“You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”
– Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss
I, like innumerable others, received this Dr. Seuss classic book when I graduated from high school, lo those many, many, many years ago. Like so many other simple yet poignant Dr. Seuss classics, it hit the right note for anyone moving forward in the world, and like so many other simple yet poignant Dr. Seuss classics, the text is well known to most of us.
We can all throw the occasional “I do not like them, Sam I Am” into conversation, as well as we toss around the word “PIVOT”. There are terms and phrases that are part of our pop culture lexicon, and the classic children’s books of Dr. Seuss are part of that.
Recently, the copyright holders of the Dr. Seuss collection (and group who are the keepers of the Dr. Seuss library) made the decision to cease print of six of Dr. Seuss books; books that contained descriptions and references that are problematic and inappropriate in today’s world. The references are largely racial biased, and portray members of various communities in stereotypical and negative ways.
The impacted titles are On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super!, The Cat’s Quizzer, McElligot’s Pool and Seuss’ inaugural offering, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.
And suffice it to say, my commentary is one but in a sea of opinion pieces that both hail and condemn the move on the part of the Dr. Seuss Enterprises group, but I’m wading in anyway.
Those who condemn the move are doing so under the delusion the removal of these six (of nearly 60) titles is tantamount to “cancelling” Dr. Seuss. That the “woke left” have come for him and Dr. Seuss is the victim of what is known as “cancel culture”.
I’m going to now be very clear. Dr. Seuss has not been cancelled.
What has happened is that a fraction of his overall library has been removed from future publication for it’s inappropriate depiction of racial minorities. There will remain over 50 titles for the average reader to choose from, and your children can continue to absorb the acid trip that is Green Eggs and Ham.
Seuss is not being cancelled. I agree that cancel culture can run amok and I very often don’t agree with the torches and pitchfork brigades who call for a writer/artist/individual to all but be removed from all reference because they offered an opinion or comment not approved by the angry villagers.
But that’s not what’s happened here. Dr. Seuss titles are very much still available, he is still part of our literary heritage. There have been no calls to remove every title every published under his name to be removed from your shelves, no demand for his name never to pass your lips again.
In fact, according to Amazon, sales of his titles have soared on the heels of this move, which begs the question was it all just a genius move on the part of the copyright holders to drive lagging book sales?
Ultimately, it’s normal that over time we revisit works produced decades earlier and evaluate them based on societal norms and understanding today. That’s part of the evolution of society.
“I’m sorry to say so
but, sadly, it’s true
can happen to you.”