I won’t share Dr. Seuss with a mouse. I won’t read Dr. Seuss to my spouse. I’ve been told Dr. Seuss is a louse. So no more Seuss at the White House.
Yes, the cancel culture thresher has come for Theodor Seuss Geisel — arguably the world’s most famous children’s book author, in addition to being a left-wing political cartoonist and the symbol of everything that was right and good about early childhood learning.
On Tuesday, in his proclamation for “Read Across America Day,” President Joe Biden failed to mention Dr. Seuss in any way, despite the fact the holiday was deliberately established on Seuss’ March 2 birthday. The move comes as Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced six of his books were being taken out of print because they “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.”
“Once a passion for reading takes hold in a young person, the benefits extend far beyond the classroom. Reading broadens our perspective, introduces us to new worlds, cultures, and languages, and cultivates our sense of empathy and understanding of other people’s experiences and views. Reading informs us, empowers us, and teaches us the lessons of history,” Biden said in a statement.
“It helps us make sense of the world as it is — and inspires us to dream of what it could be. Studies also show that reading improves our memory, helps us become better problem solvers, and even reduces the chance of developing cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s down the road. And with the right book in hand, reading can nourish not only our minds, but our souls.”
According to Fox News, Presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama both mentioned Seuss during their respective proclamations for Read Across America Day.
“The works of Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known to us as Dr. Seuss, have sparked a love for reading in generations of students,” Obama said in 2015. “His whimsical wordplay and curious characters inspire children to dream big and remind readers of all ages that ‘a person’s a person no matter how small.'”
Trump, meanwhile, reminded Americans of the “still-vibrant words of Dr. Seuss: ‘You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.’”
Not too long ago, Vice President Kamala Harris thought Seuss was worth celebrating on Read Across America Day, as well.
Happy birthday, #DrSeuss! “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) March 2, 2017
Good thing she didn’t make that mistake this year, because 2021 isn’t a good year for Seuss. On Tuesday, Seuss Enterprises announced that “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” “If I Ran the Zoo,” “McElligot’s Pool,” “On Beyond Zebra!,” “Scrambled Eggs Super!” and “The Cat’s Quizzer” are being taken out of print.
To be fair, only two of these are even close to canonical Seuss works — “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” and “If I Ran the Zoo” — but it’s disquieting nonetheless.
In “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” there’s a Chinese caricature with a pointed hat and chopsticks, according to The New York Times. Meanwhile, “If I Ran the Zoo” features characters from “the African island of Yerka” who are “depicted as shirtless, shoeless and resembling monkeys,” The Times reported.
“And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street” (1st published in 1937) was my favorite Dr. Seuss book as a kid. I can still recite parts of it from memory. But looking at it with a modern perspective, it’s impossible to ignore the overt racial stereotypes #DrSeuss pic.twitter.com/TRLWLOdHVp
— Give Tara Dublin Josh Hawley’s Book Deal (@taradublinrocks) March 2, 2021
Note that this book was published in 1937, a time of different sensibilities. (“Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” a far more problematic piece of American pop culture history in this respect, was 24 years in the future.) There’s no word on whether or not an update might be coming, but this seems like a more sensible option.
Naturally, though, squeaky wheels getting grease is part of the problem here, and some very loud squeaks could be heard coming from the direction of Loudoun County, Virginia.
Over the weekend, Loudoun County Public Schools announced that they would be de-emphasizing Seuss’ books on “Read Across America Day,” saying in a statement that “[r]esearch in recent years has revealed strong racial undertones in many books written/illustrated by Dr. Seuss.”
That 2019 study, “Research on Diversity in Youth Literature,” looked at “50 books by Dr. Seuss and found 43 out of the 45 characters of color have ‘characteristics aligning with the definition of Orientalism,’ or the stereotypical, offensive portrayal of Asia. The two ‘African’ characters, the study says, both have anti-Black characteristics,” according to CNN.
These books have been in print for the better part of a century, however. Times change, mores change. And yet, up until this year, no one saw fit to cancel Dr. Seuss.
But as we know, for many on the left, history began in 2020. Everything before then was patriarchal, privileged, colonialist and laundered through white supremacy.
That’s why two presidents and a future vice president were perfectly comfortable celebrating Dr. Seuss as a genius an icon in recent years, not the contemptible racist that he apparently is.
Now we’ve all been set straight — and thank goodness for that. Else, Kamala Harris might have slipped up and got herself canceled.
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