Fact Check

Did a Virginia Public School System 'Cancel' Dr. Seuss?

At this point, it is getting hard to tell what the term "cancel" actually means.

Published Feb 28, 2021

American author and illustrator Dr Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel, 1904 - 1991) sits at his drafting table in his home office with a copy of his book, 'The Cat in the Hat', La Jolla, California, April 25, 1957.  (Photo by Gene Lester/Getty Images) (Gene Lester/Getty Images)
Image Via Gene Lester/Getty Images
A Virginia school system "canceled" Dr. Seuss for being racist.
What's True

The Loudoun County public school system announced that "Dr. Seuss and his books are no longer the emphasis of Read Across America Day in Loudoun County Public Schools," citing research on racial undertones in his work. The holiday had historically been connected to Dr. Seuss.

What's False

However, Dr. Seuss' books have not been banned by the school system or limited in any way; they remain available to the students in libraries and classrooms.

On Feb. 26, 2021, The Daily Wire alleged that Loudoun County Public Schools had "canceled" the work of children's author Dr. Seuss because the work was racist. The report is based on the fact that the school system announced that it will not be highlighting or focusing on the work of Dr. Seuss for this year's "Read Across America Day" despite the fact that the holiday was inspired by his work and occurs on the late author's birthday.

National Read Across America day is an initiative by the National Education Association (NEA). Historically, the day has been connected to Dr. Seuss. In the past, NEA partnered with Dr. Seuss Enterprises as part of the holiday. That is no longer the case, however. NEA's website explains that the "Read Across America brand is now one that is independent of any one particular book, publisher, or character."

Dr. Seuss' work has been reevaluated in the context of race in recent years. “As we become more culturally responsive and racially conscious, all building leaders should know that in recent years there has been research revealing radical undertones in the books written and the illustrations drawn by Dr. Seuss,” an announcement by the school district reportedly said. A study published in 2019, as described by Learning for Justice, a nonprofit linked to the Read Across America campaign, concluded that:

Of the 2,240 (identified) human characters [in 50 Dr. Seuss books], there are forty-five characters of color representing 2% of the total number of human characters.” Of the 45 characters, 43 exhibited behaviors and appearances that align with harmful and stereotypical Orientalist tropes. The remaining two human characters “are identified in the text as ‘African’ and both align with the theme of anti-Blackness.” It’s also important to note that each of the non-white characters is male and that they are all “presented in subservient, exotified, or dehumanized roles,” especially in their relation to white characters.

In response to the viral stories, the Loudoun County pushed back, calling claims that they had "canceled" Dr. Seuss incorrect:

Dr. Seuss books have not been banned in Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS). LCPS believes this rumor started because March 2 is “Read Across America Day.” Schools in LCPS, and across the country, have historically connected Read Across America Day with Dr. Seuss’ birthday.

Research in recent years has revealed strong racial undertones in many books written/illustrated by Dr. Seuss. … Given this research, and LCPS’ focus on equity and culturally responsive instruction, LCPS provided this guidance to schools during the past couple of years to not connect Read Across America Day exclusively with Dr. Seuss’ birthday.

We continue to encourage our young readers to read all types of books that are inclusive, diverse and reflective of our student community, not simply celebrate Dr. Seuss. Dr. Seuss books have not been banned and are available to students in our libraries and classrooms, however, Dr. Seuss and his books are no longer the emphasis of Read Across America Day in Loudoun County Public Schools.

Because Loudoun County — like the NEA itself — has made the decision to not focus solely on Dr. Seuss for National Read Across America Day, but because the county has also not restricted the reading or availability of Dr. Seuss' books in any way, we rank the claim "Mostly False."

Alex Kasprak is an investigative journalist and science writer reporting on scientific misinformation, online fraud, and financial crime.

Article Tags