The Sneetches happens to be one of the most iconic Dr. Seuss books. For one classroom, however, a reading of the Seuss classic ended after one student recognized its depiction of racism.
As noted via The Dispatch, a third-grade classroom at Shale Meadows Elementary School was participating in a reading of The Sneetches. The reading was part of NPR’s Planet Money podcast which explores how various economic lessons can be learned. Erika Beras, a reporter for NPR, was spending the day with the class.
As the class read the Dr. Seuss book, one student made the following comment after noticing the inclusion of racism:
“It’s almost like what happened back then, how people were treated…Like, disrespected…Like, white people disrespected Black people, but then, they might stand up in the book,” they stated.
Soon enough, the district’s assistant director of communications, Amanda Beeman, stopped the reading. As she stated:
“I don’t know if I feel comfortable with the book being one of the ones featured,” Beeman said. “I just feel like this isn’t teaching anything about economics, and this is a little bit more about differences with race and everything like that.”
NPR’s Erika Beras reiterated how the book features economic topics in addition to those about racism. But it wasn’t enough for Beeman to want to continue.
“I just don’t think it might be appropriate for the third-grade class and for them to have a discussion around it.”
Beras later reached out to Beeman for further clarification about what happened. Here’s what Beeman explained:
“When the book began addressing racism, segregation and discriminating behaviors, this was not the conversation we had prepared Mrs. Robek, the students or parents would take place. There may be some very important economics lessons in The Sneetches, but I did not feel that those lessons were the themes students were going to grasp at that point in the day or in the book.”
She continued via The Dispatch:
“As (The Sneetches) was being read, I made a personal judgment call we shouldn’t do the reading because of some of the other themes and undertones that were unfolding that were not shared that we would be discussing with parents.”
Many Dr. Seuss readers will recognize The Sneetches. It’s a classic story first published in 1961 about the titular yellow creatures. One half of these creatures are born with stars on their bellies. The other half are born without any stars. The half with stars discriminate those without. As a result, entrepreneur Sylvester McMonkey McBean takes advantage of the situation. He begins selling stars to those without them. Then, those with stars, begin paying to have their stars removed. Eventually they run out of money before realizing the discrimination was pointless.