Many of us will be celebrating the birthday of this venerated children’s book author next week…and some of us won’t be.
I was disappointed to read recently about the movement to “cancel” Dr. Seuss because of racist cartoons he drew back in the 1940s.
I was super-disappointed to learn about it from a previous homeschool blogger whom I deeply respected.
While I believe the “cancel culture” is wrong on oh-so-many levels, in this situation three immediate questions/concerns jumped out at me.
#1 – Censorship, anyone?
There has been much research over the years about Dr. Seuss’s artistic history and previous employment, but most recently it’s been amped up by the efforts of – ready for this? – a librarian. Her letter to Milania Trump is not new but has resurfaced with a vengeance on social media (Source)
In alignment with her stance, a related Instagram post I read, written by a former educator with a Master’s degree, was actually showing what Dr. Seuss books we shouldn’t read, and what to read instead. Maybe it’s just me, but I think it sure smacks of censorship. And what irony that it should be coming from a teacher, no less!
#2 – What, people can’t change?
Many of us have done stupid things in our younger years. At best, they could be ascribed to the ignorance of youth; at worst, as a product of the social/cultural environment of the time. People change, and that’s (often) a good thing. As Maya Angelou said: “When you know better, you do better.”
Very often, however, we want others to take that approach when considering us, while we are free and flowing with our own judgment, many times without knowing all the facts. Clearly, Dr. Seuss’s perspective and work changed over the seventy-year span of his career, during which over 400 WW II-era political cartoons and forty-four children’s books were produced.
Horton Hears a Who! was an apology of sorts for his anti-Japanese cartoons. “It was written soon after the war, and after a visit to Japan…” The 1954 book is a parable about post-war relations between the US, Japan, and the Soviet Union, promoting equal treatment with the line “a person’s a person no matter how small”. (Source)
Look it up: perspective transformation is a real thing!
#3 – Let’s just re-write history, then, shall we?
Basically, the bottom line of this movement is encouraging the re-writing of history. The thought behind it seems to be that canceling Dr. Seuss will somehow erase the injustices of the past from our memories – or at least begin to. However, one of the dangers in even trying to erase them from our collective consciousness is this: we are prevented from learning anything whatsoever from them.
Or, in the words of Spanish philosophist George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
The ugly times, the horrible events, the heartbreaking and difficult attitudes and actions have as much to teach us as our victories. Perhaps even more so.
Which is why I can’t “cancel” Dr. Seuss flat out…
So before you throw the baby out with the bathwater, I encourage you to do some research, too.
But I would suggest that your research may move you to INclude Dr. Seuss as one of many books to read with your kids, and even discuss with them as they get older. Sure, there are newer books and fresh authors with different perspectives – I’d never discourage anyone from discovering and exploring and discussing new writers and their work.
There is no reason whatsoever, tho, to discard the words of an author whose work offers a creative insight into the times during which he originally began his career. (And what a unique addition to your homeschool history studies!) An author who introduced more-than-a-few-generations to the concept of having a good time with words and rhyme – a welcome concept to anyone’s lifestyle of learning. And even beyond colors and counting, learning how to live with others, to work well with others, and so much more…truly “color-free” lessons.
Even more importantly, however, his books are an example of how we as humans, as well as our culture, our norms, and perspectives…can all “do better as we know better.”
Are you ready to begin a lifestyle of learning?
Homeschooling is oh-so-much more than merely academic achievement – and learning can and should be a lifelong process.
Let’s work together to make your homeschool the best it can be. And in the process, raise children and young adults who are prepared to make a difference in the world!