Dirty Towels of Doom

Back in the Dark Ages when I was in college, I worked in a campus cafeteria. One day, after a particularly low health inspection and deservedly low score, an edict came down from Management: Thou Must Clean Better Starting Now. Fair enough. The cafeteria was messy, especially the ice cream machine, which had a drip pan that could grow mold faster than a bag of week-old bread.

But on the same day, another edict came from Management: Thou Shall Use Only One Towel Per Shift. Towels were a worker’s constant companion, sort of Swiss Army Towel used to grab hot pans, dry drink spills, swipe up loose spaghetti, etc. The average worker used 8-10 towels a night. The laundry bill was huge. Management was faced with a budget crunch, and that laundry bill was an easy target, the budgetary low-hanging fruit.

The fact that there was no way that the two edicts (Thou Shall Clean and Thou Shall Use One Towel) could co-exist seemed to be lost on Management. How can you clean without towels? How can you cut laundry costs while cleaning well?

When I see the horrible news about library cuts, I’m reminded of the Great Towel Controversy. The Department of Education is spending billions—yes, billions—to raise test scores. Reading ability is the #1 predictor of academic achievement and high test scores. Yet at the same time, libraries are being closed. Book budgets are being cut. Librarians are being furloughed and laid-off. Why? Because libraries budgets are easy targets for short-sighted Bureaucrats.

Over a hundred years ago, Andrew Carnegie, the single greatest capitalist in American history, gave away millions to build public libraries all across the country because he realized that an educated nation is a prosperous nation. The heart of a democracy is its collected knowledge. Our Bureaucrats have forgotten that lesson. Rather than making the hard decisions they were elected to make, they are plucking the low-hanging fruit.

President Obama, Congress, governors, state representative, mayors, and local politicians,  as a teacher, author, parent, and yes, 34% taxpayer, I implore you to make the right call for our children. Cut other spending. Raise a few taxes. Drop one less bomb, fire one less missile, into Pakistan today.  You’re about to make a big mess cutting libraries, and there aren’t enough towels to clean up after you.

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