Wednesday, June 21, 2006

School Should Be Allowed To Get Rid Of Whatever Books It Wants

Miami-Dade schools have decided to remove from their libraries books that portray an overly-optimistic view of life in communist Cuba. Of course, the ACLU can't let this stand:

The lawsuit alleges the books' removal violates students' rights to a free press and that the volumes were removed without due process.

I've never heard a more stupid argument in my life, except perhaps the one put forth by opponents of the Solomon Amendment. Even I, a layman, know that free press isn't an issue here; this isn't a student publication being banned. And due process? People have due process rights, not books. When people try to claim that the ACLU merely supports the First Amendment and not a primarily-leftist ideology, point them to this case.

Oh, and point them to all those Second Amendment cases the ACLU has (not) supported.

But back to the case at hand.

Last week, the board voted 6-3 to remove "Vamos a Cuba" and its English-language version, "A Visit to Cuba" from 33 schools, stating the books were inappropriate for young readers because of inaccuracies and omissions about life in the communist nation...

The controversy began in April when a parent who said he had been a political prisoner in Cuba complained about the books' depiction of life under communist rule.

Here's what the ACLU has to say:

"The Miami-Dade School Board's decision to defy U.S. law prohibiting censorship and ignore the recommendation of their own superintendent and two committees is a slap in the face to our tradition of free speech and the school board's own standards of due process," said JoNel Newman, an attorney working with the ACLU.

Huh? They can't truly mean that, can they? Does anyone truly believe that?

Here's how I see it. The school board is elected by the community to oversee the school district. The board sets policy, and the superintendent and every other employee of the district implement that policy (as long as it's legal, of course). Elected as they are by the community, the school board applies the standards of the community to the schools. In this case, the board determined that the book wasn't accurate and wasn't appropriate for the community. For those who value local control of education, in this case it worked exactly as it was supposed to.

The ACLU is showing its true leftist colors here. They're trying to hide behind the red, white, and blue, but all I see is their communist red.

Now some will want to accuse me of supporting book-banning, lumping me right up there with Hitler himself. Not to be overly droll here, but lighten up, Francis. I'm not saying that any time a community wants to ban a book in schools (as was done with some Harry Potter books, for example) that it's a smart thing to do. I'm merely saying that it's a legal thing to do, and the ACLU should butt out.


Anonymous said...

I'm merely saying that it's a legal thing to do, and the ACLU should butt out.

That depends on the laws in that jurisdiction, and on the school board's own required procedures. It may indeed have worked as it was supposed to do, but the board may have done it by illegal means. We'll see.

Darren said...

While you're correct, the ACLU gave no indication that that was the case. Read their rationale for this law suit: a "slap in the face to our tradition of free speech" and "the school board's own standards of due process". Since books don't have due process rights, I'm not seeing where the ACLU is stating that anything illegal was done--just something they don't like.

Michael Caputo said...

July 8, 2006

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.


Darren said...

Thank you for posting that.