Tuesday is the 117th birthday of the late Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, but the celebration this year comes with controversy. The business that controls the Seuss name says six books will no longer be published or sold because they portray people "in ways that are hurtful and wrong," reports the AP. Two well-known titles are in the mix, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street and If I Ran the Zoo, along with McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super!, and The Cat’s Quizzer. Details:
- Background: In recent years, Seuss books have come under criticism for their portrayal of non-white characters. A 2019 study, for example, found that Seuss books have 45 human characters of color—out of more than 2,240 human characters in total—and 43 "of them have Orientalist depictions and two align with the theme of anti-Blackness," per USA Today. The AP notes related criticism over Geisel's depiction of Black, Asian, and other characters in his earlier advertising and World War II propaganda illustrations.
- Anger: At Fox News, Liz Peek wonders in an op-ed whether the new backlash against Seuss will be a "tipping point" in the culture wars. "Cancel culture has become so mindless and all-encompassing that the average American will soon say…Enough!" she writes. "Dr. Seuss could bring us to that point." Sen. Ted Cruz even wrote some Seuss-like verse about all this, as noted by Twitchy.
- Biden shift: March 2 is "Read Across America Day," which is traditionally associated with Seuss. President Biden's proclamation for the day left out Seuss' name, a pivot from presidents Obama and Trump. And the NEA also has been shifting its focus on the day from Seuss to emphasize diverse children's titles.
- One district: Last month, Virginia's Loudon County school district courted controversy when headlines suggested it was banning all Seuss books, notes CNN. But the district says is it not banning them, only de-emphasizing them. "Research in recent years has revealed strong racial undertones in many books written/illustrated by Dr. Seuss," explains the district in a statement.
- More on the study: The 2019 study noted that in If I Ran the Zoo, for example, the "three (and only three) Asian characters who are not wearing conical hats are carrying a White male on their heads." The latter "is not only on top of, and being carried by, these Asian characters, but he is also holding a gun, illustrating dominance. The text beneath the Asian characters describes them as 'helpers who all wear their eyes at a slant' from 'countries no one can spell.'"
- Rationale: In explaining its decision to stop publishing the six new books, Dr. Seuss Enterprises says it "listened and took feedback from our audiences including teachers, academics and specialists in the field as part of our review process. We then worked with a panel of experts, including educators, to review our catalog of titles."
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