Brattlecast #111 - What About Dr. Seuss?

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This past March, the estate of Dr. Seuss announced that they would no longer be publishing new copies of six of his lesser known children’s books: And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street, If I Ran the Zoo, McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super!, and The Cat’s Quizzer, explaining in a statement on their website that, “These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.”

A sort of tantrum ensued, not from the books’ intended audience of readers aged 4-6 years old, but from a variety of politicians and cultural commentators who rushed to the defense of racially insensitive imagery in children’s literature. Was this cancel culture? Was it 1984? How could a private company have made this decision about its own intellectual property while at the very same time, unrelated raps songs with R-rated lyrics existed, and were popular?

In today’s episode we’ll talk about this latest battle in our interminable culture wars as well as the ethically tricky business of dealing with disturbing or offensive materials that, in the right hands, can be powerful teaching tools. Books should never be flat-out banned, but every bookseller has to draw their own line about what they are and aren’t comfortable selling.

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