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What's with the name?

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Canadian School Bans Dr. Seuss’ Yertle The Turtle

We’ve all heard of books being banned before, and as ridiculous as we may sometimes find the titles on those lists, none may be more ridiculous than this one. A school in Canada has chosen to ban Dr. Seuss’ Yertle the Turtle for being subversive to children. I do not like this one bit, in fact, it has me in a snit. (Don’t worry, that was my one and only attempt at rhyming in this article.)

The book, Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories, by Theodor Seuss Geisel was published in 1958. Yertle is one out of three stories in the book and deals with the king of the pond who stacks himself on top of other turtles in order to reach the moon and yells at them when they complain. So what is it about this tale exactly that has one school worried?

According to the Globe and Mail, because a quote from said book is being seen as a political statement. And one teacher from a Prince Rupert elementary school has been told she should not display it in her classroom. So it’s not that they’re banning the book itself but as they are banning the quote, the book naturally follows. “I know up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here on the bottom, we too should have rights,” is what is causing all the trouble.

Boy, that is some dangerous stuff right there.

“The teacher included the quote in material she brought to a meeting with management after she received a notice relating to union material visible in her car on school property,” they write. The quote and subsequent decision came about during a labor dispute between the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation and the province. “The issue of teachers wearing pins or displaying quotes has come up periodically since they went on strike last year, with the district sending notes to about a dozen teachers about the issue.”

“The advice is in keeping with a 2011 arbitrator’s decision that found political materials must be kept out of B.C. classrooms, said Dave Stigant, who is acting director of instruction for the Prince Rupert School District and who met with the teacher to discuss what would and wouldn’t run afoul of district standards,” writes the site. “And while he conceded Tuesday that it might seem absurd to spend time reviewing quotes from, among others, Dr. Seuss and former Canadian prime minister John Diefenbaker, Mr. Stigant said the review is necessary to protect students from an often-bitter dispute.”

Though apparently, Stignant had no idea the quote came from the famous Seuss book when he read it.

“It’s a good use of my time if it serves the purpose of shielding the children from political messaging,” Stigant said. “I don’t consider it’s taking a stand on the dispute. It’s a matter of legality and living up to our obligation to children and their families.”

The article also mention that, “On Monday afternoon, Joanna Larson, president of the BCTF local in Prince Rupert, noted on Twitter that ‘teachers could be disciplined for displaying a Dr. Seuss quote.’”

The end.

(via io9)


  • Anonymous

    So this time, we really CAN blame Canada?

  • Philip Gerald Bushell

    Next they’ll ban the Lorax for he “Speaks for the trees for the trees have no tongues”  Obviously the book is promoting violent evo-geurilla protests….

  • Philip Gerald Bushell

    Not to mention that, by condemning this quote from the book, this school board is, in fact, promoting bullying.   Speaking up for the rights of lesser people is wrong and only the one yelling at others to do his bidding is important.

  • Starman

    To say nothing of “Unless someone like you cares a whle awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not.” being an endorsement of activism and protesting.

  • Jen [Silvertaine]

    Wow. Fear triumphs over reason once again. “…is in keeping with a 2011 arbitrator’s decision that found political materials must be kept out of B.C. classrooms…” Anything that teaches people to question the status quo can be deemed as political, so where will they draw the line? May as well start banning history books while you’re at it… ‘cept no one seems to learn from history anymore anyway. This world is doomed. :/

  • Erica Throne

    And the reason they’re not banning most of Dr. Seuss’ post-war books as well is? I’m Canadian, from BC no less, and I find this kind of small minded even for British Columbians (we’re not the smartest bunch, I admit). Especially knowing that a few of Dr. Seuss famous books have or are some kind of political statement.

  • Frodo Baggins

    I know moral dilemmas often seem very difficult to navigate and confusing, but it’s a pretty reliable metric that if you’re banning the phrase: “down here on the bottom, we too should have rights,” you’re in the wrong.

  • Julie Allen

    The entire book was written as a political statement!  Dr. Seuss first used the character of Yertle in a 1942 cartoon that said “You can’t build a substantial V out of turtles”.  Yertle was a representation of Hitler, and his regime, for heaven’s sake!  In his own words Seuss said he was “subversive as hell”.  I mean, look at the film he made with Frank Capra in WWII (not sure of the name, it was a propaganda film).  Heavens, better not expose our kids to things that might make them think!  Gaahhh…this is just so asinine.  “Living up to our obligation to children”… beg pardon, but your obligation is to provide a place of education, where children are exposed to and learn about ideas, whether they’re the same or different from the ones they’re exposed to at home.  Banning books, or even parts of books (especially the parts that contain the moral/message) is NOT helping you live up to that obligation.

  • Kalynn Osburn

    Part of the beauty of Dr. Seuss was that he took complicated, often adult issues, and made them understandable to children. He kept it basic, not too specific, but kept the morality of it obvious and to the point. My favorite has always been the Butter Battle Book. 

  • relmneiko

    I’m ashamed to be Canadian today. Seuss’ books are some seriously good shit man, all of it has deep messages that kids should listen to. The Sneetches have a lot to say about prejudice…

  • Anonymous

    But it’s possibly the best book ever written on the subject of turtle stacking!

  • Emerald

    No you cannot “blame Canada”. Our education standards are set by province, not nationally. So you can blame British Columbia.

  • Lawrence Moore


  • Taste_is_Sweet

    Okay, I’m going to risk being slammed here by actually saying I think I know where this BC government is coming from. According to this article, this labor dispute is bitter indeed and goes all the way back to *last year*. Here’s the URL:

    Now, after reading the article I certainly agree that the teachers are in the right, here. But, I can also understand how the government would want to keep the kids out of it, up to and including materials that the teachers could use to lobby for support. I’m sure the idea was that a teacher would read the book and say, “And do you know who’s on the bottom here right now? Us!” and get the kids riled up and make things worse.

    I’m not saying that it’s the correct decision. If anything it makes the provincial government look like even worse jerks than the strike has already, not to mention they come across as desperate, cowardly bullies. I’m also pretty sure that the students old enough to understand what’s going on would already be on the teachers’ side, anyway.

    But, I can understand the government’s motivation. They shouldn’t have done it, but I can understand why. It’s like they say: When your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

  • Emily Hill

    oh my god its the Horton hears a who fiasco all over again
    (this part I copied off wikipedia while I’m pro life I can see Seuss being angry that pro lifers used his work without permission)

    The book (most notably Horton the Elephant’s recurring phrase “a
    person’s a person, no matter how small”) has found its way to the center
    of the recurring debate, in the United States, over abortion. Several pro-life
    groups have adopted the phrase in support of their views. Geisel
    himself did not approve of these groups co-opting the phrase, nor does
    his widow, Audrey Geisel, who “doesn’t like people to hijack Dr. Seuss
    characters or material to front their own points of view.” [6] According to Geisel biographer Philip Nel, Geisel threatened to sue a pro-life group for using his words on their stationery.