Making Waves

You know those little ripples in the proverbial pond? The ones we make when we throw in a stone, and the results of our actions spread out and out and out. It’s a great metaphor for our grassroots movement – and right now, you all in Yinzer Nation are making waves.

First, our Manchester Miracle continues to gather steam and is now spreading across a more literal pond. David Gaughran, an Irish author with over 26,000 followers on his blog, wrote about our work to fill those empty library shelves and the underlying problem of chronic funding inequities. [DavidGaughran, 10-18-12] He and many of his colleagues are now starting a similar campaign for school libraries in the U.K.

This week the eminent education historian Diane Ravitch, picked up on our post about new research that demonstrates the critical link between student learning and full-time, professional librarians in our schools. [See “Libraries (and Librarians) Matter”]. Ravitch wrote about our Manchester Miracle, noting:

“The community came together, renovated the library, and stocked its shelves with books.
And then there is the bad news. In Pittsburgh, only 14 of 51 schools have a full-time librarian. Most librarians spend only one day a week at each school.
This is the part I don’t understand.
When I went to public school in Houston many years ago, every school I attended had a library and a librarian. Some had more than one.
Our society is now immeasurably richer than it was then.
Why can’t every school have a library and a librarian?
Why don’t hedge fund managers support libraries?
Andrew Carnegie did, and it made him a hero for all time, enabling people to forget about labor practices at his steel mills. So today, because of his benefactions, he is remembered for his gift of libraries and literacy, not the brutal suppression of the Homestead Strike in 1892.
If the hedge fund managers and equity investors supported school libraries, we would think of them kindly and the memory of 2008 would fade.
Hello, Democrats for Education Reform! How about Democrats for School Libraries?” [DianeRavitch.net, 10-31-12]

And the waves you made go on. Today our beloved Yinzercator librarian, Sheila May-Stein, reports that she is finalizing plans with a Baldwin High School teacher who is bringing 1,220 books he and his students collected for Manchester to Pittsburgh Carmalt, instead. This is the latest library Sheila has been assigned to rehabilitate by the Pittsburgh Public Schools and is in just about as sorry a shape as Manchester was a few weeks ago. This wonderful Baldwin teacher is also getting a school bus to bring thirty of his students to Carmalt to help clean, organize, catalog, and decorate the library. To imagine what Carmalt could look like in a few weeks with a little TLC from the community, here are photos from Pittsburgh Manchester preK-8 taken at last week’s dedication:

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Here are a few more waves you are making, as our grassroots movement continues to get noticed across Pennsylvania and nationally: On Tuesday, Philadelphia’s terrific independent education publication, The Notebook, featured our piece on high-stakes test scores and teacher evaluation, “Evaluating What?,” as its lead article. [The Notebook, 10-30-12] For the record, I strongly believe Pittsburgh would benefit from a similar publication, dedicated to reporting on regional educational issues.

And last week, Diane Ravitch posted the entire text of our article, “Charters are Cash Cows,” about Pennsylvania’s top political campaign donors and their heavy investment in charter schools. Ravitch introduced the piece saying:

“I have had some good debates with friends and colleagues who support charter schools. I think there is a role for them in meeting needs that public schools cannot meet: charter schools for the autistic, charter schools for dropouts, charter schools are kids who utterly lack motivation. Charters should boast of how many low-performing kids they have recruited, not their test scores. When their tests scores are high, it usually means they are skimming or excluding the very students they should be seeking out. Charters might also be a way to test innovations, but more typically they are boot camps, which is not at all innovative. If they exist to innovate, they should be committed to collaboration with public schools, not competition. But that is not what charter schools today are about. They are about winning. And as this Pennsylvania blogger explains, some are about money.” [DianeRavitch.net, 10-24-12]

The national news source, AlterNet, also picked up this piece. [“Don’t Be Fooled: For Investors, Charter Schools are Cash Cows” (AlterNet,10-25-12)] They get 2.3 million unique monthly visitors to the site, have 42,000 followers on Facebook, and 24,000 on Twitter. So when AlterNet publishes a Yinzercation piece, our grassroots receives good national coverage, and our ripples extend even further.

This is how we will win the battle for public education. It’s all about growing our grassroots movement and continuing to reach out through our networks to keep those ripples going. Can you get five of your friends to subscribe to Yinzercation? Enter your email address and hit the “Sign me up” button to get these pieces delivered directly to your inbox. It’s simple really. Together we make waves.

6 thoughts on “Making Waves

  1. If I am “beloved,” it is because I am lucky enough to be part of what Dr. King would call “the beloved community”– we care for each other in Pittsburgh. And I’m grateful for/humbled by/passionate about my adopted hometown. However, I am looking toward Chicago and the way their public schools are supported by their parents–sometimes even going to jail, as in last night’s City Hall sit-in– to advocate for teachers, and I am jealous. I want Pittsburgh parents to begin to act as if their very lives depend upon making equity happen.

    If parents don’t start to act like the parents in Chicago are acting– that is, standing shoulder to shoulder with teachers to advocate against endless standardized tests, to end cuts to necessary programs including art, library, music, world language, gym and musical instrumental classes, to demand great working conditions for the people who take their children on as their own- teachers– even risking JAIL time on behalf of quality education, I predict that eventually ALL good educators will say I QUIT. And perhaps we teachers should. No profession has been villianized like ours, or challenged like ours. Can you imagine a doctor having to strike for surgical equipment? A dentist for a dental hygenist? A lawyer for a law library?

    Seriously. Check out this video of a beautiful, powerful Chicago mother, last night arrested for the cause of public education in her town: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=OjieApt30EE

  2. Let’s hear it for Sheila May-Stein — and the students of Baldwin High School. Twenty-six of my Literary Guild book club members brought the 1,240 books they collected to Pgh Carmalt yesterday, and Sheila guided them as they cleaned shelves, cataloged books, and put books on the shelves. This was a wonderful experience for my students, who have grown up loving reading and libraries, and were spurred to action when they realized that children who live so close to them do not have access to great books. Keep it going, Sheila! — Keith Harrison @Harrison_BHS

    • Now how can it be that a wonderful, engaged and engaging teacher becomes aware of a need in the community, independently organizes scores of kids to meet that need, gets his administration to back him and put money out for buses, schleps all the thousand books he collects, cleans, catalogs and minds the group—give ME the credit?? You and your amazing kids did this. Thank you so much!

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