Taking All Of The Joy Out Of Childhood

Yesterday The Howie Carr Show (a talk show out of Boston) posted an article about a librarian in Cambridge, Massachusetts. To celebrate National Read A Book Day, Melania Trump sent ten Dr. Seuss books to a Cambridge public school.

This is the letter she received from the librarian:

Dear Mrs. Trump,
Thank you for the ten Dr. Seuss titles that you sent my school library in recognition of this year’s National Read a Book Day. (Sent second-day air, no less! That must have been expensive.) I’m proud that you recognized my school as something special. It truly is. Our beautiful and diverse student body is made up of children from all over the world; from different socioeconomic statuses; with a spectrum of gender expressions and identities; with a range of abilities; and of varied racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds.
According to the White House website, you selected one school per state by “working with the Department of Education to identify schools with programs that have achieved high standards of excellence, recognized by State and National awards and Blue Ribbon Awards…” Each of those carefully vetted schools received ten books: Seuss-isms!; Because a Little Bug Went KaChoo; What Pet Should I Get?; The Cat in the Hat; I Can Read with My Eyes Shut!; One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish; The Foot Book; Wacky Wednesday; Green Eggs and Ham; and Oh, the Places You’ll Go!.
My students were interested in reading your enclosed letter and impressed with the beautiful bookplates with your name and the indelible White House stamp, however, we will not be keeping the titles for our collection. I’d like to respectfully offer my explanation.
* * * * *
My school and my library are indeed award-winning. I work in a district that has plenty of resources, which contributes directly to “excellence.” Cambridge, Massachusetts, is an amazing city with robust social programming, a responsive city government, free all-day kindergarten, and well-paid teachers (relatively speaking — many of us can’t afford to live in the city in which we teach). My students have access to a school library with over nine thousand volumes and a librarian with a graduate degree in library science. Multiple studies show that schools with professionally staffed libraries improve student performance. The American Association of School Librarians has a great infographic on these findings. Many schools around the state and country can’t compete.
Yearly per-pupil spending in Cambridge is well over $20,000; our city’s values are such that given a HUGE range in the socioeconomic status of our residents, we believe that each and every child deserves the best free education possible and are working hard to make that a reality (most classrooms maintain a 60/40 split between free/reduced lunch and paid lunch). This offers our Title I school and the district a lot of privilege and room for programming and pedagogy to foster “high standards of excellence.” Even so, we still struggle to close the achievement gap, retain teachers of color, and dismantle the systemic white supremacy in our institution. But hell, we test well! And in the end, it appears that data — and not children — are what matters.
Meanwhile, school libraries around the country are being shuttered. Cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, and Detroit are suffering through expansion, privatization, and school “choice” with no interest in outcomes of children, their families, their teachers, and their schools. Are those kids any less deserving of books simply because of circumstances beyond their control? Why not go out of your way to gift books to underfunded and underprivileged communities that continue to be marginalized and maligned by policies put in place by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos? Why not reflect on those “high standards of excellence” beyond only what the numbers suggest? Secretary DeVos would do well to scaffold and lift schools instead of punishing them with closures and slashed budgets.
* * * * *

So, my school doesn’t have a NEED for these books. And then there’s the matter of the books themselves. 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. As First Lady of the United States, you have an incredible platform with world-class resources at your fingertips. Just down the street you have access to a phenomenal children’s librarian: Dr. Carla Hayden, the current Librarian of Congress. I have no doubt Dr. Hayden would have given you some stellar recommendations.
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. Grace Hwang Lynch’s School Library Journal article, “Is the Cat in the Hat Racist? Read Across America Shifts Away from Dr. Seuss and Toward Diverse Books,” reports on Katie Ishizuka’s work analyzing the minstrel characteristics and trope nature of Seuss’s characters. Scholar Philip Nel’s new book, Was the Cat in the Hat Black? The Hidden Racism of Children’s Literature, and the Need for Diverse Books, further explores and shines a spotlight on the systemic racism and oppression in education and literature.
I am honored that you recognized my students and our school. I can think of no better gift for children than books; it was a wonderful gesture, if one that could have been better thought out. Books can be a powerful way to learn about and experience the world around us; they help build empathy and understanding. In return, I’m attaching a list of ten books (it’s the librarian in me) that I hope will offer you a window into the lives of the many children affected by the policies of your husband’s administration. You and your husband have a direct impact on these children’s lives. Please make time to learn about and value them. I hope you share these books with your family and with kids around the country. And I encourage you to reach out to your local librarian for more recommendations.
Warmly,
Liz Phipps Soeiro
School Librarian

Cambridge, MA

Interesting. Particularly when you consider the following:

The double standard here is amazing. First of all, Dr. Seuss was not a racist. His actual name was Theodor Seuss Geisel.

The is an excerpt from his biography at Wikipedia:

Geisel was born and raised in Springfield, Massachusetts, the son of Henrietta (née Seuss) and Theodor Robert Geisel.[5][6] All four of his grandparents were German immigrants.[7] His father managed the family brewery and was later appointed to supervise Springfield’s public park system by Mayor John A. Denison[8] after the brewery closed because of Prohibition.[9] Mulberry Street in Springfield, made famous in Dr. Seuss’ first children’s book And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, is less than a mile southwest of his boyhood home on Fairfield Street. Geisel was raised a Lutheran.[10] He enrolled at Springfield Central High School in 1917 and graduated in 1921. He took an art class as a freshman and later became manager of the school soccer team.[11]

Geisel attended Dartmouth College, graduating in 1925.[12] At Dartmouth, he joined the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity[5] and the humor magazine Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern, eventually rising to the rank of editor-in-chief.[5] While at Dartmouth, he was caught drinking gin with nine friends in his room.[13] At the time, the possession and consumption of alcohol was illegal under Prohibition laws, which remained in place between 1920 and 1933. As a result of this infraction, Dean Craven Laycock insisted that Geisel resign from all extracurricular activities, including the college humor magazine.[14] To continue work on the Jack-O-Lantern without the administration’s knowledge, Geisel began signing his work with the pen name “Seuss”. He was encouraged in his writing by professor of rhetoric W. Benfield Pressey, whom he described as his “big inspiration for writing” at Dartmouth.[15]

Upon graduating from Dartmouth, he entered Lincoln College, Oxford intending to earn a PhD in English literature.[16] At Oxford, he met Helen Palmer, who encouraged him to give up becoming an English teacher in favor of pursuing drawing as a career.[16]

The actual footnotes can be found at Wikipedia.

There is no way that Dr. Seuss was a racist. This is an example of how trite the charge of ‘racism’ has become. America has not solved the problem of racism, but we have made strides in the right direction. We need to encourage strong families and good education in the black communities in America. However, to label things and people that are not related to race as racist does not help the cause of racial equality in America. Trump derangement syndrome has taken over the media and much of our educational system. It is time to get back to working together to improve our country–not trying to tear it down.

Leading By Example

This is the list of where President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump‘s $1 million dollar donation for victims of Hurricane Harvey is going:

The list is posted at the El Paso Times.

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words–But It Can Be Edited

CNBC posted the following video on YouTube:

This is the caption underneath the video:

President Donald Trump Gets Snubbed By Poland’s First Lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda | CNBC

Wow. Sounds Awful.

This is the full video, also posted on YouTube (that the CNBC audience never saw):

And this is a classic illustration of how the media twists the news. Fake news on parade!

Leading By Example

Forbes Magazine posted an article today about the impact President Trump has had on the While House payroll.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • There are 110 fewer employees on White House staff under Trump than under Obama at this point in their respective presidencies.
  • $5.1 million in payroll savings vs. the Obama FY2015 payroll. In 2017, the Trump payroll amounts to $35.8 million for 377 employees, while the Obama payroll amounted to $40.9 million for 476 employees (FY2015).
  • Nineteen fewer staffers are dedicated to The First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS). Currently, there are five staffers dedicated to Melania Trump vs. 24 staffers who served Michelle Obama (FY2009).
  • Counts of the “Assistants to the President” – the most trusted advisors to the president – are the same (22) in both first-year Trump and Obama administrations. In the Trump White House, Steven Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Omarosa Manigault, Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer and 17 others make salaries of $179,700. In Obama’s first-year, David Axelrod, Rahm Emanuel and twenty others held the title with top pay of $172,000.
  • The highest compensated White House Trump staffer? Mark House, Senior Policy Advisor, has a salary of $187,500. Mr. House is “on detail” from a federal agency which allows him to exceed the top pay-grade of $179,700. In Obama’s Administration (2009), David Marcozzi earned $193,000 “on detail” from Health and Human Services.

The article concludes:

At the nation’s founding, Ben Franklin said, “Diligence is the mother of good luck.” Although the White House personnel budget is an infinitesimal part of the $3.9 trillion federal budget, it could be a leading indicator of Trump’s commitment to cut waste, fraud and taxpayer abuse.

I wish we could pass this thriftiness along to Congress.

 

A New Low In Political Discourse

I really did not think that those who have decided to oppose President Trump because he had the nerve to win the 2016 election could stoop any lower. I guess I was wrong.

Mediate is reporting today about the latest production of Shakespeare in the Park in New York City. Shakespeare in the Park in the past has done wonderful things–Pirates of Penzance was absolutely awesome. Unfortunately they have forgotten that their purpose is entertainment.

Mediate reports:

Shakespeare in the Park, an annual summer program by The Public Theater that puts on plays by William Shakespeare in Central Park, kicked off May 23 with a performance of Julius Caesar.

But this rendition of Shakespeare’s tragedy comes with a twist — Caesar is played by a character that bears a striking resemblance to President Donald Trump.

…”The actor playing Caesar was dressed in a business suit, with a royal blue tie, hanging a couple inches below the belt line, with reddish-blonde hair — just like Trump,” Sheaffer (Laura Sheaffer, a sales manager at Salem Media) told Mediaite.

“I always go to Shakespeare in the park, but I wasn’t expecting to see this,” Sheaffer said, adding that the script was mostly loyal to the original Shakespeare, and that there was no explicit reference to the American president, though the intention was “blatantly obvious.”

In the scene before Caesar is assassinated, his wife Calpurnia begs him to stay away from the Senate, claiming she is having nightmares of his murder. According to Sheaffer, the actress playing Calpurnia bore a resemblance to first lady Melania Trump — replete with a “Slavic accent.”

Shaeffer also noted that in the scene, the actor playing Trump Caesar steps out of a bathtub stark naked, which she said struck her as disrespectful, and a “mockery of the office of the President.”

In the next scene the Trumpian Caesar is attacked by the Senators and stabbed to death as an American flag hovers overhead, according to Shaeffer. “They had the full murder scene onstage, and blood was spewing everywhere out of his body.”

This isn’t funny, it’s not entertainment, and it is not suitable for any audience. I don’t understand how this is acceptable as Shakespeare or as a political statement.

Some People’s First Amendment Rights Are Better Than Others

According to Wikipedia:

While the United States Constitution‘s First Amendment identifies the rights to assemble and to petition the government, the text of the First Amendment does not make specific mention of a right to association. Nevertheless, the United States Supreme Court held in NAACP v. Alabama that the freedom of association is an essential part of the Freedom of Speech because, in many cases, people can engage in effective speech only when they join with others

It is not too much of a stretch to say that this includes the right of a business to do business (or not do business) with whomever they choose (excluding national security issues and things like that). Is that still true in America?

Yesterday PJ Media posted an article about a recent poll of students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison regarding the rights of people engaged in business.

The article reports:

Students told ADF (Alliance Defending Freedom) that it was okay for a dress designer to turn down Melania Trump for political reasons. “You should be able to control your business in that regard, yeah,” one young man said. “I mean, it’s a free market, that’s what most conservatives want anyway,” another student chimed in. When asked if the dress designer has the right to do that, a young woman replied, “Absolutely.”

ADF also asked students what should happen if a church approached a Muslim singer for an Easter service. Students unanimously said that such a singer has a right to “opt out” of that arrangement. “That seems like such an unusual circumstance that they would want them … like a Christian church would force a Muslim singer to sing at their church if they didn’t want to,” one young woman said. Students agreed that no law should force someone to serve another person against their religious convictions.

But when asked if a Christian has the right to opt out of serving a same-sex wedding, the students hesitated.

The question behind this poll is something that is going to continue to arise in our country as we take in more refugees that choose not to assimilate and as Christianity is no longer respected in our culture. What about the Muslim who refuses to drive a truck that transports beer? What about the Muslim taxi driver that refuses a fare because the man is blind and has a seeing-eye dog? What about the checkout person at the supermarket who refuses to scan bacon? Generally speaking, these are employees–not the business owner. Does the business owner have to allow the limitations on their ability to do their job? If these people are given a pass on the basis of their religious beliefs, should Christians also get a pass?

One of the dangers of bringing people into America with a different culture and no desire to assimilate is that it opens the door for lawfare. Lawfare is the use of frivolous lawsuits to advance a political agenda. It is a primary tool of organizations like CAIR (The Council on American-Islamic-Relations) to bring American laws in compliance with Sharia Law. CAIR will create a situation to be used as a test case to further its agenda.

There was a recent instance of a situation where a person who spoke the language needed probably has prevented a lawsuit that was being planned (here). Please follow the link and read the story. We don’t know exactly what was being planned–whether it was a lawsuit or something more serious–but thanks to a lady who spoke the appropriate language, whatever was planned was stopped in its tracks!

America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles. Our culture (up until recently) was a Christian culture. Many parts of America still have a Christian culture. To attempt to bring an alien culture into America rather than assimilate as refugees is going to create problems and tension. You can only live in peace with people who choose to live in peace with you. Unfortunately there is an element in Islam that does not want to live in peace with anyone who does not follow the tenets of Islam. That is a problem.