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Elementary school librarian turns down book donation from Melania Trump

Elementary school librarian turns down book donation from Melania Trump

Postby smix » Fri Sep 29, 2017 8:02 pm

Elementary school librarian turns down book donation from Melania Trump
Washington Examiner

URL: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/eleme ... le/2635976
Category: Politics
Published: September 28, 2017

Description: A Massachusetts librarian turned down a donation of books from first lady Melania Trump after being chosen as the state's National Read-a-Book Day recipient by the White House. The White House chose one elementary school from each state to receive 10 Dr. Seuss books, according to WhiteHouse.gov "As I was thinking about your return to school, I wanted to send you a special gift. Dr. Seuss's Oh the Places You'll Go! is a book my son and I have read over and over again, and one that we want to share with all of you," Trump wrote in her letter addressed to the school. In a response letter published by the Horn Book's Family Reading blog, Liz Phipps Soeiro, the Cambridgeport Elementary School librarian, thanked the first lady for her donation but said the library has no "need" for the books and ripped Dr. Seuss as a "cliche" choice. Soeiro went on to denounce Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her school choice initiative, saying the case for private school vouchers shows no interest in the children. The librarian asks Trump why she wouldn't go out of her way to offer books to the "underfunded and underprivileged communities that continue to be marginalized and maligned by policies put in place by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos?" Soeiro closed the letter saying she was "honored" her school was chosen and the gesture would have been wonderful, had it "been better thought out."



The culture war comes for Dr. Seuss
Washington Examiner

URL: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/the-c ... le/2636024
Category: Politics
Published: September 28, 2017

Description: "The culture war has eaten America. Everyone is to blame and everyone will suffer for it," the Weekly Standard's Jonathan Last declared this week. Spot on. The war between red and blue has indeed taken a turn for the absurd, and things are going to get worse as combatants on both sides become increasingly willing to dive headfirst into ludicrous shows of allegiance. The most recent example of this sort of degrading behavior comes from Cambridge, Mass., where an elementary school librarian turned down a donation of children's books this week from first lady Melania Trump. Cambridgeport Elementary School was one of 50 academic institutions in the nation chosen by the White House to receive donations of Dr. Seuss books, including the Cat in the Hat, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, Green Eggs and Ham and Oh, the Places You'll Go! "I wanted to send you a special gift. Dr. Seuss's Oh, the Places You'll Go! is a book my son and I have read over and over again, and one that we want to share with all of you," the first lady said in a note that accompanied the donation. "Please also remember that you are the future of America and that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to." Surely, no one would think to politicize this simple gesture from the first lady, right? Meet Cambridgeport Elementary School librarian Liz Phipps Soeiro, who protested the donation this week in an extraordinarily condescending and ungracious open letter to the first lady. "[S]chool 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," she wrote on the Horn Book's Family Reading blog. Soeiro, who works as a library media specialist, added, "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? … [M]y school doesn't have a NEED for these books." Hold onto your hats. It gets wilder from there:
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. … 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.

obama-dr-seuss.jpg
Open one of his books ... and you'll see the racist mockery in his art.

Though it's true that Seuss' anti-Japanese cartoons during World War II had all the subtlety and nuance of Mickey Rooney's performance in "Breakfast At Tiffany's," it's insane that someone would relegate the author's entire body of work to the dustbin of history for that reason alone. What a shame it would be to deprive children of the joy found in the vocabulary, rhyme and meter found in Seuss' books. What a shame it would be to deprive them of the beautiful and big-hearted lessons found in books like Horton Hears a Who, the Lorax or the Butter Battle Book. It's also insane that someone would condemn Seuss as an unrepentant bigot considering he was famously pro-civil rights, and a proud anti-fascist to boot. Amazingly enough, Soeiro's letter gets worse. She concluded the already remarkably discourteous note with the equally rude recommendation that the first lady, an immigrant, familiarize herself with the experiences commonly shared by immigrants in the United States. "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," Soeiro wrote. "In return, I'm attaching a list of ten books…that I hope will offer you a window into the lives of the many children affected by the policies of your husband's administration," she added. "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." The books she recommended, many of which focus on U.S. immigration, include Auntie Yang's Great Soybean Picnic, Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family's Fight for Desegregatio and Mama's Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation. Just so we're absolutely clear: Soeiro provided Melania Trump, who is herself an immigrant, with a list of children's books to help the first lady better understand what it means to be an immigrant in the United States. And all this in response to the first lady's book selection, which included titled that she read to her son in her second language. I believe people attach the suffix "-splaining" to that sort of condescension. If you think this entire story is nuts, you're not alone. School district officials have, for their part, attempted to put distance between themselves and Soeiro's letter. "The employee was not authorized to accept or reject donated books on behalf of the school or school district," an official said in a statement. "We have counseled the employee on all relevant policies, including the policy against public resources being used for political purposes." "While we enthusiastically support the political engagement and passion of our employees, in this instance the editorial posted online gave the impression that the statement reflected the position or actions of the Cambridge Public Schools," the statement added. "Our school district did not authorize any such statement." Spokespersons for the school district did not respond to the Washington Examiner's questions about what ended up happening to the books. Soeiro did not respond either. This absurd incident reminds us of the late playwright Paddy Chayefsky, whose excellent answer to Vanessa Redgrave's infamous "Zionist hoodlums" speech at the 1978 Academy Awards works well as a response to the librarian's tedious soapboxing. Being gifted a box of Dr. Seuss books is not a pivotal moment in history, it does not require a proclamation and a simple "thank you" would've sufficed.



Anti-Dr. Seuss librarian wasn't always so opposed to the supposedly 'racist' children's author
Washington Examiner

URL: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/anti- ... le/2636093
Category: Politics
Published: September 29, 2017

Description: If you thought this story about the Massachusetts librarian who turned down a donation of Dr. Seuss books from first lady Melania Trump couldn't possibly be any dumber, you haven't followed the normal downward trajectory of these culture war battles. Librarian Liz Phipps Soeiro drew attention to herself this week when she penned a remarkably ungracious letter in response to the White House's gift, which was given in promotion of National Read a Book Day. Soeiro, who works as a library media specialist at Cambridgeport Elementary School in Cambridge, Mass., wrote that her school had no need for the first lady's hand-picked selection of children's books. More importantly, she added, she didn't want the donation because the Trumps, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Dr. Seuss are all problematic. You see, she explained, Dr. Seuss is a racist.

michelle-obama-dr-seuss.jpg
You see, she explained, Dr. Seuss is a racist.

"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," she wrote. "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." This is where an already stupid story becomes even stupider. The elementary school librarian, it seems, wasn't always so opposed to the famous children's author. Soeiro published her open letter to the first lady this week on the Horn Book's Family Reading blog. She even included a photo of herself looking unimpressed as she holds a copy of Seuss' The Cat in the Hat and the signed note from the first lady that came with the donation. Also, on the page where Soeiro's letter was published, her author's bio notes she tweets from the accounts "@Cport_Special" and "@ReflectLibrary." If you peruse through the "@Cport_Special" Twitter account, you'll eventually come across a note that reads, "Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss! K and 1 celebrated with a green egg breakfast!" That tweet, which is dated March 3, 2015, includes two photos: One shows a display of breakfast foods, and one shows what appears to be Soeiro dressed as Dr. Seuss' famous Cat in the Hat. The glasses, the hair – it's all there!

phipps-soeiro-cat-in-the-hat.jpg
Soeiro dressed as Dr. Seuss' famous Cat in the Hat.

Photos of the March 2015 Read Across America/Dr. Seuss Day event were also posted that year to the Cambridge public school district's official Facebook page. The above photo appeared with the caption: "The Cat in the Hat librarian at Cambridgeport School poses for the camera." Huh. Happily dressed as a character created by an author whose work is supposedly "steeped in racist propaganda." Imagine that. We reached out to Cambridgeport Elementary School to verify that the person in the 2015 photo is indeed Soeiro. They did not respond to our request for comment. We told you this librarian story had the potential to be dumber than it already was. Everything is terrible, these culture war battles are absurd and things only get worse the deeper you go.
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What the librarian who rejected Melania Trump’s Dr. Seuss books as ‘racist’ got wrong

Postby smix » Sat Sep 30, 2017 5:41 am

What the librarian who rejected Melania Trump’s Dr. Seuss books as ‘racist’ got wrong
The Washington Post

URL: https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/po ... uss-books/
Category: Politics
Published: September 29, 2017

Description: Oh, the places you’ll go! Unless, that is, you’re 10 Dr. Seuss books donated by Melania Trump and your planned destination is the shelves of the Cambridgeport School library. The first lady gave a collection of titles by the beloved children’s author to award-winning education programs around the country. As kids learn at school, when you get a gift, even if it is unappealing or unnecessary, you take it and say thanks. What you do after that is up to you. That is not what happened in Cambridge, Mass. Instead, school librarian Liz Phipps Soeiro wrote a letter back to Trump informing her that “we will not be keeping the titles for our collection.” Why? Her school is relatively wealthy; its library shelves are well-supplied already. But on top of that, Seuss is “a bit of a cliché” — and worse, he’s a racist.

happy-birthday-dr-seuss.jpg
To support her argument, Soeiro cites scholarly work ...

To support her argument, Soeiro cites scholarly work on “the minstrel characteristics” of Seuss’s characters, or “caricatures.” The Cat in the Hat may have been based on blackface entertainers, and before his storybook career took off Seuss sketched cartoons filled with racist stereotypes, particularly of Japanese people. Okay. So Seuss had issues. But so did a vast array of other authors, including pretty much anyone writing before, say, 1930. And Dr. Seuss books contain plenty of other lessons more amenable to the forward-thinking, from “The Lorax’s” hit-you-over-the-head environmentalism to the anti-fascism of “Horton Hears a Who,” “Yertle the Turtle” and “The Sneetches.” As The Post’s Rachel Chason points out, Seuss was also a champion for children’s literacy, the same cause Trump sought to promote when she sent out his books. Dismissing Seuss’s expansive oeuvre as “racist propaganda” is lazy. And, if the photo some online sleuth discovered that looks an awful lot like Soeiro dressed in a Cat-in-the-Hat outfit hugging “Green Eggs and Ham” to her chest is anything to go on, this anti-Seuss crusader doesn’t actually disagree. A librarian’s role — and Cambridgeport’s has a graduate degree in library science, so she should know it — is to curate a collection that represents a diverse set of viewpoints over an extended period of time so that readers can see the widest possible picture of the literary past and present. Her additional role as an educator is to provide students with the full context of any of those works, showing them how to understand the good, the bad and the ugly in it. No school employee has an obligation to fawn over an administration whose policies they see as antithetical to their mission as an educator, and Soeiro’s letter does include separate critiques of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s agenda. But the way she chose to lash out against DeVos’s regime — by rejecting a well-intentioned gift on disingenuous grounds — doesn’t seem in line with that mission either. Soeiro’s letter to the first lady also included a list of 10 books that challenge the traditional literary canon. They include the tale of a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who breaks a taboo against female drummers, the saga of a Pakistani boy’s victory over a bully in a kite battle and a story starring a Haitian American mother incarcerated because she is undocumented. In other words, the books on the list aim to help children go places that Dr. Seuss never imagined. Good. That’s Soeiro’s job. Adding Trump’s choices to the stacks certainly won’t keep her from doing it.
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