Today’s image from the past isn’t quite as old as the ones I usually post for Throwback Thursday. This photo is from ten years ago today, when I dressed as the Cat in the Hat (as I did many times) for Read Across America Day at my son’s elementary school.
Read Across America Day was originally tied to the March 2 birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel, who wrote his picture books as Dr. Seuss. Schools and libraries celebrate it on or around his birthday, in order to encourage kids to read. Since this photo was taken in 2011, the celebration has been largely separated from its original association with Geisel, because of racist images in some of his earlier works.
The author seems to have learned from his mistakes; many of his later books focus on issues of equality. He even redrew an illustration from one of his books so it could be reissued without the offensive image. I disagree with people who want to ban Dr. Seuss altogether. I am all for continuing to read his works that are not offensive: there is so much good in them! But I am pleased that the publisher has announced that it will no longer publish some of the books that contain racist images.
Six books are on the list:
- And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street
- If I Ran the Zoo
- McElligot’s Pool
- On Beyond Zebra!
- Scrambled Eggs Super!
- The Cat’s Quizzer
Most of these are not among Dr. Seuss’s most popular books; in fact, as much of a fan as I am (see photo above), I’ve heard of only half of them (Mulberry Street, Zoo, and Zebra).
Yet, this is a controversial decision. People are crying “cancel culture” (a stupid term) and charging that a liberal conspiracy is banning the books. There is no liberal conspiracy. This is not censorship. Publishers frequently decide to let books go out of print; it’s a normal part of the publishing business, and it’s completely within the rights of the copyright holder to make that decision.
As for keeping the books around so we can use them to educate people about past mistakes, I’m not worried. There are still plenty of copies in circulation, so those who want to use them to educate people about what is offensive still have that option. Others complain that this action does not go far enough, that there are other Dr. Seuss books that should be rethought, as well. That’s probably true. But this is a start.