Ensuring Diverse Points of View
The Situation Susan Clark started the school year with great excitement. This was exactly the type of job that she had been striving for. As a classroom teacher she had discovered the value of using a wide variety of materials to enrich her curriculum. She used media so effectively that, after a couple of years of teaching, she found that other teachers came to her for advice and assistance in incorporating additional resources into their instruction. She enjoyed this role so much that she decided to take night and summer classes in order to earn a library media certificate. Then, hopefully, she could get a full-time position doing the very things that she enjoyed so much and seemed to do so well.
It wasn't easy but, finally, she completed her certificate program. Soon thereafter a library media position was advertised in a nearby rural school district. The position was created by the retirement of Charles Sampsell who had taught in the school district for 42 years and who had been in charge of the library and media service most of that time. Ms. Clark got the job and here she was surveying a collection of books, media, and computer software.
She was just beginning to decide where to begin when Mr. Caldwell, the school principal, walked in. Beaming from ear to ear, he handed her a page from the minutes of the latest school board meeting and pointed out a reference to a modest sum of money. "That," he said, "is for you." "The school board had set it aside for teaching materials. I suspect that Charley was so busy planning for his retirement that he didn't get around to spending it."
Surprised and excited, Susan inquired, "Is there anything in particular that you would like me to purchase?" "No, that's pretty much up to you," replied Mr. Caldwell. "In the past, we depended on Charley Sampsell to decide. He would pick out things that looked good to him. I'm sure that you will have no trouble spending the money."
As Mr. Caldwell walked out the door, Susan felt her excitement turn to thoughtfulness.
The AECT Code of Professional Ethics—Section 1, Principle 2 In fulfilling obligations to the individual, the members shall protect the individual rights of access to materials of varying points of view.
Susan Clark found herself in a situation that, on the surface, did not appear to be a significant violation of individual rights. After all, students were not being denied access to the materials, no media were being arbitrarily removed from the collection, and no books were being burned. There were no dramatic confrontations occurring between the school and the community over the instructional materials being used. The problem that Susan faced was much more subtle than that. Without a systematic process for identifying the instructional needs of the school and a policy that would ensure that those needs are met with materials that presented a balanced perspective, the biases of one person making the selection over a long period of time could significantly impact the ideas and points of view that were available to the students. Therefore, one of Susan's first jobs would be to work with the faculty, administration, and school board to prepare a policy with procedures to guarantee that a representative and balanced collection of instructional materials will be developed and maintained.
Paul W. Welliver