This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, July 17, 1991

July 17, 1991 - Goals Four, Five and Six

This week I'll try to wrap up some of my comments about the Six National Goals for education -- now trickled down to us in the form of Governor Romer's "Colorado 2000."

Goal Number Four is as follows: "By the year 2000, U.S. students will be first in the world in science and mathematics achievement."

Technology is certainly a profound cause of change in our world, not least among libraries themselves. Just 20 years ago, the computer card catalog was little more than a barely articulated dream.

Today, people with personal computers -- also relatively rare two decades ago -- can roam through millions of book titles, read magazine articles, request full text by FAX, and much, much more, without ever leaving their homes.

Or, if they do choose to come down to the library, they'll find that new information retrieval technologies can turn what used to be the work of days into the work of just a few minutes.

Computers have not only become a major field of research and employment, they have put vast universes of data at our fingertips -- a revolution as profound and far-reaching as the one kicked off by the Gutenberg Bible.

Goal Five builds on this technological revolution: "By the year 2000, every adult American will be literate and will possess the knowledge and skills necessary to compete in a global economy and exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship."

Literacy is an issue of great significance to me on several levels. Let's face it: my livelihood depends on it. If people can't read, they don't need libraries.

On another level, I learned when I served as a volunteer tutor and taught a man in his fifties to read, and have learned again as I help my 3 year old make sense of all those letters and sounds, the part of literacy that is just "learning how to read" is a key of incomparable power. Without this most basic level of literacy, the human mind is forever imprisoned by ignorance and hearsay.

At a recent American Library Association conference, keynote speaker Jesse Jackson reminded some 8,000 librarians that back in the times of slavery, a man could beat, rape, or kill a slave without fear of reprisal. But it was a crime, sometimes a capital crime, to teach a slave to read.

Ignorance is the essential weapon in the armament of oppression. In this, a nation founded on the principle of individual liberty, universal literacy must be a topmost concern -- as must the public library, which houses the information active citizens will seek.

In keeping with my three-week-long tradition of boldly challenging even the obvious good, however, I want to sound a note of caution.

At least part of the thrust of "America 2000" and "Colorado 2000" is that the business community needs to be more involved in public education.

There is more to literacy than simply preparing yourself for an entry level management position. Literacy is a tool in the critical examination of the world around you -- in the unending quest of every living mind to understand its environment and create or discover meaning.

Likewise, the purpose of public schools must be broader than mere vocational preparation or consumer grooming. And I for one wouldn't mind seeing U.S. students be first in the world in poetry, or music, or art.

Finally, Goal Six states that "By the year 2000, every school in America will be free of drugs and violence and will offer a disciplined environment conducive to learning."

This pressing problem in our schools has causes far more complex than can easily be dealt with here. But I will say this: some part of the answer to the drug crisis is plentiful and accessible information about the effects of drugs. Clearly, the public library is and ought to be involved in the gathering and dissemination of this knowledge.

Overall then, I've found that "Colorado 2000" has provoked me into some stimulating reading and thinking.

I'd advise anybody who's stuck through all these columns -- and still has questions and comments -- to do two things.

First, get involved in your local school system. If you don't like what you see, say so! Often, and loudly.

If you do like what's going on, let everybody know that too. We heap a lot of abuse on our teachers; in my experience, most of them deserve a lot of praise.

Second, don't forget your school and public library! I've been devouring books and magazine articles about education for weeks and have barely scratched the surface.

Ultimately, the best celebration of literacy is its use.

As I quoted in my very first column for the News-Press, Mark Twain said, "There is no difference between a man who cannot read good books, and a man who will not."

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