Volume Vamoosed in Jefe Heave-Ho

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The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging Miami-Dade school district's decision to eliminate an apparently pro-Castro book for kids aged five to seven from schools. The district is also culling books on Mexico, Greece, and Vietnam:

The ACLU and the Miami-Dade County Student Government Association argued in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Miami on Wednesday that the school board should add materials with alternate viewpoints rather than remove books that could be offensive.

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 book, by Alta Schreier, targets students ages 5 to 7 and contains images of smiling children wearing uniforms of Cuba's communist youth group and a carnival celebrating the 1959 Cuban revolution. The district owns 49 copies of the book in Spanish and English.

The removal came at the request of Juan Amador Rodriguez, a resident who was imprisoned under the Castro regime.

I have no strong opinion on the matter, though I suppose the district is within its rights in getting rid of the books. Locals weigh in at the Miami Herald here.

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  1. The money quote from the opinion link:

    It never ceases to amaze me that in combatting communism many resort to communism’s tactics

  2. This will work well, I’m sure. After all, isolating, demonizing and ignoring Castro has worked so well in the past.

  3. It is things like this that make me hate the ACLU. What possible interpretation of the Constitution could there be that says a school board has to accept a textbook they feel is propaganda? Who decides if not the school board?

    What does the L in ACLU stand for anyway?

  4. Not textbooks, library books. I would guess that the school board could take the novel approach and trust the parents and families of the children to explain what they view as the truth.
    Castro is a statist douche-bag and the books are very likely crap, but it seems the decision should be made by the parents of the kids (or, aghast…by the kids themselves)

  5. Who decides if not the school board

    Uhmm…maybe the parents can decide for their children instead of a wholesale ban by the school board?

    Every text book I had throughout grammar and high scoll were riddled with innacuracies and ommissions and filled with Pro-America propaganda.

    In fact, by reading my textbooks from grammar school, I thought that America was completely uninhabited until Columbus discovered it while simultaneously proving that the world was not flat

  6. Chicago,
    You attended public school in the United States and were subjected to pro-American propaganda? What, are you still pissed off about it?

  7. It’s good to see that the Republican party is going to such lengths to court people who ban books. Hey, if their ideas can’t compete, then they lose out. Running to the government to protect their ideas from evil Castro is truly base.

  8. So if a book like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is in the school library, the school board shouldn’t have the power to remove it?

    Propanda should only be removed by lawsuit of the ACLU? Parents should have to explain to their kiddies why it is wrong even though it is in their school?

  9. This is ridiculous. Someone has to decide what books the library will have. It cannot buy and store every book ever published. The school board and librarian seem like the most logical people for this job, and that the book is propaganda would be a good criterion for excluding it.

  10. By the way, even though I went to public school, I know how to spell propaganda. I just can’t type.

  11. “The district is also culling books on…. Greece”

    The novelization of Summer Lovers is quite racy in parts.

  12. It seems like Bd. of Ed. v. Pico would be applicable here: http://www.oyez.org/oyez/resource/case/1060/

  13. Removal from classrooms I’d be down with, as the school board gets to set the criteria there. But from libraries, well, libraries should have everything from the Bible to Mein Kampf in them, frankly. Yes even in public schools, for there is a great difference between making something available and supporting what it has to say.

  14. What, are you still pissed off about it?

    Not at all…but it should be pointed out when people talk about books that contain “propaganda” should be removed — most books contain propaganda.

  15. I’m with happyjuggler0 on this. This is a typical example of how the ACLU wastes their limited resources on political issues that in no way enhance liberty or solidify ones natural rights.

  16. Timothy is right, Your “propanda” is my literature. If one truly aspires to the principles of liberty, one must accept that there will be times when intellectual consistency will have uncomfortable results.

    Don’t forget either that the school board is trashing a set of 23 books in a series based on the complaints of one parent. The school board is capitulating in the face of one complaint?

    I am going to petition for all math books be eliminated…damned calculus is the devil’s handiwork.

  17. Calculus is fun and easy, it’s goddamn real analysis and linear algebra that are evil!

  18. Yeah! whatever the hell “real analysis” and “linear algebra” are, I’m sure they are bad too.

    Also, I would agree that the ACLU likely has bigger fires to put out, given the current wrecked state of civil liberties in general these days.
    Mostly, I find it sad that the other thousands of parents and parties interested in the intellectual development of Miami’s schoolchildren don’t have the guts or the gumption to bring this suit themselves.

  19. Can’t we all agree that:
    1) the library cannot contain every book in the world?, and
    2) the school board is the best entity to decide what books it should have?
    I really don’t understand the fuss here.

  20. Geof, you propose a very rational position. I view the exception here as the fact that the books were already purchased and presumptively read by children for years. It is a symbolic gesture (a negative one in my view) for the board to decide to destroy paid-for books based on a perception of propaganda (I did catch your second post juggler…sorry for jumping on your grammar)and the implication that the bright children and parents and citizens of Miami can’t use their own filters to discern the truth or lack thereof found in the library collection.

  21. Herrick and His Balls are Greek. What could be wrong about our people?

  22. If we had a system of public financing, rather than public provision, of primary and secondary education, then there would be nothing for anyone, including TC, to “have no strong opinion on” in the first place.

  23. “Calculus is fun and easy, “

    I wish. :(:(:(:(

  24. KipEsquire, big picture-wise, you hit the proverbial nail on the head.

  25. Cecil,
    I see your point wrt the paid-for status. But getting rid of books that have substantial factual inaccuracies in them seems completely reasonable.

  26. …the school board should add materials with alternate viewpoints rather than remove books that could be offensive.

    That is the same principle that drives the ACLU to fight to keep Creationist texts in schools. What? Oh that’s right they don’t, the fight to have them removed. That’s the problem with the fricking ACLU, even when I agree with them, they’re so partisan and unprincipled.

  27. Geof, your point is similarly well-taken.
    In reference to my former post, though, this issue relates to the idiocy of isolating Castro in the first place. If Washington had let the light of the free market and open dialogue shine on the vermin years ago, maybe we could all agree on what is truth and what isn’t when it comes to Cuba.

    Although, I do know now that they use sandwich presses down there…thanks PL. 🙂

  28. alculus is fun and easy, it’s goddamn real analysis and linear algebra that are evil!

    Calculus is for statists and those who defer to authority. A true libertarian does not accept the real number system until he’s constructed it himself. 😉

  29. I have to agree with Warren. Clearly, some “alternative viewpoints” are more equal than others…

  30. crimethink, now there is some intellectual consistency!

  31. cecil writes: “the books were already purchased and presumptively read by children for years.”

    It’s not clear that they were purchased – perhaps they were donated, and put into the library system by a Communist-leaning staff member.

    And just because they’re in the library doesn’t mean they’ve been read much.

  32. Removal from classrooms I’d be down with, as the school board gets to set the criteria there. But from libraries, well, libraries should have everything from the Bible to Mein Kampf in them, frankly.

    I presume you are prepared to pay the taxes that would be needed to expand the physical capacity of “libraries” to hold all the nutcase literature you propose that they keep on hand.

  33. Speaking of Castro, if we could pull off a coup on Arbenz, why didn’t we just do that with Saddam instead of the gay ass invasion? Was it neocon shenanigans?

  34. America’s banana republic isn’t known for much IQ outside the great Miami Book Fair;the City of Miami Beach withdrew their City Key honor from Nelson Mandela when he toured a free man&world hero,because he acknowledged Castro’s support for his release.

  35. That is the same principle that drives the ACLU to fight to keep Creationist texts in schools. What? Oh that’s right they don’t, the fight to have them removed.

    Is there not a difference between teaching creationism as science and having a creationist book, like perhaps, the Bible, in the library?

    Under these conditions, shouldn’t Bibles be banned from libraries on the grounds of being full of shit, too?

  36. Seamus, maybe he meant that a library should be able to keep anything it wants on the shelves. In any event, I couldn’t agree more that the Bible and Mein Kampf are two of the most outrageously “nutcase” pieces of literature ever foisted on the human race.

  37. Seamus: Do I have to qualify every statement with a disclaimer about “if libraries are going to exist on the public dole, they should maintain a wide range of offerings blah blah blah”? Haven’t we gotten past the point of needing to explain what should be obvious?

    Fine: Supposing public schools are going to exist and have libraries, those libraries should seek to house as wide a variety of literature as possible with little to no regard for its viewpoint. Any selection criteria will, undoubtedly, reflect the biases of the selectors and, as such, a more or less random process is probably best. Barring that, at very least, momentum should count for something and they shouldn’t go making changes to the stock based on the over-sensitive complaints of one person.

  38. This stuff makes my head hurt. The problem is not that there are books in the library with factual errors, or outright propaganda in them; it’s that the schools can’t/ don’t/ won’t teach their little pupils how to analyze and verify what they read, in order to distinguish between what is fact and what is opinion, or outright fiction.

    A sensible, rational, well- educated person has nothing to fear (or learn) from a book that says Cuba is a great place to live; especially in Florida. All you have to do is look out the window, and see how many people are paddling their way toward Havana, on inner tubes lashed to cardboard boxes, to find a better life. Then compare that to the number of people who have made the trip north.

    The ACLU should be suing to have the Department of Education abolished and the school system privatised. And have all the teachers’ colleges padlocked.

  39. Wait.. Public schools have libraries?

  40. 1) the library cannot contain every book in the world?, and
    2) the school board is the best entity to decide what books it should have?

    I reluctantly agree with this analysis. I am not a big fan of pulling books from libraries, but courts aren’t really there to help allocate scarce library shelf space.

  41. “Herrick and His Balls are Greek.”

    Ah! That explains the aroma of feta? cheese.

  42. happyjuggler0,

    ;(
    I thought you were on my side for a minute there.

  43. All I’m saying is that the school board should be the one with the final decision here. The ACLU butting in is ludicrous.

    Now the banning of this book may well be absurd, or not, but that is not for outsiders to decide, not the courts nor the ACLU. I personally could care less if the school district in question has the book in their schools, although my postsmay have made it sound otherwise.

    The whole issue goes away with government vouchers. If you don’t like what a school does, put your kid in another school. The problem is that the government has a near monopoly over teaching K-12, excepting mostly the rich who can opt out.

    I’m still baffled why we think that competitive markets are the most efficient at giving people what they want for cars, movies, paper, watches, restaurants, but the really important things like K-12 education the government can somehow do better.

    We have the world’s envy in higher education, and the developed world’s laughter at our sad K-12 education system. Could it be that choice matters? 😮

  44. …I suppose the district is within its rights…. – TC

    Tsk, tsk, Tim. Individuals have rights. School districts have power or authority, however illegitimate. That being said, an anti-communist parent who has to send his kid to a publik skool would be a fool to not suspect the liberrian of pinkoism. The ALA is a notoriously pro-lefty – pro-Castro, even – organization. It has even refused to rebuke El Jefe for jailing people who try to run a private library.

    Kevin

  45. “I’m still baffled why we think that competitive markets are the most efficient at giving people what they want for cars, movies, paper, watches, restaurants, but the really important things like K-12 education the government can somehow do better.”

    HappyJuggler, I’m baffled by the fact that despite incontrovertible proof on a daily basis that the government is at its very best hopelessly inept, some people persist in believing that the cure for government bungling is more government bunglers assigned to the project.

  46. Timothy, you might persuade me to agree with you on real analysis (although I’m taking graduate analysis next semester, and just yesterday promised to grade for Real Analysis 2), but algebra is awesome. My linear class is what convinced me to be a math major (yes, I know that this means I’m a complete nut). Topology might be even better, though.

    And Crimethink, odd you say that; I met a guy the other day who both is a libertarian and insists that there’s no such thing as an uncountable set. He defines a bijection from the natural numbers to the reals as follows: if r is the nth real number anyone thought of, the map assigns r to n. He points out that if I give him any real number, he can assign an integer to it, and thus claims the map is onto and that the reals are thus countable.

    And since I’m at a math summer research program, this discussion provided a good hour of amusement to everyone present. God, I’m a nerd.

  47. It would be interesting if the book were, “My Dad’s Gay and That’s Not Okay!!!” and the locale was San Francisco. A local complains and wants the book pulled. Would the ACLU come to the rescue? How would rank and file liberal democrats line up on the issue.

  48. School boards have the ultimate responsibility for the entire school program. However, they should rarely get involved in the day-to-day operations, including deciding which books should be in the school library. Their task is to set good policies and hire good people to carry out their policies.

    In our district(after similar problems responding to complaints over books), the board adopted a policy that required a committee to review any complaints from district patrons regarding library books, study the books in question, decide how to deal with the book and report to the board. If the decision of the committee is still challenged, the school board still has the final say. This policy has allowed us to keep many great books in our libraries that might have been removed previously because of a single complaint.

    Textbooks, on the other hand, must be selected from a list of books adopted by the State Board of Education.

    Good policies (and school boards that follow the chain of command) keep board members from feeling the need to respond to squeaky wheels until all the facts are in and sound judgements can be made.

  49. Why are all these people making the argument that a library can’t have all the books in the world? The library in question already had these books, and they were removed for political reasons. Geof seems to think its OK to remove books if they have factual errors, though what constitutes a factual error is anything but objective these days. Why has nobody recognized the desire of Miami Cubans to whitewash Castro from history? You want to drop ballast in the library, get rid of Harlequin novels, not controversial political works. If there’s a marketplace of ideas, it has to include ideas.

  50. Seamus: Do I have to qualify every statement with a disclaimer about “if libraries are going to exist on the public dole, they should maintain a wide range of offerings blah blah blah”?

    OK, so you *do* think libraries should keep the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the Turner Diaries, and the Collected Works of Lyndon LaRouche (all of which fall somewhere in the continuum between the Bible to Mein Kampf) on hand?

  51. This is Miami, right? Discussion about the pros and cons of Cuban communism seem like they’d be kinda relevant to kids going to school in Miami, if nowhere else on earth. Comarisons to the Turner Diaries seem like apples and oranges.

  52. Discussion about the pros and cons of Cuban communism seem like they’d be kinda relevant to kids going to school in Miami

    I don’t think that “images of smiling children wearing uniforms of Cuba’s communist youth group and a carnival celebrating the 1959 Cuban revolution” can be fairly characterized as “discussions about the pros and cons of Cuban communism,” unless you’re ready to concede that The Turner Diaries is a contribution to a discussion on the pros and cons of racism and the right of revolution.

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