"A child's learning is the funtion more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Friday, June 16, 2006

Book Banning to Protect One World View

2006, United States of America. New York Times:

MIAMI, June 15 — A children's book about Cuba will be removed from Miami-Dade County school libraries because a parent objected to its contents, saying it contains deceptive information and paints an idealistic picture of life in Cuba.

The Miami-Dade School Board voted 6 to 3 on Wednesday to ban the book, "Vamos a Cuba," and its English version, "A Visit to Cuba," from its libraries, against the recommendation of two review committees and the school system's superintendent.

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  1. THE MIAMI HERALD
    July 8, 2006

    TAXES FOR VAMOS A CUBA: "SINFUL AND TYRANNICAL"
    By Frank Bolanos

    Mr. Frank Bolanos is a member of the Miami-Dade School Board



    If the Newark, New Jersey school board decided to issue "Little Black Sambo" as a third grade reader, how would that largely African-American community react?

    Famed progressive educator Carl L. Marburger posed this question in 1974, when he said controversial schoolbooks in rural West Virginia showed the public school system's "astonishing insensitivity to local cultural values."

    Those aggrieved local folks endured the insults, catcalls and jeers of the liberal elite until Marburger, a self-described liberal's liberal, spoke up and gave them pause. Today, the Miami-Dade school board and I are being accused of censorship for our efforts to remove from school libraries "Vamos a Cuba," a children's book that paints a false and distorted portrait of life in communist Cuba.

    If the teachers' unions, Herald columnists, the ACLU and Fidel Castro himself are to be believed, the Miami-Dade school board is pillaging school libraries, burning books, oppressing the intellectual freedom of helpless children, and stomping on the First Amendment.

    None of this is true; this is not a First Amendment issue. Censorship occurs when government refuses to allow people to purchase material, not when it refuses to provide that material at no charge.

    Just as the First Amendment grants basic freedoms to those espousing even the most repugnant of views, I support Alta Schreier's right to author and publish "Vamos a Cuba." I defend the right of any Miami bookstore to sell it and I defend the right of any American to read it. Indeed, let the author promote and sell her book and compete in the marketplace of ideas.

    But taxpayers must not be forced to subsidize falsehoods, propaganda or insulting imagery. As Thomas Jefferson, wrote, "to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical."

    Simply put, Jefferson, a framer of the Constitution our critics cite, would see no reason for our schools to spend sparse taxpayer money to promote the circulation of misinformation and lies many in our community equate to oppression and the loss of liberty and life.

    If our public schools provided "Little Black Sambo" to African-America children, I would stand with their parents as this would be offensive, racist and an inappropriate use of tax dollars. If our public schools put the grotesquely anti-Semitic children's book "The Poisonous Mushroom" into libraries, I would stand with Jewish parents to oppose this abhorrent act and misappropriation of public funds. The struggle against Cuban communism is no less important.

    In 1995, the Miami Herald was forced to trash an entire section after an offensive cartoon of Martin Luther King, Jr. was mistakenly printed inside. Over the nationally syndicated cartoonist's objections, editors made the bold decision to pull a half million copies of the magazine.

    They did it by hand; it took two full days. It was hard and expensive work to correct a mistake that took only moments to make. Similarly, a foolish decision by an entrenched bureaucracy had to be corrected and has cost our school district valuable time, money and focus.

    After the mess, the Herald's executive editor at the time wrote that the newspaper's First Amendment obligation is "to present the broadest range of perspectives and opinions in its news and opinion pages. But a newspaper also has an obligation to protect its readers from the outrageously offensive or the egregiously insensitive."

    If such an obligation exists at a privately funded newspaper, certainly Miami's public officials have a responsibility to assure taxpayers aren't forced to subsidize racism, anti-Semitism or communism with public dollars.

    Likewise, taxpayers shouldn't have to foot the bill for entrenched and misguided bureaucrats who want to whitewash the horrors of life under Fidel Castro and his brutal regime.


    END

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