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to a system for producing employees. . They align themselves with Mr. Gradgrind, the anti-storybook, proeconomics teacher in Hard Times by Charles Dickens \(a British author who No, we can’t afford to waste our time on high-minded appeals from smart people, or trying to explain who Charles Dickens was. The answer for writers can be summarized in two words: price supports. Even now, book-writing is an activity which, like peanut or tobacco farming, the market does not always sustain, and with test mania metastasizing through the school system, the situation is bound to get worse. Yes, our opponents may tell us that literature is useless, but then again, how badly does the nation really need mohair? In order to obtain the subsidies we deserve, writers should undertake a coordinated “grassroots lobbying” effort, bankrolled by the publishing industry, and bombard officeholders with thousands of identical, well-written e-mails. Eventually, all writers will need to move en masse to a key swing state such as Pennsylvania in order to have more of an influence on the political process. In the meantime, we may have to rise from our desk chairs and take direct action to preserve our audience. The next time you pass by a schoolyard late at night and see a bespectacled, unathletic individual furtively hurling copies of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer over the fence, you’ll know what’s going on. It’s just another writer acting out of self-interestbut also hoping, perhaps, that the sensible goal of requiring students to demonstrate basic skills will one day be brought back into balance with the expectation that they be truly educated. Karen Olsson will continue to cultivate imagination and empathy from her home in Austin. 6/21/02 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 31