So, Why Am I Talking About This? Two words: This guy:
That Kid Loves Dr. Seuss! Which Got Me Thinking…• So many stories seemed to be more than just stories.• Could they (GASP!) be trying to teach kids stuff about society and life in general?• If so, what are the lessons?• Why teach kids these things?
And My Most Burning Question:Am I the only one who thinks Dr. Seuss leans towards political messaging in some of his stories?
Here’s What I Found!• I was not alone! Dr. Seuss actually spent years working as a political cartoonist!• Dr. Seuss published 4 children’s books before leaving to work for a magazine in New York called PM.• He was afraid that America was going to be drawn into the wars in Europe and Asia, and felt that America’s isolationist policies were detrimental.• Dr. Seuss had experienced discrimination first hand! When he was in college, many people had believed him to be Jewish, and were discriminatory toward him as a result.
Dr. Seuss’s Work at PM• “I had no great causes or interest in social issues until Hitler.”• Dr. Seuss was sharply critical of American isolationist policies and Anti-Semitic rhetoric.• According to one poll, 80% of Americans were opposed to going to war with Germany. Dr. Seuss was not one of those people, and wanted to push others to see that war with Germany was inevitable• Dr. Seuss wrote over 400 cartoons for PM in less than 2 years
“While Paris was being occupied by the klanking tanksof the Nazis and I was listening on my radio, I found Icould no longer keep my mind on drawing pictures ofHorton the Elephant. I found myself drawing picturesof Lindbergh the Ostrich.” –Dr. Seuss
After the War, Dr. Seuss Went Back To Writing Children’s Books• “Too many writers have only contempt and condescension for children, which is why they give them degrading corn about bunnies.” –Dr. Seuss• Prior to the war, his writings had been more fun in their messages, if they had morals at all.• The war strengthened his ideologies, and he began to include them in his books.
“One story is a hilarious vignette about a mother who named all of her 23 sons Dave. The other three are parables on prejudice, stubborness, and fear of the unknown…”-Joan Beck, The Chicago Sunday Tribune
The Sneetches• Inspired by Dr. Seuss’s opposition to Anti- Semitism• An allegory about racism• Dr. Seuss almost scrapped it because he was afraid he would be perceived as racist himself• “And, really, its sort of a terrible shame, For except for those stars, every Sneetch is the same.”
The Lorax!• Dr. Seuss describes it best: “The reason I wrote the Lorax is that I had read so many dull things on conservation. Everything was either full of statistics and dull or preachy and dull. I got mad at the namby-pamby stuff I was reading. It’s one of the few things I ever set out to do that was straight propaganda.”• Not just a clever tale with an environmental message, it has other messages too!• It warns against greed and rampant consumerism.
Butter Battle Book!• Dr. Seuss once described it as “an echo of my days as a political cartoonist.”• A critique of the nuclear arms race• More specifically, Ronald Reagan. Dr. Seuss was not fond of his rhetoric• “I’m not anti-military, just anti-crazy.”• Panned by many critics for exposing children to a frightening subject matter
Literacy as a Political Tool? Yes!• During the Cold War, there was a huge push to reform beginning reader’s books• There was a huge push for American children to be smarter and better educated than Soviet children.• Declining literacy in the U.S. was blamed on boring reading primers
So, This Guy Calls Dr. Seuss, and Says, Fix This.• Dr. Seuss was given a list of 225 words that it was expected young children learning how to read should know.• He didn’t know what to do.• He decided the first two words that rhymed would be the title…..
And Just LikeThat, HeRevolutionizedBeginner’sBooks
And Now, a Brief Rundown of SomeOther Favorites and Lessons That Can be Learned From Them
Hitler is bad. Thismay seem simplistic,but Dr. Seusscompletely had Hitlerin mind when writingYertle. Yertle wantedto be king ofeverything he sawand didn’t care aboutthose around him inhis quest for power.
Don’t Cut YourselfOff From NewExperiences JustBecause it’sDifferent ThanWhat You’re UsedTo, Using Only 50Different Words
Saying SorryDoes NotImplyWeakness.Sometimes it’sthe StrongThing To Do.
Life is an AmazingAdventure.Sometimes it’sHard, But it’sTotally Worth itand You Will DoAwesome Things
Some Other Interesting Tidbits I’ve Found• The first book one in 4 children ever receive is a Dr. Seuss book• Dr. Seuss isn’t as universally popular and huge abroad as he is in the U.S. Apparently, his very American English style of writing just isn’t as popular with British English speakers.• Dr. Seuss won 2 Academy Awards for best documentary for films adapted from propaganda films he made while enlisted in the military
In Parting, Here’s a Few Words of Wisdom From the Good Dr. Himself:• “I don’t think my book is going to change society, but I’m naïve enough to believe that society will be changed by examination of ideas, through books and the press, and that information can prove to be greater than the dissemination of stupidity. I think that can happen.”