then they could "un-invite" me to be part of their event. Needless to sat, SRA/McGraw Hill cancelled my programs within the hour!

My main concern here, is that I very much fear the conferee's will be led to believe that it is I who cancelled this event. The cancellation was the choice of SRA/McGraw Hill and was generated by a blatant attempt to
CENSOR my remarks and the content of what I say to teachers. Which is a clear infringement of my constitutional right to freedom of speech. I pride myself on being an advocate for America's teachers as well as being one of the most reliable speakers at conferences in our country.

My lawyers and I have set a formal request to SRA/McGraw Hill through their representative, The Buchanan Associates in Dublin, Ohio, to post the following signs outside of each venue at the conference where I am schedules to speak:
Call anyone you know that was either going to attend my events, or that did and were disappointed and tell them why this happened. I am very disturbed by this on may levels. It seems that we American's are losing, by leaps and bounds, our constitution "guaranteed" rights. I am insulted and very offended not only on my own behalf, but also because of these various organizations that seek to profi from the misery for our teachers and school children. Profits and money seem to matter much more that truly making changes to our educational systems that would truly help our children. I have to admit that I have a certain amount of pride in taking this stand on your behalf.

Yours faithfully,
Patricia Polacco


  1. Patricia Polocco's URL letter was sent to me in an email. I was very disturbed by the content and forwarded to other educators in my school district. The very next day, it was removed from Patricia Polocco's web site. I am wondering why. It was when I looked for a copy of that letter, I found your blog. It was disappointing to see that NO ONE was concerned about this letter. Our personal freedom of speach and expression are slowly being taken away and we are doing little to make government accountable. Nor are we standing up for our rights. What can we do as concerned citizens?

  2. SRA/McGraw-Hill welcomes the opportunity to present the facts about Patricia Polacco’s scheduled appearances in SRA’s exhibit booth at IRA on May 2 and 3, 2006.

    SRA/McGraw-Hill and Ms. Polacco signed a very clear contract, which can be viewed at http://www.sraonline.com/index.php/home/statement/2094.

    In the contract, signed by SRA on Jan. 10, 2006, and by Ms. Polacco on Feb. 8, 2006, Ms. Polacco agreed to be an SRA/McGraw-Hill exhibit booth speaker at four 30-minute presentations on two very specific topics: heroes who made a difference in her life and the real stories that inspired several of her books. In the two-page contract, SRA/McGraw-Hill was identified by name 14 times. She further agreed that her appearances at the SRA exhibit booth would be limited solely to these four presentations.

    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.

  3. Anonymous9:14 AM

    What SRA/McGraw Hill is FAILING to acknowledge is this: The reason Patricia Polocco was able to become the incredible author and illustrator that she is, was the influences of her teachers. When Ms. Polocco was in school, the restrictions of NCLB did not exist. Teachers today are limited by regulations and impossible "bottom lines" related to test scores. If this type of policy existed when Ms. Polocco was in school, we probably would not have her incredible stories today. To ask Ms. Polocco to censor her presentation is asking her to leave out half of the story. Whether she is talking philosophy intentionally or not, if her message is to remain authentic, it would inevitably oppose NCLB because SHE'S NOT BUILT THAT WAY!
    I don't see any evidence of her not complying with a contract. It seems SRA/McGRaw Hill did not realize they chose someone who views education much differently then they do. Ms. Poloocco would not be who she is if her personal reflections were not woven through each and every one of her stories. Perhaps that is why she writes compelling tales of the human experience and McGraw Hill produces textbooks.