Danz: Ceasing publication of a few books is not an effort to 'cancel' Dr. Seuss
Most of the books in Dr. Seuss’s portfolio of work inspires learning and joy. None of that work is going anywhere. Ceasing the publication of a handful of his titles is not an effort to “cancel” Dr. Seuss or suddenly discredit all he did for children’s literature. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
In my first grade classroom there was a banner that read, “mistakes are good, they help us grow, they show us what we need to know.” Despite the simplicity of the words, it’s a complex lesson that’s hard to keep in perspective.
Maybe it was the simple rhyme scheme, but this first grade lesson came to mind as I considered the rage that’s ensued about “cancelling” Dr. Seuss after Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the organization that preserves his legacy, decided it will stop publishing six of his titles because they contain content that’s racist and insensitive. The ado in the wake of this announcement misses the point. Most of the books in Dr. Seuss’s portfolio of work inspires learning and joy. None of that work is going anywhere. Ceasing the publication of a handful of his titles is not an effort to “cancel” Dr. Seuss or suddenly discredit all he did for children’s literature. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. By weeding the garden, the flowers can continue to thrive. If weeds aren’t pulled, they continue to propagate and encroach on the life around them. By recognizing that these titles didn’t stand the test of time, the body of his work is preserved and is able to continue to enrich lives.
There are people who shape our lives - theologians, politicians, authors, our loved ones, and most trusted confidants – and none of them are perfect. We cull all the wisdom, guidance and kindness we can from these individuals to build our foundation of beliefs and values, but along the way we weed out the ways they’ve let us down or steered us wrong. We recognize that we all think, believe, say, and do things that over time grow sharp with inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and harmful perspectives. It’s our responsibility to challenge those things and commit to change. We evolve and preen the thorns but allow the good to endure.
We’re quick to view our mistakes as failures rather than part of our paths to understanding and paving stones to our goals. We’re unforgiving of ourselves and others, believing that we must be defined as either good or bad. The outcry about Dr. Seuss being “cancelled” neglects to recognize that his work is not an all or nothing body. We should not think of these titles as cancelled, but rather, recalled. We’re not pretending they didn’t exist, or that we’d be better off without them, instead, we’re learning from their existence and recognizing that they no longer represent our times, culture, or the character we wish to portray and instill in our children. By weeding these titles, there’s more room for life and light in what remains and opportunity for his work to have a greater impact. No philosophy, body of work, or individual is without its flaws. None of us are perfect, but all of us can change.
Too often we either take the mistakes we’ve made and allow them to continue to persist and permeate our lives or we surrender to them and allow them to absorb and annul all the good we’ve cultivated around them. What if we learned from them, put them to bed, and carried on ahead?
Danz is an avid runner, reader and writer. She’s a graduate of Concordia College in Moorhead who lives, works and believes in downtown Fargo. She’s a regular contributor to The Forum’s opinion pages.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.