Open letter from Patricia Polacco RE: International Reading Association Conference
This open letter has been circulating elsewhere, but deserves the widest circulation possible, in my opinion….
“I’m sharing this open letter from Patricia Polacco because it raises chilling questions about intellectual freedom. Many of you heard Polocco speak at the ALSC preconference last year and will recall that she was very critical of NCLB.”
Kathleen T. Horning
ALSC Vice President / President Elect
To All Educators, Librarians, and Media Specialists
Regarding the cancellation of my appearance at the IRA in Chicago for May 2 and 3, 2006
A few months ago I was approached by The Buchanan Associates in Dublin, OH to appear at the International Reading Association Conference in Chicago on May 2 and 3, 2006. I was to be part of 5 events. Speeches, ‘meet and greet’ and book signings.
I was happy to accept the invitation which, I assumed, was coming from the I.R.A. and my publisher. It is always such an honor for me to speak and interact with teachers and librarians from around the country.
But, then, a very disturbing turn of events transpired. My staff started receiving phone calls and emails from this firm in Ohio requesting that I furnish them with a detailed written outline of what I intended to include in my speeches. I assumed, of course, that this was asked so that a synopsis of my content could be included in a printed brochure furnished to the conferees.
You can imagine my astonishment when I finally called this firm and learned that this was not the reason. They requested my written outline because their ‘client’ wanted to make sure that I would not discuss my deep concern about NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND MANDATE…as well as my concern that there is a link between this mandate and the SRA/McGraw Hill Company who manufactures, prints, and profits from the sale of these tests to school systems all over our country.
It was then that I closely reviewed all of the emails (I had not up until this time because I had been doing school visits and was not home until now) I then realized that the “client” that this firm referred to, but never names, was indeed, SRA/McGraw Hill! I also learned from the Officials of the IRA that SRA/McGraw Hill was indeed sponsoring the event that I had been invited to. I was shocked!
This “firm” insisted that my speech be “upbeat, non-controversial, and non-political”…I countered with the fact that the plight of the American teacher is far from “upbeat” and they are caught in the vice grip of the most controversial and political LIE that has ever been perpetrated on the American teacher.
I was also quite mystified as to why SRA/McGraw Hill would even select ME and invite me to be a part of their program knowing how strongly I feel about this entire situation.
My speeches certainly do inspire teachers…I truly believe they are among the last hero’s we have in our country…but I always mention the destructive path that is laying wasted to our schools and that is the No Child Left Behind Mandate!
I did mention to them that I considered this broaching “censorship” and a violation of my freedom of speech.
Finally, after receiving numerous emails from this ‘firm’ that got more and more ‘insistences’…I finally sent them a written refusal to alter my speeches in any way, Certainly I can moderate their length, but I refused to alter the content. I made them aware if they truly had a problem with this, then they could “un-invite” me to be part of their event.
Needless to sat, SRA/McGraw Hill cancelled my programs within the hour!
My main concern here, is that I very much fear the conferees will be led to believe that it is I who cancelled this event. The cancellation was the choice of SRA/McGraw Hill and was generated by a blatant attempt to CENSOR my remarks and the content of what I say to teachers, which is a clear infringement of my constitutional right to freedom of speech. I pride myself on being an advocate for America’s teachers as well as being one of the most reliable speakers at conferences in our country.
My lawyers and I have set a formal request to SRA/McGraw Hill through their representative, The Buchanan Associates in Dublin, Ohio, to post the following signs outside of each venue at the conference where I am scheduled to speak.
“DUE TO PHILOSOPHICAL DIFFERENCES BETWEEN SRA/McGRAW HILL AND PATRICIA POLACCO, SRA/McGRAW HILL HAS CHOSEN TO CANCEL ALL OF PATRICIA POLACCO’S APPEARANCES AT THIS EVENT”
Call anyone you know that was either going to attend my events, or that did and were disappointed and tell them why this happened.
I am very disturbed by this on may levels. It seems that we Americans are losing, by leaps and bounds, our constitution “guaranteed” rights.
I am insulted and very offended not only on my own behalf, but also because of these various organizations that seek to profi from the misery for our teachers and school children. Profits and money seem to matter much more that truly making changes to our educational systems that would truly help our children. I have to admit that I have a certain amount of pride in taking this stand on your behalf.