Reading Rainbow's LeVar Burton weighs in on the decision to discontinue 6 Dr. Seuss books

Originally published at: Reading Rainbow's LeVar Burton weighs in on the decision to discontinue 6 Dr. Seuss books | Boing Boing


That’s interesting to learn because I had always assumed that the original pilot “The Cage” was closer to Roddenberry’s vision than the version we saw on screen after the network had him tweak the formula.

On Pike’s ship the women got to wear pants.



That pretty much nobody ever heard of. But I guess it’s enough to trigger the Fox Hate Media outrage machine.


What’s this? A beloved authority acting as a voice of reason and making an argument based on facts in this discussion? I’m surprised that CNN opted for him instead of the usual screamers who appear on their panels.


Yeah, but some are more human than others. And they all seemed to be on PBS in the 70s and 80s.

LaVar Burton
Fred Rogers
Bob Ross
Jim Henson


I think I had On Beyond Zebra, but none of the other 5.


Carry on, Mr La Forge.


People losing their shit about this is ridiculous, anyway. These six books weren’t amount his most popular, most famous, or most sought after. They’ve been in print for a long time, so it’s not like you can’t hunt down an old copy if you really want them - but, the truth is that the people complaining the most about this very likely had no interest in owning the books until they found out they were going out of print. I saw this happen last year when Wizards of the Coast banned a small list of Magic cards for being racially insensitive - the prices of those cards skyrocketed, and most of the people buying had no interest in the Magic card game, they just wanted the racist banned cards (source: ran a game store at the time, and had people come in looking for the cards who obviously did not play the game).

Honestly, while I don’t like the books going out of print, I also don’t think it’s a big deal. If there is ever a collection of everything Seuss made that gets printed in the future, I do hope they include these books, along with the other - even more problematic - political cartoons he made. Just clearly label that it contains problematic materials and is included for completeness sake.


That was an excellent interview! I will blather this nonetheless: you show me any great work done fifty years or more ago and i’ll find a reason, given modern day context, to censure it. That is, societal norms are the most fleeting of all. Therefore here’s my humble suggestion: Every work of Art, which reeks of dated divisive issues (e.g. The Mikado, The Lord of the Rings, anything Wagner, an entire Art gallery from the Impressionists backwards) slap on a disclaimer, or social warning, or "The More you Know", indicator upon it, rather than censor it. Censorship (in my view) is always the wrong path. (and yes, i know the case can be made that this specific Seuss-ian situation doesn’t amount to full on censorship - and i do love my pale green pants)


Your “all things are equally bad” take is a bad take.


I did not say that everything old is equally derisive, (and don’t believe that for a nanosecond), what i typed up there, is that everything old can be held up to a light which discovers something troubling in a modern context. (and, of course, everything old includes me too -sigh-)


Mulberry Street and McElligott’s Pool are two of the first books i ever learned to read, and If I Ran The Zoo is certainly familiar. the others i hadn’t hadn’t heard of, but i just assume he wrote those after i had aged out of the demographic for his books.


I rather like the cut of Mr. Burton’s jib. So say I.


In the '60s wearing a miniskirt was actually female liberation. At the time Mary Quant creations were considere d immoral and disgusting by some priggish men.


These are books meant for children 3-6 years old. They are not going to get the context or the disclaimer. It really is best just to not expose them to it. If there were a shortage of material for this group you might have an argument for keeping it around. There is not even a shortage of Seuss after this, much less any material suitable for this group.
Your argument also suggests that no editing should take place, which this, ultimately is. Should every publisher be required to publish anything submitted? Should publishers be required to keep everything they have published in print for ever? Isn’t this provision some kind of “censorship” in itself?
Using the word “censorship” so loosely leads to these kinds of ideas. It isn’t censorship when a publisher decides what to publish out of every possibility. If there were government interference it might be different. This is the market talking and a publisher responding to their market. It has nothing to do with censorship.


Allowing women to wear miniskirts instead of ankle-length skirts was considered a form of liberation. Mandating miniskirts in place of pants was not.


I’ll absolutely grant you that.

However, this isn’t about banning or burning everything old. It’s about ceasing to actively promote and sell what seem to be the most problematic works - a decision that doesn’t burn existing copies, is related to the target audience, and deals only with the most egregious works.

I’m not a fan of the “slippery slope” argument, because that suggests that acceptable solutions exist only upon the ends of the spectrum of possible responses, when I find that in real life, almost every answer I consider optimal is a compromise of many different principles.

This seems to be a more than acceptable compromise of those principles.


yeah, I always thought that was the hand of a fixer, but I am far from a Star Trek nerd, I’m sure someone in that community has the definitive answer. In Canada, where I live, at the time there was a popular brand of pajamas/lounge wear made by Stanfield’s that looked just like the first run Star Trek uniforms…same colour palette and style (not the skirts, the shirts and pants). Everyone was convinced the costume designer just stocked up at the Bay. Stanfield’s by the way was owned by Robert Stanfield, who was the leader of the loyal opposition when Pierre Trudeau was first PM.


To be fair, And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street was his breakthrough work, so it’s not exactly obscure to anyone who has looked into Seuss’ work more than a bit.


The ridiculous thing about the outrage is that a few of the titles weren’t particularly widespread to begin with. We have a rather large collection of older children’s books, because my mom ran a day care and gave us her entire library when we had our little one. We also hit library sales a few times a year to pick up books for the little one. I’ve only run into three of the of the books in the wild more than once. Mulberry and Zoo were both relatively common and you would see Zebra occasionally, but all the rest were not something you would see.