Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Waves from the Windy City

From my mail, it seems that the big children's book story from Chicago last week was SRA/McGraw Hill's cancellation of an appearance by Patricia Polacco at the International Reading Association convention there. Apparently, SRA/McGraw Hill wanted Polacco's speech to refrain from comment on the No Child Left Behind Act, a law that Polacco publicly abhors and one from which McGraw Hill makes money. Although her side of the story no longer appears on Polacco's website it can be found on Susan Ohanian's site; also appearing there is an amusingly lame attempt by IRA's executive director Alan E. Farstrup to disassociate the organization from the controversy.

Farstrup is right in that the dispute is a contractual one between Polacco and McGraw Hill, and to me it seems a case of someone not reading the fine print closely enough. But really: whose side is the IRA on? Shame on Farstrup for writing, twice, that Polacco was being paid for her appearance--just how much did McGraw Hill pay for its "Platinum Level" sponsorship of the convention?


rindawriter said...

Having been a former preschool teacher at one time (this included respectfully and kindly wiping snotty noses and changing diapers of other people's children besides reading piles and piles of library books to same little ones because if I didn't, who else would in their ten and twelve-hour days at school), I'm with Patricia all the way on this one. Bravo! Say I for her courage in speaking out about a school program that CRUSHES creativity and individuality and (what is perhaps most important of all), joy, sheer joy in learning--for both teachers and children.

KT Horning said...

What I don't understand is why McGraw-Hill would invite Patricia Polocco in the first place. She's been very critical of No Child Left Behind for quite some time in her speeches. I heard her give this same speech at the ALSC preconference last summer.

McGraw-Hill is the company that pulls in the biggest profits from NCLB, since they produce and sell the standardized tests (and they also produce and sell the study materials for those who get failing grades on their tests).

They're the Halliburton of public education and NCLB has been their cash cow. Not surprisingly, ties between the Bush family and the McGraw family go back for three generations. It's no mistake that the tests started out in Texas and Florida, the two states with Bush governors.

There was an investigative report by Stephen Metcalf in The Nation a few years ago that exposed all of this. It's still available online if anyone wants to google it.

Andy Laties said...

A couple of episodes ago on Saturday Night Live there was a sketch in which Steve Martin finds to his surprise that the comedy gig he's scheduled to perform in one hour is sponsored by Hamas. After beginning to demur, he's reminded of the gigantic fee -- and he proceeds onstage without hesitation to make jokes about golfing with his Hamas buddies.

I'd say that if McGraw Hill wanted Patricia Polacco to sell out, they should have offered her a really hefty bundle at the very least.

Jane said...

I understand exactly what happened there. We writers accept speaking engagements, put same in a folder, and about two weeks before the event think, "Oh s**t, I have a speech to give," and either write one afresh, or cobble one together from older elements.

My guess is that Patricia hardly knew the connection between who asked her and what they were vending. But as was said above, THEY should have known when they asked her what to expect. Rather like Mrs. Bush should have known that asking Sam Hammil--that old outspoken anti-war leftie--wouldn't just say NO NOT COMING to the National Book Fest, but would spin that particular strawman into gold.