Read Across America has come and gone. For those of you that are unfamiliar, Read Across America was created by the National Education Association to, “help you motivate kids to read, bring the joys of reading to students of all ages, and make all children feel valued and welcome.” A lot of schools use Dr. Suess as a huge part of the week. They read his books, dress like his wacky characters, and create a festive atmosphere to foster the love of reading.
The problem of this is that Dr. Seuss and his characters are racist. The Cat in the Hat was based directly off of a blackface character from the minstrel shows of the past. The portrayal of Mr. Brown, who is Asian, is portrayed negatively as well. If you want to read more about his racism read this article: The Cat is Out of the Bag: Orientalism, AntiBlackness, and White Supremacy in Dr. Seuss’s Children ‘s Books.
I want to talk about my favorite Dr. Seuss video though. The classic Sneetches. The Sneetches basically is about an in-group and an out-group. A guy comes along and plays both groups by changing the groups until no one knows who the in-group or out-group is. I used to think this was the best way I could possibly teach anti-racism to my students. I then read the paper above and realized that the Sneetches weren’t about being anti-racist but was more about being confused about which group should be oppressed.
My knee jerk reaction was that we should leave Dr. Seuss in the past. The problem is even if I wanted my school to my school was still using it. Instead, let’s talk about how all of our heroes are gray. Let’s discuss the issues with the characters. This is exactly what happened in my health classes this week. The conversations were driven entirely by the students. They knew more about him then I did!
This article: DR. SEUSS’ RACIST PAST ISN’T THE PROBLEM – YOUR REFUSAL TO HAVE HARD CONVERSATIONS IS makes a great point on how Dr. Seuss grew over time and evolved.
My final thoughts are that in the era of cancel culture let’s be transparent about our past history as a country. We can’t act like this never existed. Let’s be honest with our students, don’t they deserve it?