I work at Paxon High School, a dedicated magnet school for accelerated academics. Students are in one of two programs: International Baccalaureate (IB), in which they take the prescribed curriculum and undergo IB tests in order to earn an IB diploma recognized around the world as prestigious and as an entry ticket into any college/university; AP Honors, in which students take numerous AP courses and undergo AP tests to earn college credits during their high school years.
It is a high school that routinely is ranked in the Top 25 High Schools in America.
We lost our media specialist a few weeks ago, you know, the person with an encyclopedic knowledge of books, journals, and media to direct students in their research, who teaches students how to research and evaluate sources, as well as how to properly cite their sources, besides teaching kids how to use multimedia equipment. The district insisted that the position be eliminated despite alternate suggestions put forth by the school.
Another one bites the dust.
You would think that a dedicated magnet would be allowed to devise its program in order to attract students; after all, that is the point of a magnet school.
You would think that a dedicated magnet would be allowed discretion to make the decisions necessary to maintain its program.
You would think that a dedicated magnet such as Paxon would need an effective, operating media center to maintain its program.
Apparently, you would be wrong.
Another one bites the dust.
And if a school like Paxon is not allowed to maintain and operate its media center, what hope do you have for our neighborhood schools, where the need for literacy is even greater?
Oh yeah, we have Achieve3000® for that. No need for a library.
If you believe that, then you believe that the purpose of school is to prepare students to pass tests, specifically one test given once a year in April.
If you believe that, then you believe that children are not human beings with lives of their own, developing according to their age-driven agenda, and worthy of our best efforts. You believe they are test-taking widgets with a job to do and they had better get on with it — like the old Victorians, who believed and treated children as if they were tiny adults.
But know this: Google will never replace a media specialist.
If we have to have the budget people make the academic decisions, then my district needs to stop half-going about it. Close our media centers. Sell the books, remove the shelves, and, my, what a big space you have. Large enough to move in a hundred chairs and deliver instruction like the big colleges: large lecture halls where teachers’ aids (aka minimum wage paraprofessionals) or, even better, upper classmen – who don’t need to be paid but can fulfill graduation-required community service hours – supporting the teachers.
That way you could still claim to be meeting constitutionally required class size requirements.
Why stop with media specialists? Think of all the high-wage teachers you could dump.
Another one bites the dust and our students lose out, too.
Sampson is a teacher, writer, and long-time resident of Jacksonville.