Celebrity or Author?

It seems as though one of the hottest new trends in Hollywood at the present moment is celebrities writing children’s books. You haven’t “arrived” until you have written a book. A few stars who have published books include Jason Alexander, Billy Crystal, Michael Jordan, LeAnn Rhimes, Jamie Lee Curtis, Katie Couric, Jerry Seinfeld, Julie Andrews, John Lithgow, Lynne Cheney, Ed Koch (former mayor of New York), Madonna, and Will Smith.

This new fashion statement offends me for a few reasons. First and foremost, for “common people” (i.e. the rest of the world), there is a certain standard of quality that a work of literature must meet before a publisher will even consider it. Sadly, celebrities are not held to the same standards. There are few precious books whose authors appeared to have taken the writing role seriously, but for the most part, celebrity books are uninteresting and poorly crafted. Curiously, the content of the book isn’t even what is publicized, but rather the name of the author.

Still, celebrity works are hot sellers, not because they are well written, but because (and this is the second characteristic of this trend that is bothersome to me) of the name on the cover. Parents who have an attachment to the celebrity purchase the book, but for their children who have no connection whatsoever to these people, the book is not worth the paper on which it is printed. This sends a message to children and adults alike that anyone who is famous can also write books. The opposite is true. Authors are gifted the same way actors or actors are gifted.

The bottom line is: Celebrities, don’t quit your day job.


Teachers and Technology

In the education profession, I believe that one of our primary responsibilities is to produce people who can make valuable contributions to society. To do this, we have to quip them with skills and knowledge they can use. Reading, writing, history, science, and mathematics are necessary subjects, but there are other important areas that tend to be overlooked.

Technology is one of these areas. In a world driven by technological advances (did you know that- in our society- technology DOUBLES every 17 months?) it would seem as though it would be priority to teach our kids how to use them. There are many standards set that dictate the importance of technology-based instruction, but the problem lies with implementation.

In every school in every state, there are too many teachers who have the attitude that they will never learn how to use these new-fangled tech toys like laptop computers, digital cameras, and PDA’s (palm pilots, etc.), and therefore refuse. Others who are “unable” to install a new printer to their computer or run a simple scan for viruses, so they wait for weeks until someone else will do it for them. Their students also adopt this helpless attitude. Some complain that technology is for younger people, but personally speaking, some of the most technologically-literate individuals I know are middle aged. They had the same opportunities to learn as others, and chose to take advantage of those opportunities. When teachers learn to accept and value the technology that is available to them, and use it, their students will follow suit. In the words of one football player to another in the Disney movie Remember the Titans, “Attitude reflects leadership.”

The bottom line is that, despite the wishes of those who lag behind in technology developments, it isn’t going anywhere. More and more aspects of our daily lives are relying on computer technology, and the failure of these educators to pass along the importance of embracing these advances puts their students at a distinct disadvantage.


The Offensive Third

While in graduate school, I once saw a movie (based on a book, of course!) called The Name of the Rose starring Christian Slater and Sean Connery. Set in Europe in the 14th century, it is the story of two Benedictine monks during the Inquisition who are sent to a monastery to investigate a series of deaths. They discover that the murders are a result of the protection of the monastery’s famous library, which contained a wealth of information on a plethora of subjects.

The collection was guarded at all costs, and the freedom to view the books was limited only to the highest-ranking monk. By controlling access to information, he wielded great power and control.

Cut to present day…

With regard to collection development in libraries, the rule of thumb is that at least a third of your collection should offend you. It is said that if you don’t have a problem with at least 30% of the materials in the library you are managing, you aren’t doing your job. For example, librarians who are card-carrying members of the ACLU should include books about Focus on the Family, an organization notorious for supporting the pro-life movement.

In theory, this seems unquestionable; however, putting theory to practice can be quite difficult when the librarian whose spouse committed suicide struggles with ordering Fixin' To Die: A Compassionate Guide to Committing Suicide or Staying Alive by David Lester. (See review at www.amazon.com.)

Librarians do possess a certain level of power and control because we are gatekeepers of the information to which people have access. When we refrain from selecting certain materials (i.e., those that could be used by readers to harm themselves or others), are we abusing our positions, or are we being responsible citizens?

Another question: should you be the parents of young children in whom you are seeking to instill certain faith-based ideals, would you object to your child having access to books about the practice of witchcraft? (Harry Potter fans, lay off…I’m one of you! Not talking about works of fiction here.)


Why Jessie’s Girl? (original name of my blog...many moons ago!)

Apart from mi esposo, the person who has had the most significant impact on my life is my grandmother. She has lived a life of amazing grace and inspiring morality, even as her mind was taken hostage by a disease worse than death itself. As irony would have it, the most cherished gift she has given me is the very same as that which has been taken from her…memories. My recollections of her are filled with, and largely centered upon books. Our special story times created a reader at age three, and took us all over the world together in the adventures of Hoppy, the curious kangaroo and the girls in the Primrose Day crowd. In short, she impressed a respect for the value of the printed word. Any blogs posted on this site will center upon book and education-related themes. I would think that, should she be able, Jessie would have posted messages much like these herself. I would like to think that she would be proud.