Monday, February 25, 2019

Why I Can No Longer Use Seuss Books

I have been following several social justice pages on instagram.  Just a few months ago some information came out and a study was completed more recently about the works of Dr. Seuss. 
 I understand this information may shatter some long held beliefs and affection for Seuss books but this is important information. 

Here is excerpt of an email I sent to my admin recently:
Notable scholars and researchers have analyzed Theo
dore Geisel 's books and political cartoons and identified racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism in his illustrations and characters. 
There have been several studies I have been following concerning the racist, anti-Semetic, and sexist overtones in the works of Dr. Seuss. Research on Diversity on Youth Literature (RDYL) published a comprehensive study recently with shocking results: https://www.slj.com/...
The National Education Association (NEA) has also.moved away from celebrating Seuss:

https://www.slj.com/...

This article breaks down the issues clearly and concisely: https://www.theconsciouskid.org/.../a-critical-race...

Around the US, parents have reported not allowing Seuss books in their homes and keeping their children home from school every year on March 2 as a result of these findings. Students themselves have challenged the celebration of Seuss. 

As a member of an Asian American family (our daughter is Chinese) I feel the need to speak up and speak out. Asian characters in Seuss' books are described in the text as "helpers that all wear their eyes at a slant" from “countries no one can spell”. Eleven Asian characters are stereotyped, wearing “rice paddy hats”. The three (and only) Asian characters who are not seen wearing “rice paddy hats”, are carrying a white male with a gun on their heads. 

Remember the article I wrote about racism and music? Just as I have edited the music I use in my classroom to ensure racist histories and uses are no longer in practice, so we must do also with the literature we use and the people whose lives we celebrate. Our focus could easily shift to celebrating diversity in order to include everyone in a way that will not cause harm or hurtful feelings to our families or students. Celebrating Seuss is to celebrate a man who wore blackface in minstrel shows and perpetuated stereotypes, racism, and sexism. 
Once we know better we must do better. 

Can't we do better?
I understand some of you will join the many who no longer use Seuss and some will say, "But we are being too sensitive" or ""This kind of racism was a product of the time" or "I am not throwing everything out that I have used - it's good quality music and his books are good quality children's literature". My response is - do no harm.  Just as the medical community operates by this motto, so should we.

If you have the potential to cause hurt feelings or harm a relationship with a child or a family, don't do it. Simple, right? 

To those who say, "That was appropriate for the time" or "We are being too sensitive", I saw this quote on @theconsciouskid on instagram, 

"Excusing someone's past bigotry as "a product of their time" ERASES everyone who fought against that bigotry while also living in that time". 

To those who say, "I am not throwing everything away....", 

We are not saying throw everything away. However, celebrating these books and this person is to celebrate racist, sexist, and stereotypical perspectives. There is a PLETHORA of amazing children's literature out there not written by Dr. Seuss. Get thee to a library.

Can't we do better?  I can.


New Study Published on Racism and Dr. Seuss

1 comment:

  1. Yes, I have long felt prejudicial tones in Dr. Suess' books. Based on our history, there are so many music, dance and artistic creations that espouse racism and other ism's. Our systems and society most often accepted it then and unfortunately accepts it now. Thank you for being sensitive to this, Aimee. So many other accepted artistic gems will be uncovered and exposed. We must make thought-filled decisions. A whole new world is evolving...

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