Fond wishes on International Women’s Day to all the marvelous women in my life. Whether related by blood or by choice, whether near or far, whether AFAB or not, whether you feel like a woman every day or only some, and however you express yourself. I’m glad we know each other.

🖖 #StarTrekDiscovery S02E08: For all I think DSC needs to do its own thing, a TOS-heavy episode was one of the best so far. Enjoyed the Cage recap, esp. the cut from TOS Pike to DSC Pike. Happily impressed by Peck’s Spock; he has the gravitas and delivery down. Good episode.

Book twenty-two of 2019: Farmer in the Sky, by Robert Heinlein. ⭐️⭐️ 1951 Retro Hugo Best Novel 📚

A Boy Scout moves to Jupiter’s moon Ganymede to homestead and start a farm from scratch. Mildly interesting for the early ideas around terraforming and colonization. Meh.

Critically Analyzing Dr. Seuss

Well, this is interesting, and likely to ruffle a few feathers. Sometimes some feather-ruffling is necessary, though.

This year, Read Across America Day was preceded by the publication of a new study. Researchers Katie Ishizuka and Ramón Stephens examined 50 children’s books and 2,200 characters created over Theodore Seuss Geisel’s nearly 70-year career “to evaluate the claims that his children’s books are anti-racist.” Their findings were shocking.

I get it. You grew up on Dr. Seuss. I did too! It’s probably safe to assume that most people did and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. But we have to recognize that two things can be true at the same time:

Dr. Seuss is a prolific children’s book author and global icon. And Dr. Seuss has a history of racial baggage that educators should understand when introducing his writing to their students.

I haven’t yet read the study discussed here (though I’ve downloaded it, and hope to find time to get to it before too long), but essentially, as good as Seuss’s work is, there are endemic problematic elements throughout his career. This isn’t presented as a condemnation, or a call to remove his work from our individual or collective libraries and consciousness, but rather to thoughtfully address those elements.

(Once again, I’ll point to “How to Be a Fan of Problematic Things”.)

An excellent example of what educators should do can be found in NEA and Read Across America Day’s response to this subject. When presented with this research from Ishikuza and Stephens, they made a choice to shift the focus of Read Across America Day from Dr. Seuss and his works to the diverse voices and experiences that help create America’s diverse democracy. You, too, can choose to bring a microphone to those voices that have historically been undermined and unheard.

Another thing you can do is actually read the report and research the claims yourself, with colleagues or students, and put them to the test as a community. Not only is the report informative about the text it studies; it also might expose you to blind spots you may not realize you have in regard to what voices you give power to in your practice and in the books you share with students.

As with any critical conversation, accept that there may not be a neat and clean conclusion. Critical conversations can range from illuminating and informative to a little tense and even upsetting. They can be difficult, but being prepared for them by doing this work internally before you bring it to your community of colleagues and learners will ensure you’re ready for wherever the conversation takes you.

You don’t have to burn your favorite Thing One shirt or get rid of all of your Dr. Seuss books or cut Green Eggs and Ham from your diet (unless you just really want to). However, we all need to be willing to explore the things that shape the young minds of our students—and be willing to change our own minds when presented with new truths, even if they might not always be comfortable to process.

Book twenty-one of 2019: Second Foundation, by Isaac Asimov. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 📚

Asimov himself notes this in an introductory essay, but his ability to craft engaging SF of ideas and conversations over three books (eight stories) with little to no “on stage” action is remarkable.