Updated: Mar 19
Woke absurdities are taking over culture -- including that of our kids' classrooms, bookshelves, and toy chests -- faster than we can keep up. Are you also feeling the pains of woke-induced whiplash? Let's diagnose the problems and propose four action items to help alleviate the pain for the sake of ourselves, our kids, and our society.
Just a few years ago, Former First Lady Michelle Obama read a Dr. Seuss book to a group of children in the White House and said, “We love Dr. Seuss in this house.” The same year, then-President Barack Obama stated that “pretty much all the stuff you need to know is in Dr. Seuss,” explaining his love in particular for The Sneetches, which teaches the values of tolerance, diversity, and compromise.
The former President even extolled tradition in discussing Horton Hears a Hoo: “We’re all the same, so why would we treat someone differently just because they don’t have a star on their belly? If I think about responsibility, I think about Horton sitting on the egg up in the tree while Lazy Mayzie’s flying off, doing whatever she wants. Know what I mean?” He added that as people age, they find “the homespun, basic virtues” that the older generation “care[s] about and admire[s]” are “all true.” In 2018, he again stated that “the nature of human dynamics does not change from level to level. . . . Most of what you need to learn you can actually just, read Dr. Seuss. . . . It’s all pretty much there.”
Even the Obamas likely could not have predicted what would happen next. After all, as recently as May of last year, Michelle was filmed reading Dr. Seuss on PBS Kids, a government-supported news station. This year, 117 years after Dr. Seuss was born on March 2, 1904, on a day designated National Read Across America Day in his honor, his name was not mentioned in President Joe Biden’s comments about the day, nor was it heard in Barack Obama’s remarks -- the same Barack Obama who just three years ago had attributed “all  you need to know” to Dr. Seuss’s wisdom.
What could have happened in the intervening years to so drastically change former President Obama’s mind about his self-purported legendary genius of Dr. Seuss? The ever-shifting landscape of wokeness in America.
What could . . . change former President Obama's mind about the legendary genius of Dr. Seuss he recently highlighted?
As part of a woke retribution against America’s beloved author, Dr. Seuss’s very own non-profit foundation chose his own National Read Across America Day to “cancel” six of his books, saying the books “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.” Never mind that more than sixty Dr. Seuss books -- particularly the ones named by former President Obama -- are some of the most uncontroversial and inspirational writings around (not to mention brilliantly written to capture children’s imaginations and help teach millions of children how to read).
Never mind that the foundation could have chosen to update the specific illustrations in question. No, these cancellations did not happen quietly, thoughtfully, or respectfully, or with any acknowledgement whatsoever that people are all nuanced, not just heroes or villains. But rather, they did so loudly, on his birthday, in typically sanctimonious language. Never mind the irony that Dr. Seuss was adored as the “progressive” icon of his generation, from loose literary artistic freedoms to environmental lessons from The Lorax, which only leaves us to predict an uproar in opposition to currently “acceptable” Dr. Seuss titles. Get your Green Eggs and Ham while it’s still available: The Cat in the Hat, we were told ominously, is safe . . . “for now.”
And it is far from only Dr. Seuss who is suffering. Disney is now putting disclaimers about stereotypes before numerous beloved children’s movies such as Dumbo and Peter Pan. To Disney’s credit, we suppose, these titles have not been altogether cancelled (yet). But then there’s the toy manufacturer Hasbro, which has recently removed the “Mr.” from the “Mr. Potato Head” brand, after Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head have been around for almost 70 years and were lovingly immortalized in the Toy Story franchise. (We would bet good money that if you listed your top 500 concerns in your children’s lives, somehow Mr. Potato Head’s honorific would not crack anyone’s list.) Then of course there’s the ultimate legacy toy brand, Mattel. Having faced criticism about Barbie’s body shape (first it became less curvy, then it became more curvy, and now curves are questionable), Mattel has introduced a “gender inclusive” and “gender fluid” line of dolls. We support all kids who want to feel included no matter their background or experiences, internally or externally. At the same time, at what point do the gender lines blur to a generally unhealthy state, especially for impressionable kids?
We would bet good money that if you listed your top 500 concerns in your children’s lives, somehow Mr. Potato Head’s honorific would not crack anyone’s list.
Case in point: in a landscape dominated by the banning on Amazon of Ryan Anderson’s When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Movement (buy a copy here), singer and actress Demi Lovato came out against gender reveal parties during pregnancy because she believes children need to choose their own genders. Ah, so long to the innocent days of her debut on Barney and Friends and rise to fame on the Disney Channel. Perhaps she’d be supportive of gender reveal parties for toddlers and preschoolers? Per this newfound way of thinking, parents are no longer the primary reliable source for biological guidance and development (nor, ironically, is science!).
Historically, the political left and right opposed “book burning” (the left being especially vocal over books written by racial minority authors such as Toni Morrison and Alice Walker, whose books Beloved and The Color Purple have both been challenged previously), but oh how the tables have turned, and apparently hypocrisy sits at the table. One of our favorite journalists, Wall Street Journal children’s book reviewer Meghan Cox Gurdon, wrote recently about how even Homer, the Greek author revered for thousands of years, has gotten “mobbed,” as a Massachusetts school has banned The Odyssey. As Cox Gurdon writes, “If there is harm in classic literature, it comes from not teaching it. Students excused from reading foundational texts may imagine themselves lucky to get away with YA [Young Adult] novels instead . . . but compared with their better-educated peers they will suffer a poverty of language and cultural reference. Worse, they won’t even know it.”
“If there is harm in classic literature, it comes from not teaching it. Students excused from reading foundational texts may imagine themselves lucky to get away with YA [Young Adult] novels instead . . . but compared with their better-educated peers they will suffer a poverty of language and cultural reference. Worse, they won’t even know it.”
Talk about a Greek tragedy. This educational travesty is being writ large across the country. Former New York Times columnist Bari Weiss recently wrote an important piece about “The Miseducation of America’s Elites.” (The same Weiss who, by the way, resigned from the New York Times because it did not allow room for her ideas even though it explicitly brought her to the publication to broaden perspectives.) In her article, she discusses how -- far from celebrating achievements of racial minorities, rightly correcting past wrongs, bringing more minority voices into the curriculum, or working toward Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s vision of a colorblind world -- many schools have done just the opposite, allowing themselves to be completely taken over by the skin color-obsessed woke, White Fragility, critical race theory mindset. Students are segregated into race-based affinity groups, taught that America is a bad country, instructed to be ashamed of being white, and afraid to speak up otherwise in class. Students know they are being graded based on how “woke” they are.
Illustrative is the “Inclusive Language Guide” Weiss shared from Manhattan’s Grace Church School, which states that the words “parent,” “father,” or “mother” should not be used, but rather should be replaced with the word “folks” (or “folx”). Speaking of the letter "x" which has curiously risen to unprecedented popularity with woke-speak, "Latina" and "Latino" is a no-no, to be replaced by the all-inclusive term "Latinx." The guide highlights this decree even in spite of the fact that only 3% of Hispanics accept this fundamental breakdown of their language (Primerrily writes more extensively on consequences of language breakdown here). In line with the the woke guide's banning of "feminine and masculine linguistic identity, the guide directs adults to not address children as “boys and girls,” but rather “readers” or “mathematicians.” Again, ironic given the recent woke memo that “math is racist” (numerous articles discuss how teaching math perpetuates white privilege, despite this belief leading to delusional policy).
Perhaps most ironically at this religious school, per its Inclusive Language Guide, one is not supposed to ask “What religion are you?”, but rather “Are any religious faith traditions important to you?” -- as if religion is only about tradition, and not belief. And for December salutations, the guide directs its readers to greet others with, “Have a great break!” in place of “Merry Christmas!” (Or you can read Primerrily tips on ways to greet neighbors and strangers alike with authenticity, faith, personal connection, and true holiday cheer). All this woke "direction" and language transformation is about elitism, not race: as Weiss writes, “woke is now the lingua franca of the nation’s best prep schools.”
Incredibly, at a religious school, one is not supposed to ask “What religion are you?”, but rather “Are any religious faith traditions important to you?” -- as if religion is only about tradition, and not belief.
And the banning continues in these schools as well. Weiss writes about how a school in Los Angeles eliminated classics such as The Scarlet Letter, Little Women, Lord of the Flies, and To Kill a Mockingbird (which, ironically, beautifully and poignantly addresses racism and race-related issues). She highlights twenty-two different affinity groups at Chapin in Manhattan -- which encourage students and parents to self-segregate based on race -- a practice now echoing in K-12 schools throughout the country.
One harbinger of the critical race theory takeover was last year’s sensation, the “Nice White Parents” podcast, featured, unsurprisingly, on The New York Times, which became an anthem for woke white parents. Be well aware, “nice” is far from a compliment; rather, it is intended to be ironically derogatory; simply being “nice” is the opposite of “woke.” In other words, it’s not sufficient to be “not racist” -- you must be “anti-racist.” Of course, to know this terminology requires a person to read woke, understand woke, speak woke . . . otherwise, you’re part of the problem and complicit in perpetuating racism. As such, the podcast concluded that “nice white parents” are to blame for education inequities in schools. The hosts claim that “nice white parents” want their “nice white kids” to go to schools with diversity -- but ultimately make these schools cater more to the needs of white students than to the needs of racial minority students. The podcast host concluded that integration should not be the goal of education -- and castigated white parents, whom she describes as obstacles to true racial equity in schools (by the way, no longer is “equality” the admirable goal). The host describes these white parents (more or less her self-selected audience!) as simply naïve, “nice,” and woefully misguided. At the end of the podcast, the white parents have an “awokening,” realize their “disproportionate” power, and rhetorically “cede” it.
For more of such condescension, see An Open Letter to Well-Meaning White Teachers (read, “nice” -- and clueless), that criticizes teachers for the sin of wanting to invite successful black people to talk to their students -- because they believe recognizing the achievements of any black people would deny the systemic racism that they overcame. (We have earlier written about this author, who has decided only to use lowercase for his name because he wants to “reimagine the recommended relationship between capitalization and proper nouns.”) And of course, none of this madness addresses the true tragedy of how far behind minority students have fallen while schools around the country -- especially in urban minority-majority school districts -- have been shut down now for over a year due to the coronavirus, despite the lack of evidence that the virus transmits through young children.
No one can keep up with this ever-evolving and shifting wokeness that requires such self-loathing from adults and now children alike. This madness must come to an end, one sane parent at a time. Our broken nation (not to mention our broken necks from the woke whiplash!) and her future generations need each of us to speak up. . . because our collective voices make up the silent majority calling for reason.
Our broken nation (not to mention our broken necks from the woke whiplash!) and her future generations need each of us to speak up . . . because our collective voices make up the silent majority calling for reason.