ACRL is always a great conference with 3 days of educational sessions focused on academic library issues and trends. We arrived in time yesterday for the opening keynote address by educator Geoffrey Canada, CEO of Harlem Children’s Zone. His speech was one of the most dynamic and thought provoking ones I heard in quite awhile. He was critical of our national social policy (which he called a national disaster) that ensures a cycle of failure that keeps children from becoming prepared to be productive citizens. One example he mentioned was the refusal to invest an extra annual $5000 at the front end of each child’s education yet a willingness to continue to build prison space at an annual cost of $45,000 per inmate for those who have failed to succeed at learning to be productive members of society. He called it a failed investment strategy. Another disturbing example he discussed was a report by retired military leaders, Ready, Willing and Unable to Serve. In the report it reports that 75% of high school graduates cannot qualify to join the military. The primary reasons are: failure to graduate from high school (25%), failure of high school graduates to pass the entrance exam (30%), felony records (10%), and physical fitness problems, including obesity (27%). The report is calling for action from policy makers to ensure the “most proven investment for kids who need help graduating from high school starts early: high-quality early education. It also helps kids stay away from crime and succeed in life.” In his opinion, there is no strategy to educate the nations children. He lambasted the US education business model where the customer can fail and it doesn’t matter and nothing has changed in 55 years to correct the situation. If you would like to hear him speak, look for this joint PBS/Ted Talk program on the high school dropout crisis that will be broadcast on April 16.
Geoffrey Canada’s keynote address at ACRL