Here's what Elian Gonzalez, [the six-year-old Cuban boy kidnapped from his father in Cuba], will learn at the private school he now attends in Little Havana [in Miami]: He lives in a Christian society and should support prayer in public and private schools. He should oppose abortion, homosexuality and racism. He should love the American flag and realise that "the influence of the United States in the world has been beneficial to all." The child has completed two weeks of kindergarten at the Lincoln-Marti School. If he stays in Miami and his great-aunt and great-uncle continue to use the $3,000-a-year full tuition scholarship offered by school owner Demetrio Perez, Elian will graduate from the school in Little Havana when he is 18. This means that the boy will more than likely be influenced by the school's main textbook, Citizens' Training Handbook, subtitled Discipline, Moral, Civism, Urbanity, which students use from kindergarten through 12th grade. Perez, the author, who also serves on the Miami-Dade County School Board, says he wrote the 315-page guide for parents, teachers and students at the private school to "produce the worthy citizens our society so badly needs". The $25 book is divided into 57 chapters ranging from Foreign Policy to Serving a Formal Dinner to Friendship. Elian, like his classmates, will study the book and be tested on its contents every nine weeks during his 12 years at the school. "The book and the practice of it is a very important part of the Lincoln- Marti education", says Amelia Estrada, 22, a former student. While at the school, Elian will learn from the main textbook that Cuba, where he came from and where his father and grandparents still live, "has not been able to provide for people's most basic needs such as food, clothing and housing". "We want Elian to know that in this country, we in no way support Cuba or people in Cuba who believe in that system", Perez says. At Lincoln-Marti, Elian will read that Richard Nixon got a raw deal when he was forced to resign as President, and that Americans now regret this and honour him. John Krutulis, associate director of The Gulliver Schools and a board member of the Dade Association of Academic Nonpublic Schools, to which Lincoln-Marti belongs, says that what is taught at any private school is up to the school. The state can monitor the facility, the teacher-student ratio and the general curriculum, Krutulis says, but not what goes on in the classroom. "Parents choose a private school", Krutulis says. "Besides the school itself, they are the only ones with any say about what their children learn." Elian will learn that he should try to be happy and remember to smile in an interested way when people talk to him. He should not be dogmatic, and he should never invite enemies to the same party. The book will also teach Elian that, when he is an adult, he can miss a dinner party but never a funeral. He can send flowers to women but never to men. He can serve cocktails at his parties and should serve wine with dinner. His wife should make sure the dinner plates do not clash with the tablecloth, and should quickly respond to written invitations. The school was founded in 1968 by Perez's father, the late Demetrio Perez Sr, who was an educator in Matanzas, Cuba, where he and Demetrio Jr grew up. The school now has 15 branches in Miami-Dade County. Over the past decade, students from the school have marched in yearly Calle Ocho parades to commemorate the Bay of Pigs invasion. They also have marched to honour the memory of Jose Marti and in support of the trade embargo against Cuba. Several times, they marched in front of Brigade 2506, a Cuban exile paramilitary group, and chanted in Spanish: "Down with Fidel" and "Liberty for Cuba". "We want children who think in a healthy way", Perez says. "We would not want a child who leans toward the communist way of thinking." "We want the children to love as long as they understand they must love the liberty in this country, and not a communist system", Perez says. The school guide says: "Children need their parents to choose the kind of education they should be given." But this advice is not meant to suggest that Elian should be with his only living parent, his father in Cuba, Perez says. "The father is not really the father", Perez says. "In Cuba, Castro thinks for everyone. He is the father, and the child does not need Castro to care for him or make decisions." In two weeks, Lincoln-Marti students will march in a parade to honour Jose Marti and will again sing and chant slogans with Brigade 2506. Perez hopes Elian will participate. "It is a way for him to fight indoctrination", Perez says.
* * *Abridged from an article by Meg Laughlin in the Miami Herald