June 18, 2006

Miami school board bans a book on Cuba

It's now well-known that the Miami-Dade school board banned a series of elementary books because one, "Vamos a Cuba," presented an uncritical portrait of contemporary Cuba under Castro. This was after a complaint from one parent and two levels of review just on Vamos a Cuba (not the series) before the board discussion this week.

The facts are fairly clear:

  • The book presented an uncritical portrait of life in Cuba.

  • The book was in school libraries, not in the curriculum's required reading.

  • The school board members had evidently not seen the whole series.

  • The Florida ACLU is preparing a legal challenge, one they have a good shot at winning.

Beyond that, there's a whole load of perceptions. There's a clear difference between selecting material for the curriculum and material for a school library, and on principle I think that Vamos a Cuba should not be yanked from any library. It will join plenty of other mediocre books on the shelves, and part of our job as educators is to help children be critical of what they read.

To put this in perspective, Miami is certainly not alone in the U.S. as a place where lots of people feel comfortable censoring books from school libraries. The fact that this is shaped by Miami Cuban-American politics doesn't really change that fact. There are Cuban Americans on both sides of the censorship issue (though probably not many thinking the book is well-written), and I hope comments will acknowledge that. See Miami Herald reporter Matt Pinzur's blog for a set of links and reactions.

(Cross-posted at DailyKos.)

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Posted in Education policy on June 18, 2006 7:03 AM |