Dr. Seuss Too Radical For Today’s Leftists Intent on Teaching Conformity and Submission to Authority
“Laughter has a dangerous, subversive quality, and woke writers are too insecure to toy with it”
It’s a special kind of honor for a madcap kind of writer to get canceled on his own birthday. Over the last two decades school children have been marking March 2, Dr. Seuss’s birthday, with Read Across America Day.
Even though it was dubbed Dr. Seuss Day, this year, likely taking a hint from racialist special interests, President Joe Biden omitted any mention of the namesake from the Read Across America proclamation of the Department of Education. His spokesman Jen Psaki explained that the books written by the beloved children’s writer are too white. The day earlier Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the organization ostensibly charged with overseeing the legacy of his work, announced that it will discontinue printing of six books that allegedly contain “hurtful” imagery.
Among the “hurtful” six is the deliciously whimsical And to Think that I Saw It on Mulberry Street. I happen to own a copy, so I looked up the offending picture. The 1937 illustration showed a man in Chinese national costume holding a bowl and a pair of chopsticks. The opposite page contained the likeness of an Indian man in a turban riding an elephant. That potentially offensive stereotype is yet to be flagged. Also on display is a hillbilly in a hut, an old man with a six feet long beard, along with an array of other miscellaneous eccentrics. In other words, the kind of chaotic exuberance the reader expects from Theodore Seuss Geisel.
A midcentury classic, until now Seuss managed to survive the seemingly never–ending purges of the American canon that took place over the last three decades. And sure, Seuss owed his lasting presence on grade school library shelves to the fact that he was, lucky for him, a left wing kind of guy. His books are full of allegories about equality, democracy, and against conformity, antisemitism, and an arms race — the kind of values the left used to claim as its own. The author took strong anti-fascist positions during World War II, first drawing editorial cartoons skewering isolationists and later producing cartoons for the US Army.
The year 2012 was one of the high points of Seuss’s legacy. On Dr. Seuss Day in 2012, Universal Pictures released the 3D animated feature The Lorax based on one of the writer’s minor works. The film carried an environmentalist message at a time when environmentalism reigned supreme in public education, in politics, and in the mainstream media. The orange-colored Lorax was prominently displayed by bookstores and read in classrooms. Countless think pieces celebrating the writer appeared in the media.
Fast forward to 2021 and Black Lives Matter is setting our current agenda, teaching students to see the world through the lenses of race. There is no place for Seussian message of equality and brotherhood in that environment, so he’s out.
Tucker Carson noted that Social Justice Warriors want to cancel Seuss because his books champion the mid-century values championed by Dr. Martin Luther King that stand in the way of the woke dominance of our way of life. To that I’d like to add that although Seuss’s writing might carry unmistakable didactic messages, it comes in an irreverent package and is populated by trickster characters like the Cat in the Hat.
The Cat appeared to bored children out of nowhere, created all sorts of mayhem, and disappeared the second before their mother returned. Seuss himself described the black feline in a stripy top hat as a revolutionary: “The Cat in the Hat is a revolt against authority, but it’s ameliorated by the fact that the Cat cleans up everything at the end. It’s revolutionary in that it goes as far as Kernesky and then stops. It doesn’t go quite as far as Lenin.”
Today’s left doesn’t have any use for a radical like the Cat. Critical Race Theory which is poised to provide a framework for moral education of children for years to come leaves no room for free thought. Unwillingness to take a prescribed position on race is frequently described as “violence,” and individuals not fully aligned with the CRT worldview are seen as “resisting” and therefore in need of re-education. Anything other than full compliance, and continued work to dismantle “white supremacy” is considered racist. Contemporary education demands total conformity.
With The Cat in The Hat, Seuss set out to upend boring books like the Dick and Jane series. Now boredom is back, with a vengeance. Children’s sections of bookstores are overflowing with biographies of minor historical figures children are supposed to find instructive and inspirational. There is no laughter in them, no excitement, and no tricksters. Laughter has a dangerous, subversive quality, and woke writers are too insecure to toy with it: they know that their ideology cannot withstand a trial by humor.
The woke are not iconoclasts; the left stopped producing iconoclasts at or about the time of Seuss. The woke are bores who fill soul-crashing bureaucracies, public and private.
There is another way cancelling Seuss teaches submission. What are our children learning when they remember that in 2012 Seuss was celebrated as the greatest children’s writer of all time, but swap the last two digits around, and his name is erased for alleged crimes of racism? They learn that there are no enduring values, only power.
Schools and parents should teach what is permanent: the principles of math, and science, liberty enshrined in the design of our constitutional republic, and the beauty inherent in poetry. Instead, the American K-12 curriculum has been increasingly wrapped around the slogans recently adopted by left wing demagogues. These slogans reflect the fleeting needs of institutions that are running the country; they can’t provide a lasting foundation because politics are ephemeral.
If nothing is enduring, if heroes are turned into villains—with the President’s approval, no less—before the 2012 kindergarteners even graduate high school, and no questioning is permitted, we are unlikely to nurture brave anti-racists, or whoever the woke parents and educators congratulate themselves on raising. Observing the cruelty of struggle sessions and the ease with which yesterday’s idols are dethroned, the students will quickly learn to blend in with the masses to avoid being one of these yesterday’s heroes getting dethroned.
Woke education is likely to usher in the emergence of two personality types. First is the obedient subject, eager to lick whatever boot is attached to the knee crushing his neck. More likely still is the second in that we are creating the most cynical generation in American history, a people without any morals or ethics who will do anything for money and power. Gone with the tip of his hat, Dr. Seuss will not be with us to witness it.DONATE
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