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LAUSD prepares to ax school librarians' jobs. What would August Wilson say?

May 13, 2011 |  3:13 pm

Charles Darwin, Franz Kafka and playwright August Wilson (pictured) are not three names typically linked together.

But this astonishing piece Friday by Los Angeles Times columnist Hector Tobar brought them to mind all at once.

Tobar gives an account of courtroom-like hearings being conducted by the Los Angeles Unified School District, in which its school librarians are being questioned by lawyers who are trying to build a Darwinian case that librarians’ careers are unfit to survive in the economic jungle that public education in Los Angeles (and other California communities) has become in the face of dire budgetary pressures. 

The scene Tobar paints is downright Kafka-esque as he recounts the effort to prove that, with teaching jobs about to be swallowed up en masse, school librarians belong at the bottom of the food chain because what they do does not meet the LAUSD’s definition of “teaching.”

August Wilson comes to mind as the monumental playwright who dropped out of his Pittsburgh high school when a teacher, apparently unable to believe that a student could write so well, accused him of plagiarizing a term paper. Wilson set about educating himself –- in libraries. 

In 1999, by which time Wilson had won Pulitzer prizes for “Fences” and “The Piano Lesson” and was most of the way through his extraordinary 10-play cycle about the 20th century African American experience, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh awarded him an unprecedented honorary high school diploma in lieu of the one he’d been cheated out of at age 15.

Culture Monster wishes that Wilson, who died six years ago, were around to read and respond to Tobar’s account.


The disgraceful interrogation of LAUSD school librarians

White House report aims to boost arts education while LAUSD's programs face ax

L.A. Unified OKs `doomsday budget'

-- Mike Boehm

Photo: August Wilson. Credit: David Cooper