Imagine if Dr. Seuss memorialized our current political leaders.
The Sneetch who lived on a Florida beach might insist: I do not like Black history and books. I do not like them, Ron I am!
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took the unprecedented step of banning an Advanced Placement course on African American history -- an optional, college-level course for high schoolers -- for violating state law. DeSantis tried to justify his actions by railing against "indoctrination" because the class included texts from modern Black thought leaders and history teachers he didn't approve of. The course, developed by respected scholars and approved by the College Board, covers topics from literature, the arts, science, politics and geography related to Black Americans.
No state has ever refused to certify an AP course since the program began in 1952. Banning students' access to early college credit is the latest salvo in the war against educators and what they can teach and say.
Censoring an entire course for all the students in the state is a draconian step, but there are smaller repercussions of the conservative censorship wave rippling across the country. Earlier this month, NPR's "Planet Money" podcast was recording an episode in a third grade classroom in Ohio during a lesson in economics. The teacher was reading the Dr. Seuss book "The Sneetch and Other Stories" to the students. A child named Noah spoke up, connecting the theme of the book to history.
"It's almost like what happened back then, how people were treated," the student said. "Like, disrespected. ... Like, white people disrespected Black people, but then, they might stand up in the book."
The school administrator observing the lesson stopped the reading, saying they did not have parental approval to discuss race and they were uncomfortable with the discussion.
Is this what lawmakers are so afraid of? Is a third grader's observation about a Dr. Seuss book so dangerous and threatening that the entire lesson must be shut down?
Right-wing lawmakers in state legislatures, including Missouri's, have been whipped into a frenzy about "critical race theory" being taught to children, but it's a cover to stop conversations exactly like this. In real-life classrooms, this crackdown translates to teachers or books never mentioning race at all.
How can you teach even the most basic American history without discussing race? Hundreds of years of America's history and violence were predicated on the belief that whites were superior to other races.
This isn't new information. But it's important to know and understand the truth.
This is how politicized culture wars end up playing out in classrooms: School administrators and teachers become so afraid of offending someone's feelings, and of threats of criminal charges, that they will self-censor what is taught. People have literally called the cops about books in school libraries.
Ironically, it was conservatives who were upset about Dr. Seuss for an entirely different reason not that long ago. In 2021, the Dr. Seuss Foundation said it would stop publishing six titles that included outdated images depicting East Asian characters as offensive caricatures.
At that time, warriors crying about "cancel culture" lashed out about the Great Cancellation of Dr. Seuss. But when an actual school lesson involving a Seuss book literally gets canceled, it's been crickets from the cancellation crowd.
Granted, intellectual consistency isn't a hallmark of partisans.
Teachers have been dismantling their classroom libraries for fear of violating state laws. Educators have been fired or pushed out because they support diversity and inclusion programs. Now, an AP course gets shut down in Florida.
There's a lesson here in the words of the Lorax: "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."
At least there's some advice from Dr. Seuss kids are still allowed to read.