Common Core … what could be detrimental about reading class and contemporary literature? Efforts are well under way to undermine the effort to improve education, teach the ability to learn and apply critical thinking skills, and have exposure to worlds beyond your own.

Common Core picketers

Extremists are derailing the conversation about how Common Core and literature can be used to improve education

The Southern Poverty Law Center, known for their dedication to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society, addressed the challenges to Common Core in the summer issue of SPLC Report in a feature “Extremist Propaganda Distorts Education Debate.”

While booksellers and libraries are used to some parents challenging some books in schools and the effort in some states to dictate how particular topics like evolution are treated in textbooks, this latest challenge … on a national scale … is based on misinformation from major media sources.

Ignorance is still widespread, major media fail to uphold higher standards of journalism, and as a result, we see the growing inability to come together. Close the world by limiting exposure to different ideas and cultures and as a result, misinformation and fear imposed by others hold tremendous power.

Bookstores and libraries, by their very presence, stand for education, reason, and connection. The work is ongoing. The American Booksellers Foundation for Freedom of Expression is our equivalent of the SPLC, also busier than ever.

 

Ever since I heard Eli Pariser talking about his new book, The Filter Bubble (Penguin, May), I have been spooked about the implications of the way we consume information through the Internet.

The Filter Bubble by Eli Pariser

The Filter Bubble by Eli Pariser

In his book, Pariser discusses the rise of “personalized” search results on the web – when two people conduct the exact same Google search but find radically different results. Pariser, founder of MoveOn.org, and a conservative friend were both interested in the unrest in Egypt earlier this year. They both search Google for “Egypt”, yet his friend sees nothing about riots or an uprising on the first page of search results. The algorithms used by Google and other search engines intuit your interests and provide results consistent with data gathered from your past searches.

The implication? In a world where people are already polarized by wealth and beliefs, the Internet actually furthers the divide. Some would say that this algorithm-driven process is essential, since it narrows an overwhelming amount of information into more manageable chunks. What if the most important information is not what we already know, but what we need to discover and learn?

This is why we remain so committed to a world with independent bookstores and public libraries. By simply going in and wandering around, you expand your world of ideas. Not every book is on the shelves, but the selections are shaped by current events, the time-tested works of history, and new books by promising writers.

Book industry research has indicated that over 40% of people who shop in bookstores discover something they did not specifically come in to buy. Little have we realized how utterly important these venues have been to broadening our horizons instead of narrowing our views.