To counter the endless onslaught of bad news, I have made a conscious effort to seek out and notice any good news. One source is the What Could Go Right newsletter and podcast from the Progress Network, which brightens my day.
So I’ve decided to start collecting good news about issues I’ve been blogging about. Here are some encouraging stories.
Responses to Book Banning
- Library commissioners in Llano County, Texas, voted to keep its three-branch system open after officials had threatened to close the libraries after right-wing protests about their content. The commissioners had removed a number of books based on a single complaint, then dissolved the current library board and replaced it with book banning advocates including the complainant. When other residents won their lawsuit calling for the books’ return, the county considered closing the libraries pending the suit’s resolution. But, “Under intense scrutiny, the commission blinked. Its leader acknowledged feeling pressure from ‘social media’ and ‘news media’” (washingtonpost.com).
- The Brooklyn Public Library is providing free access to its entire catalog of 500,000 digital books to anyone aged 13 to 21 anywhere in the country as a response to book banning. Youth receive an electronic membership card that doesn’t require parental approval. In the last year, the library has registered more than 6,000 teens in all 50 states, and they’ve already checked out over 70,000 books. Their press officer says, “That’s a wonderful thing, because it means that we’ve provided 6,000 more teens access with books and information. But it’s also a heartbreaking thing, because it means 6,000 teens need it” (fastcompany.com).
- The Bluest Eye is back on high school shelves in Pinellas County, Florida. Florida HB 1467 lists the felony charges for school librarians could face if they allow any books that are pornographic or harmful to minors. The superintendent banned this book because one parent made an informal complaint about a rape scene in it. Last month seven district media specialists decided to make the book available in district library media centers for high school students with no parental permission required, and teachers will be able to use the book in their classrooms provided they follow district policy on controversial materials, which calls for parental consent and alternative options (tampabay.com).
A Response to Learning Loss from the Pandemic
- Atlanta, Georgia, has added thirty minutes of classroom instruction per day for three years to help students catch up. Some elementary teachers have moved up each grade with their students to give them a head start every fall (Chicago Tribune 4/23/23p. 5).
A Response to the Teacher Shortage
- The University of Wisconsin has just extended its Teacher Pledge program to help reduce the severe teacher shortage. UW pays the equivalent of in-state tuition and fees in exchange for teaching in a Wisconsin PK_12 school for three to four years after graduation. 556 students have taken the Teacher Pledge, and 226 Pledge alumni are now teaching in classrooms around the state of Wisconsin (wisc.edu).
Social Media and Education
- Two judges in Kane County, Illinois [where we live] have developed an hour-long presentation geared toward middle school students that explores the harmful and potentially criminal effects of cyber bullying and sexting. They’ve presented the program in Kane County and in Chicago and hope to expand it (Kane County Connects 8/23/22).
- Huntley, a northwestern small town in Illinois, has launched a new platform for students and parents “to report instances of bullying, mental health concerns and unsafe situations in schools.” Those who reach out will be connected to staff in real-time, allowing two-way communication and providing students with easy access to staff for help (huntley158.org).
- Two students in northern Illinois suburbs have joined forces to get bills passed to expand history course to include Asian Americans and indigenous Americans. They have been working with state legislators, and Illinois passed the Teaching Equitable Asian American History Act in July 2021, the first state in the nation to require public schools to teach Asian American History. Now they are working with students in Washington, New York and New Jersey — trying to get similar bills passed in those states and on the federal level (dailyherald.com).
- Chicago Public Schools students who are members of the Chicago Chess Foundation travel to Ghana to hold competitions for Ghanian students and build cross-cultural understanding. They’re already planning a return next year and hope to bring Ghanian students to the United States (Chicago Tribune 4/30/23 p. 4).
We need to find these nuggets and celebrate them – not all the news is bad these days. This is my gift to you!