A Storm in a Teacup at Miami Dade Public Schools

Written by Patricia Hawke for www.schoolsk-12.com

Controversy over Book Ban Rattles Miami Schools 
Miami Dade Public schools have been rocked by allegations of throwing aside civil liberties in favor of pleasing parts of the local populace.  First came the unnecessary controversy over an innocuous children’s book that portrayed life in Cuba from a child’s perspective.  The book “A Visit to Cuba” was not a prescribed textbook for young children in Miami schools, rather it was part of the school library.  A young Cuban American girl bought the book home and showed it to her father; a Cuban dissident and political prisoner who was upset at the soft picture the book portrayed of life under Castro.  He immediately notified the Miami Dade public schools’ authorities who proceed to place the book under a ban.  Miami’s strong Cuban American population supported the ban on the book in Miami schools’ arguing that reading the book could create the wrong impression in young children’s minds about the reality of life in Cuba.  The American Civil Liberties jumped into the fray and filed a lawsuit against the ban calling it unconstitutional. 
Book Ban – A Knee-Jerk Reaction by Miami Schools? 
A few weeks later another book found itself at the center of a storm in Miami Dade Public schools. This time it was Cuban Kids, a children’s book that portrayed a couple of Cuban children on the cover dressed in what seem to be Scout uniforms- but are reportedly uniforms of the young revolutionaries, ( a group that all school children in Cuba are required to be members of).  Parents of Cuban American children in Miami schools say the book gives young children the impression that the lives of Cuban children is the same as the lives of American children.  They argue that young impressionable minds are not able to filter party mouthpiece rhetoric from fact and risk being brainwashed by books like these that do not portray the true picture of life under Castro for students in Miami schools. 
The argument seems a little too simplistic.  Civil liberties activists and critics of the book ban agree that it would be hypocritical for a country that claims to uphold democratic ideals the way ours does, to allow react with a knee-jerk response to the contents of a book.  What, they ask, would be the difference between Castro’s Cuba and the land of the free if the simple decision of whether or not to read a book is taken away from its citizens?  While parents of Cuban American children in Miami Dade Public schools, many of them having arrived at this country after extended stays in Cuban prisons, do have a point in being concerned about the impression that their children and others will receive through these books-they don’t need to be. In a situation like this keeping the lines of communication between parents and children open can go a long way to help children separate the grain from the chaff and come away with a true picture of the ground reality in the Communist nation.  Banning a book, any book is not the solution.