Thursday, August 24, 2006

Banning books and restricting education: Crimes of the public school system

Today's news is full of stories of our public school system's attempt to limit free speech, free expression...even free education.

The first story is about a Miami school board's attempt to ban a book...even against a court ruling. The book is a children's picture book called Vamos a Cuba, part of a series that tries to promote cultural acceptance in children by pointing out the similarities between our culture and other cultures. A noble cause, right? Wrong - apparently! Opponents of the book complain that it does not present life in Cuba in harsh enough terms, because it tells the reader that Cuban children "eat and play like you do," or something to that effect.

While I can understand the desire for children to know the full story of life in other countries, I hardly think that glossing over the details is a reason to ban a book. What infuriates me is that certain school board members and parents feel that their objections to the book give them the right to prevent others from reading the book. In a glorious show of irony, a woman is recorded as complaining that a judge has no right to tell them what their children can read (i.e. by ordering that the book be returned to the library's shelves) - yet her statement implies that she should be able to tell others what their children can't read! I'll never understand why people like this can't see the book as an opportunity to educate the public about how they see life in Cuba, rather than trying force their opinions on a whole school system full of children.

The next story that caught my attention is a little closer to home: a teacher at a middle school near where I grew up was suspended for displaying the flags of countries discussed in his geography class. What the hell is wrong with our country that we are this paranoid about our children's sense of patriotism? What's next - jailing teachers for teaching children about other countries?

Both of these instances are nothing more than an attempt to control the public's thoughts, feelings, and political opinions. The truly horrible thing is that the people behind the attempts are trying to use the schools to force their opinions on others.

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