A short picture book for children ages 4-8 has been getting a lot of attention recently. Vamos a Cuba by Alta Schreier and its English counterpart, A Visit to Cuba, were banned from school libraries in 2006 by the Miami-Dade School Board. The book was removed based on complaints that it painted to favorable a picture of Cuba. The ACLU of Florida challenged the decision in court, and a U.S. district court judge decided in favor of keeping the book in the library. Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit overturned the district court’s decision and upheld the school board’s ban.
In an opinion piece, the Miami Herald’s editorial board condemned the school board for banning the book on political grounds.
The critical sins in the book are those of omission, according to the School Board. Such an impermissible standard for judging the merit of any volume would soon leave the shelves of school and public libraries barren.
Besides, the members of the School Board are supposed to decide policy issues, not act as book reviewers. That’s what the professional staff is for.
Judge Wilson noted in his dissent that Judge Gold had acknowledged ”the dire situation in Cuba . . . but recognizing that life in Cuba is oppressive does not justify constitutionally impermissible viewpoint discrimination.” Precisely. If the book had condemned the Cuban government, all other omissions or errors would have been deemed irrelevant and no controversy would exist.
NCAC and five other groups had filed an amicus brief in support of the ACLU’s position. The brief urged a federal appeals court to affirm the decision of a U.S. district court to return the book to the library.
As a New York Times reader put it in a letter printed this week, “the best way to combat bad or insidious information is with more information, with careful thought and with exposure to the broadest possible array of ideas.”