A Virginia school system has dropped Dr. Seuss from an annual event to encourage reading as district leaders accused the beloved author’s books having ‘strong racial undertones.’
The Loudon County schools will shift the ’emphasis’ of the annual Read Across America day on March 2 away from Seuss and toward books more ‘inclusive and diverse and reflective of our student community,’ a spokesman said.
Seuss, whose real name is Theodor Geisel, had been the face of the annual Read Across America day for more than 20 years. A report has accused his children’s stories of featuring ‘orientalism, anti-blackness and white supremacy’.
Loudoun schools spokesman Wayde B. Byard, said recent research had revealed ‘strong racial undertones in many books written/illustrated by Dr. Seuss,’ The Washington Post reported.
‘Given this research, and LCPS’ focus on equity and culturally responsive instruction, LCPS has provided guidance to schools in the past couple of years to not connect Read Across America Day with Dr. Seuss’ birthday exclusively,’ Byard said.
DailyMail.com has asked Loudon schools for comment.
Byard insisted that the books had not been banned outright – and that students could still access Seuss in the district’s libraries and classrooms, but that the March 2 event would not ‘simply celebrate Dr. Seuss.’
His comments come following a 2019 report called ‘The Cat is Out of the Bag: Orientalism, Anti-Blackness, and White Supremacy in Dr. Seuss’s Children’s Books’.
A Virginia school system has accused Dr. Seuss books of ‘strong racial undertones’ following a report which accused author Theodor Geisel, pictured, of ‘orientalism, anti-blackness and white supremacy’
American author and illustrator Dr Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel, 1904 – 1991) sits at his drafting table in his home office with a copy of his book, ‘The Cat in the Hat’, La Jolla, California, April 25, 1957
That report states: ‘White supremacy is seen through the centering of Whiteness and White characters, who comprise 98% (2,195 characters) of all characters.
‘Notably, every character of color is male. Males of color are only presented in subservient, exotified, or dehumanized roles. This also remains true in their relation to White characters.
‘Most startling is the complete invisibility and absence of women and girls of color across Seuss’ entire children’s book collection.
‘In addition, some of Dr. Seuss’ most iconic books feature animal or non-human characters that transmit Orientalist, anti-Black, and White supremacist messaging through allegories and symbolism.’
A 2019 report called ‘The Cat is Out of the Bag: Orientalism, Anti-Blackness, and White Supremacy in Dr. Seuss’s Children’s Books’.
Read Across America Day had traditionally focused on Seuss books, including The Grinch
But since 2017 the focus has shifted to ‘Celebrating a Nation of Diverse Readers’. Learning for Justice is behind the calls to cancel Dr Seuss, Fox News reports
Read Across America Day had traditionally featured on Seuss books including classics like The Cat In The Hat and The Grinch.
But since 2017 the National Education Association has shifted its focus nationally to ‘Celebrating a Nation of Diverse Readers’.
Learning for Justice is behind the recent calls to cancel Dr Seuss, Fox News reports.
Author Geisel has already come under fire for using ‘stereotypical Orientalist tropes’, according to a report by researchers Katie Ishizuka and Ramón Stephens.
That found ‘of the 2,240 (identified) human characters, there are forty-five characters of color representing 2% of the total number of human characters’.
A total of 43 of ‘exhibited behaviors and appearances that align with harmful and stereotypical Orientalist tropes’, they said.
The Loudoun County Public Schools administration building in Ashburn, VA
Meanwhile, other cultural icons are targeted for ‘modern’ refreshes: On Friday it was reported that Mr. Potato Head had gone gender neutral as toy maker Hasbro announced it is changing the branding of the 70-year-old figure because it needs to break free from gender norms.
The change – which will drop the ‘Mr.’ from Mr. Potato Head brand – sparked debate on social media, with many saying toy company Hasbro has bent to ‘woke’ culture by changing a cultural icon that’s been on toy shelves since 1952.
Loudoun schools spokesman Wayde B. Byard confirmed to The Washington Post that they have ‘shifted the emphasis’ of March 2 Read Across America day to not only celebrate the much loved children’s stories ‘exclusively’
But Rhode Island-based Hasbro, which revealed the change in a presentation to investors Thursday, said the gender-neutral name comes as societal roles are changing – with more single-parent households and same-sex parents coming into the picture.
As for Seuss, it’s not the first time the late Geisel has found himself in the cultural crosshairs.
In 2019 DailyMail.com reported how Geisel portrayed black people as if they were slaves being sold off at a white-owned department store.
He used the word ‘n*****’ to refer to African Americans and described women as ‘insignificant and helpless’, book Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination claimed.
Decades later when Geisel was called out on these cartoons he said it was ‘just the way things were 50 years ago’ and claimed that feminists wanted to ‘clean up everything’.
In 2017 Cambridgeport Elementary School librarian Liz Phipps Soeiro rejected a gift of several Dr Seuss books from Melania Trump, saying their whimsical illustrations were ‘steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes’.
The White House had announced that one school in each state would receive a selection of Seuss’ books chosen by Melania, including ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ and ‘The Cat in the Hat’.
In 2019 DailyMail.com reported how Geisel portrayed black people as if they were slaves being sold off at a white-owned department store
But Soeiro turned down the collection of almost a dozen books, saying in the open letter her school was award-winning and well-funded.
She continued: ‘You may not be aware of this, but Dr Seuss is a bit of a cliché, a tired and worn ambassador for children’s literature.’
She added: ‘Another fact that many people are unaware of is that Dr Seuss’s illustrations are steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes.
‘Open one of his books (If I Ran a Zoo or And to Think That I Saw it On Mulberry Street, for example), and you’ll see the racist mockery in his art.’
Neither of those books were included in Melania’s selection.