[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Herald Weighs In On Book

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Herald Weighs In On Book

A meeting this afternoon will likely decide the fate of the controversial book Vamos a Cuba - for now. I say this because there will likely be lawsuits regardless of which side prevails.

The Miami Herald published an editorial in today's paper which strongly recommends that the book not be banned from school libraries. Some good points are made, and I feel that those who are strongly in favor of the ban ought to seriously consider the Herald's view.

I have presented the ban supporters views in previous posts, and in the interest of balance, I present the key points of the editorial.
As it deals today with a parent's request to ban a book from one elementary school, the Miami-Dade County School Board should keep things in perspective -- not always easy in an election year. The majority of parents in Miami-Dade are not concerned with fate of the book, Vamos a Cuba, in Marjory Stoneman Douglas Elementary. They want the public school system to keep on improving the quality of their children's education, period.

The changes are the result of the joint focus of the School Board and Superintendent Rudy Crew on improving all of the county's schools through various means -- innovative teaching techniques, an emphasis on enhancing teaching skills, putting more resources in classrooms. Credit the state's tougher standards for grading schools and testing students, as well. There are more strides to make, but they are achievable if the board and administration remain focused on building education excellence.

That's why the controversy over Vamos a Cuba should not be allowed to distract the board. Everyone agrees that the book, one of a series about youths' lives in other countries, does not depict in all accuracy life in Cuba today. It is a simplified account of Cuban children's daily routines intended to help Miami-Dade students in kindergarten through second grade relate to the island's youth. That it ignores the brutal dictatorship that has ruled Cuba for more than 40 years is not in dispute.

But views among the Cuban-American community about whether it should be removed from schools are hardly one-sided. The results of two committees charged with assessing the book show this clearly. A committee of eight Cuban-American parents and administrators from Marjory Stoneman Douglas voted 7-1 to keep the book on the school's library shelves. Next, a 17-member committee of district and lay personnel voted 15-1 -- one resigned -- to keep the book. There were eight Cuban Americans on that committee, with just one voting for removal.

If the board votes to ban Vamos a Cuba, it would be censorship, a violation of district policy. The ban will no doubt beget lawsuits against the board and force Mr. Crew to engage a lawyer to deal with the awkward position that a ban would impose: juggling between upholding district policy and responding to a board decision.

Mr. Crew has offered satisfactory compromises such as requiring parental permission for a student to check out the book or attaching materials to it that inform readers it is not a complete portrayal of life in Cuba. Either of these is a sensible choice for the board. Censorship is not.


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