Fontova on Book “Banning”

Humberto Fontova takes on the book “banning” issue like no one else, via Newsmax:

The ACLU and Miami’s Book ‘Ban’
Humberto Fontova
Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A children’s schoolbook titled “Let’s Go to Cuba” depicts Castro’s fiefdom as a combination Emerald City and Willi Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Some American parents of Cuban heritage noticed it and filed a complaint with the Miami-Dade school board, which voted to remove the book from the public school library.

The ACLU claims to be scandalized and filed suit to retain the book. “Today’s precedent, if allowed to stand,” said the ACLU attorney, Howard Simon, “opens the door to yank virtually any book off the shelf of a school library at the whim of a single parent and a school board judgment that there is some inaccuracy or omission in a book.”

A little perspective: Between 1990 and 2000, the American Library Association documented more than 6,000 protests against schoolbooks by American parents. For every protest actually recorded, they estimate that four or five go unreported.

The door the learned Mr. Simon so dreads to hear creak open was yanked open long ago. It was propped open with a sturdy doorstop by a Supreme Court ruling in 1982 when (First Amendment fanatic) William Brennan wrote that local school boards had “broad discretion in the management of school affairs,” adding that if they removed a book based on its “educational suitability” or because the books were “pervasively vulgar,” such actions “would not be unconstitutional.”

According to the ALA, over the past two decades, every single year sees between 400 and 600 such schoolbook protests in the U.S., much of it over material considered “racially insensitive,” as when “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” was yanked from an Illinois school library.

In brief, attempted “book bannings'” identical to the one in Miami-Dade, have occurred at a rate of over one a day for the last two and half decades, from sea to shining sea. In most of these incidents the ACLU and the mainstream media have been conspicuously mum.

But just let those insufferable Cuban-Americans try it! Then the ACLU promptly blasts its bugles, its media cronies affect grave frowns, the teachers unions get on their high horse, and cries of “Censorship!” and “Book banning!” flood the airwaves and headlines. “Miami-Dade School Board Bans [italics mine] Cuba Book,” headlined the New York Times on June 15.

You must read the whole thing.

10 thoughts on “Fontova on Book “Banning””

  1. The real problem is that the folks who are puchasing books for the schools don’t read them and rely on summaries by the publishers which of course are geared solely to sell books, no matter is the books are nothing but bunk.

    These books should never have been purchased. Humberto raises a great point and that is where is the ACLU and the press when they try to ban books in other states, such as Huck Finn and Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye.” Hemingway notes that “The Adventures of Huck Finn” marked the beginning of American Literature and was the greated novel ever written. Of course, the left picks their battles and always ends up on the wrong side as far as I’m concerned.

  2. Oh, Mike – you are right that the selectors for school systems often don’t read the books they order. You know what they often do rely on? Reading lists published by – are you ready – the ALA!!

    Here’s a scenario:

    The Ft. Lauderdale school system puts copies of a book in their libraries that contain Holocaust denial. Would the parents in Ft. Lauderdale go ballistic? You bet they would! That book would be gone in seconds.

  3. Scott, If you have the titles of those books in Fort Lauderdale and the school they are at, please provide them to me. I am entitled, even though my kids do not go to school there, to lodge a similar complaint so that those books undergo the same scrutiny as the books in Miami. Also, I know a lot of folks who attend school in Broward; so it would be quite simply to register a complaint. I would love to see if there is a double standard or not.

  4. Mike – I do apologize, it was a hypothetical scenario – I don’t know of any such books in Ft. Lauderdale, but I hope my point was made. Parents do have the right to challenge books, and sometimes, but seldom, are successful.

    I’m with you that it would be better to purchase a second book refuting Vamos a Cuba rather than pull it from the shelves – that’s what we do in academic libraries – provide various points of view on subjects. I also agree with you that this is probably just more grist for the ACLU’s mill, but I can’t blame parents who have a very different experience with Cuba from being upset.

    There is a very thoughtful review of the book in Amazon (and a couple of doltish ones), currently the 4th one down.

    Turns out the school system in my county has at least one copy. I would like to get my hands on a copy now.

  5. I’d like to see those siding with the ACLU and calling this censorship hold their ground now in light of the evidence and information presented by Mr. Fontova.

  6. I’m a librarian, and I want to put my two cents in. I for one feel that the book should DEFINITELY be removed. I don’t like the word “banned,” because of the connotation.

    School books are supposed to be educational not misinform. As educators and parents it is our duty to be vigilant of books that are misinforming our children. It’s our duty to remove sub-par books. The book “Vamos a Cuba” presents a misinforming, non-reality of the Cuban situation. Would we keep a book on the shelf that said in 1950’s Mississippi, ALL SCHOOL CHILDREN WENT TO THE SCHOOL JUST LIKE YOU AND I DO TODAY? I’m sure that we would not.

    By the way, in the past books that were considered insensitive to minorities were removed without a bleep from the ACLU.

  7. Fontova is kind of off.

    Legally, all he does is say, there is an exception to the rule, and people do it all the time.

    Factually: Fontova fails to mention that many of the cases he cites i. get resolved with less intrusive methods, such as not allowing the book in question to be checked out without parental permission — a measure that the superintendent offered to do, but which a certain school board member vehemently rejected. ii. or they don’t get resolved, because someone the ACLU or a office seeker want to make a lot of noise. There is a concerned citizen as Fontova rightfully points out. This is not an ACLU test case, but there also is a certain school board member currently running against a well funded incumbent for state senate, whose signs are all over bus stops.

    From the political to the legal..but wait they are related.
    Fontova is right in saying you have some leeway to remove books, but he does not quote the whole rule:
    GENERAL RULE: Petitioners possess significant discretion to determine the content of their school libraries, EXCEPTION: but that discretion may not be exercised in a narrowly partisan or political manner.

    TEST: Whether petitioners’ removal of books from the libraries denied respondents their First Amendment rights depends upon the motivation behind petitioners’ actions. Local school boards may not remove books from school libraries simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books and seek by their removal to “prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion.” West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 642. If such an intention was the decisive factor in petitioners’ decision, then petitioners have exercised their discretion in violation of the Constitution. Pp. 869-872.

    Where the book itself is a kids book for 7 year olds, and the School board official loudly goes on TV saying first that it should be removed because i. it is factually incorrect (26 of July thing) but then he changes his mind and says ii. it insults Cuban children, and iii. he refuses Constitutionally less intrusive compromises, he clearly strays into the area where the removal procedures were “highly irregular and ad hoc” in the Majority’s view, and in effect are attempts to prescribe “what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion.”

  8. On June 14, 2006, the Miami-Dade County School Board voted to remove the book “Vamos A Cuba” from all school libraries in the school district. The ACLU challenged this decision in Federal District Court. In an extremely detailed, thorough, and well-reasoned opinion, the Court issued a preliminary injunction requiring the book to be returned to the shelves pending final hearing.

    According to Frontpage Magazine writer Humberto Fontova, in this commentary, the book “depicts Castro’s fiefdom as a combination Emerald City and Willi Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.” This is such a gross distortion of reality that it’s obvious Fontova never even looked at the book.

    Here are some of the allegedly pro-Castro communist statements contained in the book, which is a library book, not required reading in any classes, and was written for elementary school students: “Cuba is a country in the Caribbean Sea, south of Florida.” “Cuba has flat plains that are used for farmland.” “Many kinds of fruits grow in Cuba.” “Baseball is Cuba’s national sport.” The book is replete with this kind of outrageous propagandistic misinformation.

    What Fontova omits from his commentary is that two separate school district committees comprised of numerous local professional educators, as well as the School Superintendent himself, rigorously analyzed and evaluated the book and found it to be “scrupulously apolitical,” accurate, and educationally significant and developmentally appropriate.

    The School Board voted to ban the book because it omits the harsh truth about totalitarian life in Communist Cuba. In other words, because the book is neutral in its viewpoint, it is too favorable to Communist Cuba. Remember, this is a book that was written for kids ages 4 to 8.

    The problem with the School Board’s position is that the First Amendment prohibits school officials from removing books from library shelves “simply because they dislike the ideas contained in the books and seek by their removal to ‘prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion.'” The Miami-Dade County School Board voted to remove the book precisely and only for those reasons which are prohibited by the very law they were sworn to uphold.

    Amador Rodriguez, the concerned parent who initiated the book ban, said: “The book is correct in that in Cuba you can read, but you can only read what they tell you to.” How ironic it is that by trying to make the school board remove the book from the library, this professed freedom-loving Cuban refugee is seeking to accomplish exactly that which he says he was trying to escape.

    The solution that is supported by the First Amendment is for Mr. Rodriguez not to seek to ban books he doesn’t agree with, but to write a competing book to be placed in the school library that depicts how terrible life is in Cuba under the Communist regime. Let the Miami-Dade School Board fill the library shelves with anti-Castro books if they want to. If they really care about the First Amendment and freedom, that is what they would be doing instead of wasting taxpayer dollars trying to defend their indefensible book banning.

Comments are closed.