Theodor Geisel, better known by his pseudonym Dr. Seuss, is arguably America’s most beloved children’s storybook author of all time. For decades, his books have taught children how to read and, better yet, love reading.
As a student in college, Geisel was editor of Dartmouth College’s humor magazine “Jack-O-Lantern” until he was banned from writing after getting caught drinking by the dean in 1925. To get around the ban, he used a number of different pen names, which he kept even after his college education, finally settling on Dr. Seuss, which was his mother’s maiden name, and the Dr. was a hat tip to his father who always envisioned his son getting a Ph.D.
Geisel’s fame began when Life magazine published a report in May of 1954 on illiteracy among school children. The article concluded that children were not learning to read because their books were boring. Seeing a sales opportunity, the director of the education division for Houghton Mifflin Publishers developed a list of 250 words that he felt were important for first-graders to recognize. Since Geisel had already done children’s books for the company, he was commissioned to write a book using only those words. The result was published in 1957 with the title, The Cat in the Hat.
The rest, as they say, is history. Dr. Seuss went on to publish more than 60 books that have sold some 700 million copies globally, making him one of the world’s most prolific authors. He has won numerous awards for his work, including the 1984 Pulitzer Prize, an Academy Award, three Emmys, and three Grammys. He continued writing right up to his death in 1991 at the age of 87.
Theodor Geisel, Dr. Suess, was born on March 2, 1904, and when the National Education Association founded “Read Across America Day” in 1998, they purposely chose March 2nd to align it with Geisel’s birthday. Yet on March 2 of this year, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the business that preserves and protects the author’s legacy, chose this day to announce it would cease sales of six books because they “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.”
It appears our unwoke minds did not notice those painful illustrations lurking in these books for decades. Dr. Seuss Enterprises did not specify which illustrations were offensive, but the titles contain cartoon depictions of Asian people and stereotypical portrayals of Inuit. Since then, others have noticed “troubling” aspects such as only two percent of Suess’ illustrated characters are people of color. (Although they may not have counted the Grinch as a person…)
Dr. Suess is the latest literary victim of what has been known as Cancel Culture. This is where present-day sensibilities are attached to anything and everything from the past and find that these do not meet present social standards. Thus, it is necessary to “cancel” these authors’ works to prevent people today from being unduly influenced by them.
It appears, however, that there is serious push-back this time. Canceling Dr. Seuss has apparently been a bridge too far because his books have been flying off the shelves in the past month. The most recent listing from the National Publishing Digest lists twenty of the top twenty-five books on Children’s Pictures Books are by Dr. Suess. In just the first week in March after the ‘cancelling,’ The Cat in a Hat alone sold over 105,000 copies. To put that in perspective, to be on a best-seller list requires 5,000 sales total! Fifteen of the top twenty best-selling children’s books on Amazon are from Dr. Suess. All of this activity has happened since social consciousness experts have identified his books as “hurtful and wrong.”
The lesson here is that “we the people” would like to make our own choices. If we do not like a book, we won’t buy it. If we don’t like someone making a tweet, we won’t follow them. We do not need a Ministry of Truth like the one described in George Orwell’s book, 1984, that was designed to rewrite history and change the facts to fit the Party doctrine. In Orwell’s book, a man named Winston worked for the Ministry of Truth, whose job was to cut out information that the Party felt should not be told to the citizens of Oceania. Winston could cut out the offensive sections and send them down a chute known as a “memory hole.”
It would appear that the American public is now pushing back against those trying to push down the “memory hole” books like those from Dr. Suess. Instead, let us push Cancel Culture down the memory hole for good.