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Dr Seuss books controversy

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by ElectroVibe, Mar 6, 2021.


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  1. ElectroVibe

    ElectroVibe

    Mar 2, 2013
    What do you think of the decision by Dr Seuss publishers to pull 6 titles from it's production due to "racist" imagery?

    I was curious to see the images, and was kind of shocked by what I saw. I was shocked not because they were deliberately racist, but because they were merely outdated stereotypes of the kind many people in the US grew up with.

    And so I would tend to sympathize with anyone from an ethnic group who would not want to be depicted by an old stereotype.
     
    Datsgor and FilterFunk like this.
  2. ajkula66

    ajkula66

    Sep 23, 2016
    NEPA
    One doesn't change history by cancelling books or movies. Nothing gets improved by that course of action.

    To be able to learn from the past, one must be exposed to it, regardless of how ugly certain aspects of it might have been at times.
     
    Qlanq, dwm74, Low8 and 16 others like this.
  3. Gsnorgathon

    Gsnorgathon

    Jan 15, 2020
    If they'd just pulled those books from production without telling anyone, no one would have noticed.
     
    Low8, 58kites, Picton and 1 other person like this.
  4. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    I think this thread will qualify as talking politics, which is verboten here on TB. I saw the initial headline and mentioned my surprise to a friend who shot back that I was mistaken. I thought he might be right, so I did more research. At this point, I believe the issue has be politicized by various factions. To refer to the images as "racist" is inaccurate. Actually, the images I saw portrayed, in a cartoonish way, historically accurate stereotypes, but the publisher and school teachers don't want to have to get into the discussion of cultural differences with young children about them because there are a lot of other options out there without the complexities. It's like when they teach Huckleberry Fin. It comes with a discussion.
     
    ElectroVibe, hbarcat and ajkula66 like this.
  5. pcake

    pcake Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2011
    Los Angeleez
    was it the publisher? i thought that Dr. Seuss Enterprises was the owner of the works that are published by others, but i could be wrong. i think they're moving to try and protect dr. seuss' reputation as a children's book writer, either because they care about his legacy and how he is perceived or to keep those cash registers ringing up more seuss books.

    racism was disturbingly casual back in the day. have you ever seen illustrations from ruth plumly thomson's oz books? ginger, the slave of the dinner bell, is quite disturbing today, but back when it was written (and illustrated) i guess it was par for the course. or murder author ngaio marsh's book, black as he is painted? *shudder* let's not forget chico marx's italian stereotype, which was pretty much his entire movie career.
     
  6. hbarcat

    hbarcat Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2006
    Rochelle, Illinois
    I will address one book specifically:

    "If I Ran the Zoo"

    The entire point of the story is to create a narrative to draw a series of cartoons that depict ethnic stereotypes. They include crude and insensitive depictions of Nepalese, Chinese, African Pygmy, Persian, Turkish and Cossack characters.

    The fact is there really is no positive value to the narrative. It exists, literally, for no other reason than to show the process of collecting exotic imaginary animals from around the world to put in a zoo and to depict cartoon stereotypes of the people who inhabit these places.

    To answer your question, I simply asked myself if I would feel comfortable reading this book to my grandchildren. That answer is an emphatic "NO".

    There is a valid but limited place for scholars of history to study a book like this to learn about cultural attitudes of the past, but they aren't going to be affected by this decision to no longer publish new editions. There will always be copies to be had. More importantly, learning about "ugly aspects" from the past is done in an scholastic setting, with students who are of appropriate age to understand the material.

    I agree with the decision. It's the right thing to do and there is no harm done to anybody by not having new copies for sale in bookstores.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2021
  7. All the controversy has been good for business.

    Dr. Seuss books are selling like crazy on Amazon right now.
     
    Low8 and pcake like this.
  8. bolophonic

    bolophonic

    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    I was working as a tutor with a first-grader and I pulled Mulberry Street off the shelf and found myself in the position of inadvertently instructing a six year old to read the word “chinaman” out loud to me. Now some people will undoubtedly say that I am a crybaby snowflake and there are people on this board who have already told me that I hate America, but my feeling at the time and my feeling now is that there have been so many great books written for children in the last 80 years that if we are going to make room for any of those, it wouldn’t kill anyone to start by archiving the ones that include things like this. Not every moment in time is an appropriate one to have an unexpected discussion with someone else’s child about outdated stereotypes and antiquated slurs.

    And for the dudes crying about Dr. Seuss being “cancelled,” my seven year old just wrapped up a solid week of Dr. Seuss in school. Give it a rest.
     
  9. hbarcat

    hbarcat Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2006
    Rochelle, Illinois
    "Huckleberry Finn" is a work of quality literature that has some educational value making it a worthy candidate to be assigned reading in schools. Teachers (who have college degrees in education) will necessarily discuss the historic cultural aspects of racial stereotypes, which can be as valuable as the narrative itself.

    "If I Ran the Zoo", is far from a work of quality literature. It's typically read by parents to their preschool children at bedtime. Rarely will there include an explanation of offensive ethnic stereotypes. Lacking context, 4 year old kids will be led to believe that the people who live in Africa not only have the physical appearance we expect from individuals of African descent, but they're also short and fat and wear nothing but loincloths.
     
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  10. Oddly

    Oddly

    Jan 17, 2014
    Dublin, Ireland.
    This.
    I've got a complete collection of Dr. Seuss and my kids grew up reading and loving them.
    Both are shocked and disappointed to hear of this.
    Sure, there's imagery there of it's time that we find distasteful and may accept to be wrong now but it's my opinion that the way to address such things is through discussion, not through sticking your head in the sand and pretending they don't exist.
    I'll admit I can't recall some of the banned books' content, but Mulberry Street I could probably recite by heart, the kids loved hearing it that much, and I'm damned if I can find offense in it.
    Maybe I could complain about the obviously stereotypical Sergeant Mulvaney?
     
    dwm74, Low8, fig and 2 others like this.
  11. ajkula66

    ajkula66

    Sep 23, 2016
    NEPA
    That's your opinion.

    Not necessarily. That is a decision that should be left to parents. My kids grew up on Dr. Seuss and haven't turned racist. There's a lot more to a proper upbringing than simply including or excluding a work of art.

    If we keep on "giving it a rest" we'll all be living a modern day version of Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451" soon enough. No thanks.
     
    dwm74, jimfist, DrMole and 5 others like this.
  12. bolophonic

    bolophonic

    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    The fact that you disagreed with me and then restated my opinion as your own tells me all I need to know.
     
    GregC likes this.
  13. hbarcat

    hbarcat Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2006
    Rochelle, Illinois
    Anecdotal. My siblings and I also grew up on Dr. Suess and none of us are bigots who think in terms of ethnic stereotypes. Yet these stereotypes come from somewhere. Children aren't born with these images hardwired in their brains.

    You're right about it being up to the parents to decide what books their children should and shouldn't be exposed to. Personally, I would consider it grossly inappropriate to read "If I Ran the Zoo" to my young grandchildren.

    Nevertheless, other parents might disagree. Which means they can get online anytime they want to and buy a used copy for $3. If they think that the best way (out of the many thousands of quality titles available) to get their preschool offspring to learn to read is a book containing offensive cartoon stereotypes, then they will always have that option on the open market of used copies.

    Absolutely impossible. We're talking about the publisher that owns the rights to the books, voluntarily deciding to no longer print new copies of books that are designed to get preschool children to enjoy reading via whimsical cartoons and zany rhymes.

    You can't compare that to "Fahrenheit 451" where the government of the future makes it a crime to own books and actively seeks out books and burns them and prosecutes the owners as dangerous criminals.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2021
    HaphAsSard, Low8, pcake and 7 others like this.
  14. FilterFunk

    FilterFunk Everything is on the ONE! Supporting Member

    Mar 31, 2010
    Exactly.

    Not every action is a slippery slope to a totalitarian future.
     
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  15. Faux outrage for a faux problem. The argument that you need to be exposed to history to learn from it suggests that these books are somehow not archived, and also that there's not catalog upon catalog of historic and modern racism to learn from. It's the kind of argument that says, "how are we to learn from concentration camps without building some?"
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2021
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  16. jdthebassman

    jdthebassman play to live live to play Supporting Member

    We have become too thinned skinned.
     
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  17. bolophonic

    bolophonic

    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    Write your own books and let the market decide.
     
    HaphAsSard, FilterFunk and GregC like this.
  18. Gsnorgathon

    Gsnorgathon

    Jan 15, 2020
    If copyright holders are allowed to stop publishing (or licensing) their works, who knows where we'll end up?
     
    HaphAsSard, hbarcat, LBS-bass and 4 others like this.
  19. GregC

    GregC Questlove, Black Thought, Hamilton

    Jan 19, 2007
    Chicago
    What none of the outraged seem to mention is, most of these books were among Dr. Suess' less-popular works, anyway. I grew up loving Dr. Suess and I'd never heard of, much less read, any of these titles.
     
  20. GregC

    GregC Questlove, Black Thought, Hamilton

    Jan 19, 2007
    Chicago
    But without these six books, there will only be 54+ Dr. Suess books left to buy new!:jawdrop:
     
    FilterFunk, pcake and LBS-bass like this.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

     
    Apr 14, 2021

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