CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – A Massachusetts librarian is using free books sent to her school by Melania Trump as a political opportunity to denigrate the president and his policies, as well as the beloved Dr. Seuss children’s books.
Melania Trump recently mailed 10 Dr. Seuss books to a school from each state as part of National Read a Book Day on September 6, but instead of graciously accepting the gift, Cambridgeport Elementary School librarian Liz Phipps Soeiro rejected the books in a condescending public letter that admonishes Trump and Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, WBZ reports.
The letter, posted to The Horn Book Family Reading blog, also alleges Dr. Seuss is racist, the public education system is rife with “systemic white supremacy,” and suggests that the Trump administration is only making matters worse.
Melania Trump wrote:
As I was thinking about your return to school, I wanted to send you a special gift. Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! is a book my son and I have read over and over again, and one that we want to share with all of you.
Remember, the key to achieving your dreams begins with learning to read. Find what you enjoy, anything that interests you, and read about it. Every page will take you on an exciting journey.
Please also remember that you are the future of America and that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. Your education is the path to pursuing your happiness. Never stop learning and challenging yourself, and never give up on your dreams.
Soeiro wrote back:
Thank you for the ten Dr. Seuss titles that you sent my school library in recognition of this year’s National Read a Book Day. (Sent second-day air, no less! That must have been expensive.) I’m proud that you recognized my school as something special. It truly is. Our beautiful and diverse student body is made up of children from all over the world; from different socioeconomic statuses; with a spectrum of gender expressions and identities; with a range of abilities; and of varied racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds.
Soeiro noted that the Department of Education worked with the first lady to recognize schools with high standards of excellence, and identified the 10 Suess books sent out to each librarian, which included classics like “The Cat in the Hat,” “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish,” “Green Eggs and Ham” and others.
My students were interested in reading your enclosed letter and impressed with the beautiful bookplates with your name and the indelible White House stamp, however, we will not be keeping the titles for our collection.
The librarian explained that Cambridge, Massachusetts is a great place with great schools because of the government, and free all-day kindergarten, and well-paid teachers, and a robust library with “nine thousand volumes and a librarian with a graduate degree in library science.”
The city spends $20,000 a year per student, and the district is made up of families with diverse backgrounds, some of them poor.
“Even so, we still struggle to close the achievement bap, retain teachers of color, and dismantle the systemic white supremacy in our institution. But hell, we test well!” Soeiro wrote. “And in the end, it appears that data – and not children – are what matters.
“Meanwhile, school libraries around the country are being shuttered. Cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, and Detroit are suffering through expansion, privatization, and school “choice” with no interest in outcomes of children, their families, their teachers, and their schools. Are those kids any less deserving of books simply because of circumstances beyond their control? Why not go out of your way to gift books to underfunded and underprivileged communities that continue to be marginalized and maligned by policies put in place by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos?”
Besides, Soeiro wrote, Dr. Seuss is racist.
“Another fact that many people are unaware of is that Dr. Seuss’s illustrations are steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes. Open one of his books (If I Ran a Zoo or And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, for example), and you’ll see the racist mockery in his art,” she wrote, pointing to social justice columns about Seuss.
“I am honored that you recognized my students and our school. I can think of no better gift for children than books; it was a wonderful gesture, if one that could have been better thought out. Books can be a powerful way to learn about and experience the world around us; they help build empathy and understanding. In return, I’m attaching a list of ten books (it’s the librarian in me) that I hope will offer you a window into the lives of the many children affected by the policies of your husband’s administration,” Soeiro continued.
The suggested books, of course, focus on racism, immigration, and “children who challenge society’s social constraints,” The Boston Globe reports.
Cambridge Public Schools officials are now scrambling to handle the fallout, which spokeswoman Rosalie Rippey said involves “a lot” of phone calls from “people who feel strongly, in one way or another, offended” by Soeiro’s remarks.
“The opinions expressed in the Horn Book editorial were those of the writer, and not a statement on behalf of Cambridge Public Schools,” the school said in Thursday statement. “This was not a formal acceptance or rejection of donated books, but a statement of opinion on the meaning of the donation.”
“While we enthusiastically support the political engagement and passion of our employees, in this instance the editorial posted online gave the impression that the statement reflected the position or actions of the Cambridge Public Schools,” the district said. “Our school district did not authorize any such statement.”
The statement contends that Soeiro’s superiors “counseled” the librarian on “all relevant policies, including donations policies and the policy against public resources being used for political purposes.”