...why did we have to go through this again this year?
Last year, library supporters in Florida were put through the same torment when the legislature in Tallahassee threatened to cancel the $21.2 million state funding for public libraries. It took two months and over 60,000 messages from constituents to persuade the legislators to restore those funds—at midnight on April 26, 2010.
And state funding was threatened in 2009 as well.
Why do Floridians allow their legislators to even consider library funding cuts?
For that matter, why in the world do we allow them to consider education cuts of any sort?
Gov. Rick Scott wants to cut Florida education funding by 15%, $3.3 billion.
In my darkest moments, I've begun to suspect an incidious, subliminal motive on the part of voters here and throughout the nation.
After all, how many Americans actually enjoyed going to school? Show of hands? How many really loved going to the library to do...homework? Just us weirdos, nerds and teacher's pets—or "elitists," as the resentful faux-populists choose to call us.
American anti-intellectualism goes all the way back to colonial times, when only the wealthy aristocrats could afford to educate their kids (their sons, that is). My nightmare is that many citizens have made the unconscious decision to blame teachers and librarians for all the country's problems—just to get back at us.
Let's hope this is just my "aging hippy paranoia" showing.
However, here's another scary story. A coffeehouse acquaintance who teaches second grade recently told me that, during a parent-teacher conference, the parent said very indignantly, "My child doesn't have TIME to do homework!"
No amount of holding teachers and schools accountable for the performance of students can ever overcome this obstacle.
Where are the parents?
In an earlier post, I gave a précis of George Stewart's dystopian novel, Earth Abides. The crux of that story was that post-apocalypse parents could not be convinced to continue teaching their children reading, writing, math or science.
Are we there yet?
Surely not, for tens of thousands have rallied each year to save public libraries.
However, we are wasting our advocacy capital when we wait for politicians to do their dirty work and then rally our allies to try to undo it.
We absolutely must get out into our communities to show them, where they live, the real value of education, of libraries, of social services—of all those publicly funded agencies which do for people what no for-profit entity can do as well: nurture and preserve their families.
We can't wait for the politicians and the new aristocracy to see it our way. We serve the public.