Conservatives whine daily about how the thing they call “wokeness” and what they (normally wrongly) consider critical race theory are tearing away at the fabric of American society. They say the largely mythical thing they call “cancel culture” is turning a new generation of Americans into soft, overly sensitive cry-babies, while also throwing an entire fit over athletes kneeling during the national anthem and over members of society respecting the preferred pronouns of other members of society.
But right-wingers don’t think much about the effect their propaganda-inspired ideology has on modern society. For example, it appears that due to white and fragile America’s tendency towards banning books as well as any discussion on race that makes white people uncomfortable from the classroom, we now live in a world where a children’s book is deemed inappropriate for children.
According to The Columbus Dispatch, a recent reading of a Dr. Seuss book at Shale Meadows Elementary School in Delaware County, Ohio, was abruptly shut down after a student pointed out the obvious—that the book was, in part, an allegory to racism.
The assistant director of communications for Olentangy Local School District abruptly stopped the reading of the Dr. Seuss book “The Sneetches” to a third-grade classroom during an NPR podcast after students asked about race.
Shale Meadows Elementary School third grade teacher Mandy Robek was reading “The Sneetches” to her class as part of NPR’s latest episode of “Planet Money” about the economic lessons in children’s books. During the podcast, which aired Friday, Amanda Beeman, the assistant director of communications for the school district, stopped the reading part way through the book.
NPR reporter Erika Beras spent the day in Robek’s class with Beeman for the podcast. As part of the district stipulations, politics were off limits. Six books were selected ahead of time by Beras and the district — including “The Sneetches.”
For those who are unfamiliar with The Sneetches, the 1961 Seuss book features a species called Sneetches, who are either born with or without a star on their bellies. So. Sneeches with stars on their bellies benefit from star-belly privilege and they discriminate against those born without stars—and somehow, it was a surprise to fully-grown adults that this story might lead to a discussion on racism in America.
“It’s almost like what happened back then, how people were treated…Like, disrespected…Like, white people disrespected Black people…,” a student says during the recorded reading. And just like that—after a child makes the obvious connection between the story in the book and the story of America—the reading came to a grinding halt.
“I don’t know if I feel comfortable with the book being one of the ones featured,” Beeman said. “I just feel like this isn’t teaching anything about economics, and this is a little bit more about differences with race and everything like that.”
Beras pointed out that the book is also about topics such as economics and open markets. In the book, a character named Sylvester McMonkey McBean invents a machine that can either remove or add a star to a Sneetches’ belly, and the story ends with the Sneetches spending all of their money on the machine before coming to glory on the fact that neither star-bellies nor plain-bellies are superior. (I’m sure there was a Sneech out there claiming they don’t see belly color and that they don’t have an anti-no-star bone in their body. Meanwhile, they were probably assassinating plain-belly civil rights leaders for trying to integrate “star-bellies only” water fountains.)
There’s a bit more context, but none of it is exculpatory. The occasion was a visit from NPR’s Planet Money, which was recording an episode about how economics gets discussed and taught in children’s books. One of the readings that day was The Sneetches. And you can see why.
Still, Beeman was unmoved and she told Beras, “I just don’t think it might be appropriate for the third-grade class and for them to have a discussion around it.”
“When the book began addressing racism, segregation and discriminating behaviors, this was not the conversation we had prepared Mrs. Robek, the students or parents would take place,” Beeman said to Beras during a later conversation about what happened. “There may be some very important economics lessons in The Sneetches, but I did not feel that those lessons were the themes students were going to grasp at that point in the day or in the book.”
Beeman also explained to the Dispatch, “As (The Sneetches) was being read, I made a personal judgment call we shouldn’t do the reading because of some of the other themes and undertones that were unfolding that were not shared that we would be discussing with parents.”
So basically, children now need a permission slip to have their own thoughts. After all, it’s not like Robek brought up the discussion on race. All she did was read the book. It was the students themselves that made the connection to racism all on their own.
Of course, the fine folks on Twitter had a field day pointing out the probability that conservative snowflake-dom is responsible for this so-called learning environment where white fragility is prioritized over, well, learning.
Twitter reactions runs as follows:
School administrator stops reading of “The Sneetches” by Dr. Seuss, because a 3rd grader (correctly) surmised that it was an allegory about racism and segregation. The Administrator declared Dr. Seuss inappropriate for 3rd graders.
The Sneetches was a blatant allegory of discrimination lmao anyway, I said last year that a major part of the ‘CRT’ moral panic was about chilling empathy for Black people and trying to frame that empathy as a moral failure and I have yet to proven wrong about that.
An Ohio school cut off the reading of Dr. Seuss’s The Sneetches to 3rd graders because “politics are off limits.”
These are dark times.
TIL that third graders can’t read The Sneetches because it covers inappropriate topics on discrimination. Meanwhile, we were reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.
If you’re telling kids they can’t ask questions and lead discussions then you’re absolutely suppressing ideas.
Ironically, it wasn’t long ago when conservatives were up in arms about Dr. Seuss Enterprise making its own decision to discontinue Seuss books that included racist imagery. They called it an example of “cancel culture” despite the fact that virtually no one was calling for the company to do this, though there were many who appreciated that it was done. It’s also worth pointing out that discontinuing the production of new copies of a book is not the same as banning books
Not that conservatives would ever recognize their own hypocrisy—even if a third-grader pointed it out to them.