Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Steps to take now for our schools- What Were You Thinking, Bernstein??

I just sent this letter to the editor to Newsday, regarding Marc Bernstein's (Superintendent of the Valley Stream Central High School District) Opinion Piece in yesterday's newspaper. I don't know if they will publish my response, but I will publish it here:

Superintendent Marc Bernstein says, "Other avenues to explore, especially when evidence is lacking, this Internet age, eliminating the antiquated requirement that all high schools have at least one full-time librarian and a minimum number of books." I say, the only thing that is antiquated is Mr. Bernstein's view of school librarians and the function of school libraries! School libraries are not simply warehouses; they are knowledge portals, manned by highly qualified educators who teach digital citizenship, inquiry, critical reading, evaluation, comprehension, analytical skills, collaboration, and creativity. We are, in fact, literacy leaders, teaching students the skills they need in a world where information is available across all kinds of platforms. In the "Internet age" that Mr. Bernstein speaks of, it is more important than ever to teach students how to seek and search for information. They might be very savvy with technology, but they don't necessarily know how to evaluate. The explosion of online resources demands that there is a teacher with expertise in technology and information-gathering (librarians) to guide students through the maze. We know how to let content spill outside of our libraries, into classrooms, and into students' lives wherever they may be. Our teaching focus is on enhancing literacy and encouraging critical thinking, problem-solving, and reasoned decision-making - essential 21st century skills that students need now more than ever!

Buffy J. Hamilton, high school librarian, writes in her blog, The Unquiet Librarian, "...President Obama In October of 2009, issued an official proclamation celebrating and affirming the importance of information literacy with the declaration of National Information Literacy Awareness Month. In this proclamation, he stated,

Our Nation’s educators and institutions of learning must be aware of — and adjust to — these new realities. In addition to the basic skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic, it is equally important that our students are given the tools required to take advantage of the information available to them. The ability to seek, find, and decipher information can be applied to countless life decisions, whether financial, medical, educational, or technical.

How do you think students can become informationally fluent in the absence of rich, current, and diverse collections in their school libraries or appropriate access to digital content? How can we as a nation provide students the instruction needed to help students cultivate “the ability to seek, find, and decipher information” without fully funded libraries staffed by highly qualified, certified school librarians?"

Obviously, Mr. Bernstein does not support his school librarians and the integral role they play in educating students about information and digital literacies. Perhaps if he educates himself about the role we play as educators, he would change his opinion.