June 7, 2007

BANNING BOOKS IS BAD, a primer for the Miami-Dade School Board.

The gang of drooling morons that comprise our school board are once again championing a cause that's a loser in every sense of the word. Most of us remember the flack they got LAST year over their attempts to ban the book "VAMOS A CUBA."

For those who are not familiar with this book, it is one of a series of books about children growing up in different culture around the world. The basic message is that even though people in other cultures have seemingly very different lifestyles, they really have the same core values. Each volume deals with single culture, and uses idealized archetypes to demonstrate how the cultures can be superficially different, but fundamentally the same. It's intended for elementary level readers.

Last year, some Cuban-American parents protested this book's presence in school libraries. Their complaint: while the books accurately described aspects of Cuban culture, it failed to mention that Cuba's government is an oppressive dictatorship that strips its citizens of many basic human rights.

And that is true; it doesn't mention such details. Just as the book on the Swahili children didn't mention that for years their tribe and others were hunted down and enslaved, and in many places only recently gained basic human rights, and just as the book on American kids didn't mention that our culture basically wiped out the one that USED to live on our lands. These books aren't intended to to explain those aspects of geography.

This misguided board apparently believes that Truth can only be arrive at if it is fully spelled out in every document we have access to. The board's demand is tantamount to banning The Bible because it doesn't mention that the universe is millions of years old and that all life on the planet evolved from earlier forms.

No, VAMOS A CUBA doens't mention dictatorships, or human rights, quantum physics, torte law, and thousands of other worthy topics. It's aimed at eight year olds.

There are arguments back and forth over whether or not the School Board has the legal authority to trample the First Ammendment. Excuses are being tossed about, arguing about curricula, decency, political indoctrination blah blah blah.

The point being missed by the School Board, and according to reports, the court reviewing the case is that WE ARE TALKING ABOUT BANNING BOOKS.

Book banning is simply WRONG. I don't care if this is a case where it can be twisted into being legal: IT IS WRONG TO BAN BOOKS.

Here, I'll use a sentence that even the morons on the School Board can understand:

In a free society, we must be able to express differing viewpoints. Some viewpoints will contradict each other. Some will be based on false information or faulty reasoning. Some will be based on fact and solid logic. But there is only one way we can sort it out, and that's by allowing the viewpoints to be expressed, and to be scrutinized and judged on their merits.

VAMOS A CUBA is certainly viewing Cuba through rose-colored-glasses, idealizing the positives and ignoring the negatives. So did my High School US History book. So does most literature we give our students.

That History Book was never banned. It never mentioned that our European ancestors broke faith with the Native Americans, over and over again. It never mentioned that 98% of the Native American population was wiped out by diseases the Europeans brought with them, and that THAT is the reason the land looked empty and unused to the first European settlers. It told us that General Custer was ruthlessly massacred at Little Big Horn: it didn't mention that he and his troops had massacred an undefended village of women and children.

But if that is the history book used in my school, how can I know about its inaccuracies? Because I read OTHER books. Books written specifically to correct what our schools had been teaching. In many cases, those NEW books are now being used instead of the old ones. But the old ones remain; so we can see the truth of the claims made about their mis-statements and fallacies.

VAMOS A CUBA doesn't mention the dictatorship or the harsh conditions: but it presents us with the opportunity to discuss those things. And THAT is why this book should remain on the shelves of our school libraries, along with books that tell about how Castro took over Cuba, and about what that has meant for the Cubans that stayed AND the Cubans that left.

You don't defend the truth by hiding lies and inaccuracies: you have to hold those lies and inaccuracies up to the light, so we can see them for what they are. Leave VAMOS A CUBA on the bookshelves, and the First Amendment intact.