Share good ideas and conversation.   Login or Take a Tour!
comment by galen
galen  ·  263 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Ask Hubski: Down with Dr. Seuss or this is craziness?

    In a study published earlier this month in Research on Diversity in Youth Literature, researchers Katie Ishizuka and Ramon Stephens found that only 2 percent of the human characters in Seuss' books were people of color. And all of those characters, they say, were "depicted through racist caricatures."

This has nothing to do with the death of the artist. It's about the content of the books, and the effect that that content has on the kids who read them—not about whether Ted Geisel was a good guy or not.





user-inactivated  ·  262 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  

Dr. Seuss also grew up six human generations ago. Back when gay people were legally not-people and killed. Back when interracial marriage was illegal. Back when a black man could be lynched on the suspicion he was out of line. Back when the most distrusted group in the non-south were Catholics. Back when there was no food safety, no environmental protections, rampant poverty, and no public education.

Hell if we are going to do this to literature then there is just about EVERY book written more than a hundred years ago that ends up in the fire. Huck Finn (racism, bigotry). The Three Musketeers (vigilante justice). Romeo and Juliet (pedophilia). Lolita (yikes). Moby Dick (anti environment, no female characters, violence, racism). Frankenstein is a disturbing book about grave robbing and killing people that are different. Everything Steinbeck wrote. Hell, has anyone actually sat down and read the Bible? (hint, we call them atheists.) Name a classic story and we can all be shocked on our twitter feeds about how terrible said book is. We can go on and on and on and on. Or, and here is a radical idea, we teach these books. We encourage people to read them. And then we encourage discussions on how we have moved forward and no longer murder people left and right for being with the people they love. How justice should be as an ideal to strive for. How racist caricatures lead to wars where millions of people died. We learn from the past, get better, move forward or we kill our society. And part of that learning is reading the classics and seeing how far we have come and how far we still need to go.

kleinbl00  ·  262 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Here's my point:

I am unconvinced that the world benefits from reading hundred year old books.

Sure. "Classics." But there are lots of books, there are lots of good books, and if we're only going to be able to force these poor fucks to read for twelve years at which point they're lost forever why the hell can't we make them read Judy Blume instead of Charlotte Bronte?

I had a love of literature systematically driven out of me by books that had to be "contextualized" in order to make some fuckin' PTA group happy somewhere - every kid who has to stop down for a day to discuss the n-word in Huck Finn is losing out on a day of Huck Finn. But we aren't even talking about Huck Finn. We're talking about Dr. Seuss.

There are waaaaay better books out there than Dr. Seuss. We can let him go. Really, we can.

irrelevantseal  ·  201 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I wish I could share this a million time over. There different morals back then. (Pardon my language here in a bit). In 2009 it was perfectly fine to call someone a fag or gay, but thankfully now that has changed. It was the same then with plenty of other words that aren't acceptable and stereotypes that were terrible. That was the norm though and it was a part of that culture.

galen  ·  262 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    Dr. Seuss also grew up six human generations ago. Back when gay people were legally not-people and killed. Back when interracial marriage was illegal. Back when a black man could be lynched on the suspicion he was out of line. Back when the most distrusted group in the non-south were Catholics. Back when there was no food safety, no environmental protections, rampant poverty, and no public education.

What was that about death of the artist?

    we encourage discussions on how we have moved forward and no longer murder people left and right for being with the people they love. How justice should be as an ideal to strive for. How racist caricatures lead to wars where millions of people died. We learn from the past, get better, move forward or we kill our society. And part of that learning is reading the classics and seeing how far we have come and how far we still need to go.

These are CHILDREN'S BOOKS. Ain't nobody talking about the dangers of racist caricatures when they read "If I Ran the Zoo" with their 2nd graders. High school English class, reading Huck Finn, R&J, and Moby Dick? Absolutely. Have those discussions. Problematize the texts. But recognize that a 7 year old probably isn't ready to deconstruct this.

user-inactivated  ·  262 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    What was that about death of the artist?

This also deserves a reply. I see the artist and the time they lived in as separate things. George Orwell is a fantastic writer, and I really enjoy his works. However, Orwell's writings are a reflection on him growing up in the shadows of world wars and totalitarianism. If Orwell had been anyone else, writing the same words at the same time in history, they would still reflect time time that he grew up in. I like the stories that Rudyard Kipling produced, but man is some of that stuff seriously dated, racist by today's standards and out of line with modern sensibilities. He writing gives us a way to travel back in time and understand that era. Steinbeck was banned in California for a while, and with good reason. But the stories are fantastic and give a very stylized view of poor people in the 20's and 30's.

KB is probably going to shit all over me for these two replies, but whatever. If we are going to do this thing where we critique art, we should understand the times it was created in. The Artist is but a vessel. If Seuss was writing today as a 30 year old man, would his stories be different? Almost certainly.

kleinbl00  ·  262 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    I like the stories that Rudyard Kipling produced, but man is some of that stuff seriously dated, racist by today's standards and out of line with modern sensibilities. He writing gives us a way to travel back in time and understand that era.

I agreed with you wholesale until I read Said. Said's entire point is that Kipling gives you a way to travel back in time and repeat the exact same mistakes of that era. More than that, the canon of works in which white writers encounter foreign cultures is not useful in understanding the white writers, it's useful in perpetuating their prejudices and distaste for foreign cultures.

user-inactivated  ·  262 days ago  ·  link  ·  

My siblings and cousins grew up watching Tom and Jerry. For some of them, the only black skinned person they ever saw on TV was Mammy The thing is, of all the horrible shit kids are exposed to, fiction like Seuss is tame compared to the stuff they threw down my throat. Go find Sunday Bible School materials from the 50's and 60's if you want to really be angry. For that matter, go look into the horrible, terrible propaganda they use in religious homeschooling. In my case, we were raised to believe that Protestants should not be trusted as they turned their backs on the Church that Jesus gave to Saint Peter himself and therefore they had no moral center and were all but fallen demons. Also Protestants are the KKK and will kill you and your parents in your sleep if you are not vigilant.

We live in a very different time. Maybe I am just old, maybe I have other shit to worry about. But in my experience kids know that fiction is not real. And most healthy sane adults will understand in their internal structure of mind that the make-believe is just that: not real. The other thing, something that should really be celebrated, is that your typical 5-7 year old today most certainly interacts with someone that looks, acts, prays, different than they do. When I grew up? everyone looked like me and me family, we all went to the same churches, and everyone in our school was Irish and/or Catholic. Now? As much as I do not like school bussing, it really has made it so that every kid has at least some interaction with someone not like they are. Kids today also play games and talk to people online from other nations, something that when I grew up was unheard of unless you went to the rich people school.

Foreign people are not some odd mystery any more; they are neighbors. The chinese guy in the book probably doesn't even register in most kid's heads because there is a Chinese kid in class with them. I'd be interested in someone asking those questions to kids; I bet the answers would shock all of us (in a good way).