Early childhood and librariesWell, I may have been a little late finding this story, but here’s an important anniversary, particularly for those of us who were working with kids and reading in the 80s. I’m willing to bet that a good number of those who remember the Reagan Administration remember A Nation at Risk, a document that – gasp – asserted that our educational system was getting worse, not better. This document was pretty shocking news back then. Here’s a quote from the USA Today news story that noted the document’s 25th anniversary:

On April 26, 1983, in a White House ceremony, Ronald Reagan took possession of “A Nation at Risk.” The product of nearly two years’ work by a blue-ribbon commission, it found poor academic performance at nearly every level and warned that the education system was “being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity.”

If you’ve been around as long as I have, you probably recall how there were stories on the nightly news, in the papers, and in every magazine with reporters clucking and shaking their heads over the threat of so many of America’s children growing up so marginally literate.

It also fed the appetites of all the right-wing politicians and writers who have always hated paying taxes for public education and who used the report to demonstrate that our public schools, with their liberal, unionized teachers, were doing a lousy job of teaching America’s kids to read.

It was the first plank in the platform that eventually presented President Bush’s No Child Left Behind law, which to this day has been a thorn in the side of US education, and has justified many layoffs of plenty of school librarians.

Don’t get me wrong; I do feel that we could be doing a better job of teaching kids to read. But it seems to me that the No Child Left Behind way of doing things hasn’t been the right way, either.