The new high school had an “open house” for the public a few months back, and my wife and I decided it would be interesting to go see how it looks. How is it different from schools of ancient times, that is to say, when we were teens? I was also curious from a writer’s standpoint. I was, at the time, rewriting the chapter where my biology teacher protagonist is wrapping up her school year and cleaning up her science lab; hence, I definitely wanted to check out the science lab. We found it quite easily.
Sadako’s first comment was: “It looks like the science lab I went to.” I could only agree. It looked exactly like every high school science lab I had ever seen. There were maybe six or seven stations with black tops. (We had those in 1966.) Each station included a sink, water spout and a gas line. There was a line of storage cabinets along the wall. Cabinets no one could reach.
We moved on. The gymnasium was nice—but again, no surprises. Classrooms were…classrooms. The seating for students was interesting. The two-seater desks seem to suggest collaborative effort, which is a good thing. I thought the plant and the lamp on the teacher’s desk gave the room a nice homey touch. What I felt was a bit odd was that in every classroom, as seen in the Math classroom below, hung a rather large American flag. Is the jingoism necessary? Do our millennial students need to be told every second of the day that this is America? It just seems a bit much.
After peering into several classrooms, (They were all the same.) we decided to visit the school library. It was not easy to find. We had to ask several students who were stationed at strategic points. “Where’s the library?”
“Oh, you mean the Media Center.”
“Ah.” We were pointed in a general direction. And after a few wrong turns…we found it.
Dear friends, dear blogger friends, let us join hands and bow our heads and grieve together. How sad it was. How disappointing. How utterly pathetic. Words fail me….
As you can see, books are NOT the emphasis here. In fact just to look at the titles you have practically crawl on your hands and knees. The tables that seat five students have computer hook ups. I’m not sure if that means that students bring their own laptops or if the school provides such, I don’t know.
The wall of windows is interesting. I think its purpose is for students to hand signal each other—that it’s time to go!
I took a “closer look” at the books themselves. A general subject section revealed a very cozy set of books. For instance, one can see the engaging title: Thanksgiving by Appelbaum. Now whether or not a millennial student is hot to check that one out, I can’t say, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
But let’s move on to the literary section.
This was a hoot. I was happy to see Joseph Conrad’s collection of stories, but why is it sitting next to Toni Morrison’s two novels: Song of Solomon and The Bluest Eye? And why are Toni Morrison’s works next to Heller’s Catch 22? And then, I Heard the Owl Call My Name, which was published in 1980. Authored by Margaret Craven, it’s a novel that chronicles life of Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest. Okay. The fact is the books are a hodgepodge, hit or miss collection, all out of order, as if they were simply shoved onto the shelf straight out of the moving boxes, revealing the obvious fact: nobody gives a damn.
Sadako called my attention to a Japanese novel. I rushed over to see if they had my favorite author, Yasunari Kawabata. No, they didn’t. They had a manga.
High School Debut. As you see it addresses the question: Who doesn’t need a love “coach” in high school? It looked as if it had been checked out quite often!
The sad fact is, in this particular high school, grades ten through twelve, the library, whoops, Media Center, is not a place that even remotely encourages the reading of books. If I were a student would I choose to read High School Debut over, say, Toni Morrison or Joseph Conrad? Of course I would. That’s my point. I had teachers who could and did direct my reading because I didn’t know what was out there. I don’t have a problem with a student reading High School Debut but I also want them to read Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye or The Yearling by Marjorie Rawlings or Native Son by Richard Wright. Is it too much to ask?
What are your thoughts on the purpose or need for a school library? Should it be there or abolished altogether?