Dr. Seuss Quote Banned in Canadian Classrooms

by Betsy Gomez

According to one school district in British Columbia, Canadian teachers shouldn’t be allowed to display a quote by Dr. Seuss. The Prince Rupert School District banned a quote from Seuss’s classic Yertle the Turtle from classrooms after declaring that the quote violated a district policy against political speech in classrooms. Basically, the district declared the quote “too political.”

A specific quote from the book, which was displayed in the classroom of an elementary school teacher in the district, brought about the ban:

I know up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here on the bottom, we too should have rights.

After receiving a complaint from the school district, the teacher met with acting director of instruction for the district, Dave Stigant. From the Canada’s The Globe and Mail:

And while he conceded Tuesday that it might seem absurd to spend time reviewing quotes from, among others, Dr. Seuss and former Canadian prime minister John Diefenbaker, Mr. Stigant said the review is necessary to protect students from an often-bitter dispute.

“It’s a good use of my time if it serves the purpose of shielding the children from political messaging,” Mr. Stigant said. “I don’t consider it’s taking a stand on the dispute. It’s a matter of legality and living up to our obligation to children and their families.”

Mr. Stignant further told The Globe and Mail that he didn’t know the source of the quote when he met with the teacher. Joanna Larson, the president of the teacher’s union in Prince Rupert noted the following on Twitter (via Huffington Post):

Teachers in Prince Rupert, BC could face discipline for displaying Dr. Seuss quote. Management “must insulate students from political messages”

Multiple sources cite that an ongoing labor dispute between the teachers and the school district played a role in the ban of the Seuss quote. A 2011 ruling by an arbitrator in the dispute prohibits political messages and political buttons in schools, which has led to the district sending notes to several teachers about their display materials. You can read more about the ban here and here.

Yertle the Turtle isn’t the first Dr. Seuss book to be attacked, nor will it be the last. The book is also in good company when it comes to challenges. The ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom recently announced the most challenged books of 2011, a list that included the critically-acclaimed graphic novel The Color of Earth as the second-most challenged book. You can read CBLDF’s coverage of the list here.

CBLDF is an official sponsor of Banned Books Week, which takes place September 30 – October 6, 2012. Banned Books Week is dedicated to “celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment.” CBLDF is creating tools that retailers and librarians can use during this year’s 30th Anniversary Banned Books Week Celebration to raise awareness of challenged and banned comics and graphic novels. To get a headstart on the festivities, please check out the CBLDF Rewards Zone, where we have items such as our “I Read Banned Comics” t-shirt available to help raise money for this important program. If you have a First Amendment emergency, call 1-800-99-CBLDF!

You can also help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work by making a donation or becoming a member of the CBLDF!

Betsy Gomez is the web editor for CBLDF.