Monday June 12, 2006
Over on Net for Cuba, Agustin Blazquez argues passionately for the removal of Vamos a Cuba and its English counterpart, A Visit To Cuba, from school libraries (via 26thparallel). The two books are in the middle of a giant debate, because it’s a “unreasonably sunny portrait of life under Fidel Castro.”
Blazquez’s argument boils down to this: if you remove books offensive to other groups (as is the school board’s policy), then you must remove remove this book, because it is extremely offensive to Cuban-Americans. The problem with that argument, of course, is that it could be used to remove books about nuclear power from schools if they are deemed offensive to environmentalists, or to remove books about computers if they offend the Amish.
No, the only sensible reason to remove a book from a school is if the book could be harmful to children. That would actually be the case if it misrepresented the political situation in Cuba. I haven’t seen the book, so I can’t make up my mind for sure. According to the description on Amazon, the book covers “land, landmarks, homes, food, clothes, work, transportation, language, school, free time, celebrations, and the arts.” It’s unclear how a denunciation of the Castro regime, or even depictions of suffering, would fit into this program: the book is intended for grades 2 to 4. What’s more, it’s part of a series, and I’m guessing the rest of the volumes don’t discuss the politics of the nations they’re from.
But yes, it’s a touchy subject, and it’s certainly possible that some of the pictures in the book cross the line. I suspect that what’s happening here, though, is that we have a book that is free of politics, and that is what bothers the Cuban-Americans. Any opportunity to criticize the Castro regime should be seized, and any such opportunity missed should be condemned. And while I’m generally sympathetic to that attitude, I don’t believe it should be extended to a book intended for little children. If all the it does is make the idea of people living in Cuba more of a tangible reality for children, then it’s doing exactly what it should to prepare them to understand the situation Cuban people live under. With any luck, by the time they’re old enough to learn about the specific politics, the Castro regime will be long gone, and Cuba will be democratic and prosperous.
Update: it’s gone.comments powered by Disqus