An open letter was recently published on a site dedicated to news and links for children’s literature. It’s author was a young school librarian, Liz Phipps Soeiro, head held slouched with ideas of social justice and community programming oriented toward children. That’s hardly newsworthy. What is worth a mention, however, is the content of her letter: a seemingly polite letter in reaction to the First Lady’s decision to send a bundle of Dr. Seuss books out to the highest-achieving schools in each state.
Naturally, this wasn’t any sort of thank you letter. And, given that it was article length and not 140 characters, it wasn’t a poorly-worded mean tweet directed, yet again, at the President’s family. Instead, it was the sort of jab liberals tend to excel at—passive aggressive haughtiness filled with the rambling pseudo-intellectual word salad that betrays their smug yet twisted view of the world. Granted, a Lefty could easily level the same criticisms at us here at QNUW—neoreactionaries tend to be relatively easy to spot these days, after all. The difference is that we don’t cloak our speech in meaningless buzzwords like “gender spectrum”; in order to believe crap like that, you have to break common sense.
What’s impressive about Soeiro’s letter wasn’t really what was in it. Her reasons for tossing out the books sent by the First Lady are every bit as predictable and contrived as you could expect. There are other suffering schools, the school budgets aren’t large enough, Secretary DeVos should milk the taxpayers for more federal funds to sink into failing sinkholes of districts, etcetera. It’s the typical spiel that you hear from everyone who still believes that public schooling is a worthy investment and a moral imperative for a learned nation. Meanwhile, she admits that her school is doing pretty well amid all that, no doubt due to the higher income bracket that her district services. How, exactly, any of that ties back to rejecting a gift from the White House is anyone’s guess. Worse still, Soeiro even seems to acknowledge that her students—those for whom the book bundle was assembled, remember—were pretty impressed with the letter Melania Trump had attached. What kid wouldn’t be? Even they’re smart enough to understand that the First Lady is a big deal.
The last third of her letter gets to the meat of her point. She doesn’t want her library stocked with the bigotry of children’s picture books. Dr. Seuss is, as expected, a prototypical racist white male patriarch of some sort. Protip to the liberals who will never read this blog: if you’re referencing papers entitled “Is the Cat in the Hat Racist?” and “Was the Cat in the Hat Black?”, it’s time to sit back and reevaluate what exactly you’re trying to argue.
Soeiro masks her complaint with the statement that her school “doesn’t have a NEED for these books”, as if simple gift-giving operates according to a utilitarian principle. For liberals, I guess it would have to, since all bonds of friendship are simply social contracts formed out of convenience, and indeed, the entire social fabric exists as a complex system of legal arrangements enforced by a bureaucratic government. The liberal worldview—even its so-called “classical” antecedent—begins with the social contract and ends with the legal authority. There’s no room for love, neighborliness, or community in such a world, nor any room for gifts, charity, or bonds of fellowship. There’s only room for calculated legalese, compensation, distribution, and, in comically poor taste, HR-driven attempts fill the void of bureaucratic dullness with achievement awards and gift cards to Arby’s. The liberal worldview wants people in cubicles with their heads down, and even worse, those that believe it seem to operate as if that’s the natural state of Man.
There is, of course, an alternative to that metaphysic. Someone could believe, against the present age, that love is real and possible between fellows, that the social well-being of a community is based on interested and active neighborliness, and that bonding is the recognition and acceptance of subtle differences between individuals instead of the egalitarian ignorance of them. Someone could even believe in sending gifts to people they love without asking for anything in return. Someone might even use their position to dispense charity upon those they recognize to be less fortunate. But that would mean that society follows a natural order that can’t be so easily tracked and managed by bean counters in Washington, DC. That would mean that society isn’t politicized. And that’s just not an acceptable thing to believe.
To bring this back to the point, Soeiro’s letter reveals exactly why liberal instruction in schools isn’t merely poisonous to our future, but ultimately self-defeating. She would rather children learn about the evils of racism, imperialism, colonialism, and patriarchy at the time in their life when children are developing and exploring their imaginations and finding out about their own potential. Instead of defining their potential in positive terms with fantastical tales of adventure and responsibility, she would rather define their potential in negative terms: here are stories of kids who had to live with racism, so make sure you don’t end up racist! Her problem with Dr. Seuss isn’t that he draws racialized caricatures in his artwork; it’s that he isn’t politicized enough. His books are stories for children. And stories for children don’t create loyal young soldiers for the Comintern, so they’re irrelevant.
Fortunately, she reveals as much when she recommends her own list of books that she’d like to see more of in schools. Here’s another free protip to liberals who are on the market for kid’s picture books: avoid anything that has a subtitle. Don’t believe me? Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation is a real book. Remember when public school indoctrination at least pretended to be about children’s stories? Remember The Rainbow Fish? We’re quickly approaching the point where the title of a grad student’s dissertation in the liberal arts is indistinguishable from the title of a children’s picture book. And if I could make a recommendation to Soeiro’s list, it seems to be missing the soon-to-be classic work of children’s fiction, Communism for Kids, published by MIT University Press. I’m looking forward to including its follow-up, The Young Adventures of Pavlik Morozov, whenever it gets published (never).
It’s pretty obvious that both this list and this letter were drafted for one reason: to grandstand as yet another liberal woman demanding attention as she takes cheap shots at the White House. President Obama extolled the virtues present in Dr. Seuss books and never shied away from photo ops with one of them in his hand. Her school literally being too good to receive some additional library books has nothing to do with her letter of rejection; it’s all partisan and it’s all so obvious. Sad!
Actually, you know what? I have a better book recommendation for Ms. Soeiro’s list. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me before.