Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Oct. 21: Previewing Two Important Discussions

By Sylvia Gurinsky

One public discussion planned for this Saturday at Books & Books in Coral Gables will preview another discussion that will be both public and private - the debate by the United States Supreme Court over banning books.

At noon Saturday, Books & Books will host a panel discussion, called "Banned in Miami," about the controversy over the removal of the children's book "Vamos a Cuba" from shelves in Miami-Dade County Public Schools. The discussion, presented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, will include former Miami-Dade School Board member Evelyn Greer, who had opposed the board's decision to remove the books; University of Miami Law professor JoNel Newman and ACLU Legal Director Randall Marshall, the ACLU attorneys who brought the case to the Supreme Court; and Mitch Kaplan, owner of Books & Books, representing The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFEE).

ACLU Florida did not tailor the discussion as a debate; there will be no panelists in support of the school board's decision at this event. The organization is willing to set up future debates on the issue.

To recall: The school board approved the removal of "Vamos a Cuba" when questions were asked about the book not addressing the Fidel Castro dictatorship.

Frankly, it's difficult to conceive of an innocuous travelogue, even for children, about a country that has imprisoned and murdered those who dare to speak out, and does not have a free press, free speech or free expression.

But that's exactly why the book should not have been removed from schools.

Through the First Amendment, the United States does advocate those things Fidel Castro does not. At the very least, the book is worthy as a tool of discussion and debate in classrooms.

For the moment, the ban stands. "Vamos a Cuba" is one in a series of books that the Supreme Court will hear about during this term, and presumably rule on next spring.

The panel discussion will begin at noon Oct. 24. Books & Books is located at 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables. Call 305-442-4408.

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