Dr. Seuss’ six nixed just couldn’t be fixed

Rachel Spezia is the Communications Coordinator at Congregation B’nai Amoona. She and her husband, James, have a 2-year-old son named Wolfie and are members of  B’nai Amoona.


Several years ago, I visited a preschool where a friend worked. I walked into her classroom just as she was asking her students to sit “criss-cross-applesauce” on the floor. The children found their way to a comically vibrant rug across the room and sat on their bottoms with their legs crossed in front of them.

Later on during my visit while the kids were napping, I mentioned to my friend that I thought calling that style of sitting “criss-cross-applesauce” was adorable and when I was in school we called it by a different name.

“Ya, we don’t call it that anymore – the old term was offensive,” my friend said.

And she was right. I learned that millions of schools and children’s organizations nationwide had swapped out the offensive term and upgraded to this delightful new one. It was a “win-win.”

I thought about this interaction when Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced on March 2, Dr. Seuss’ birthday, that they would no longer publish six of Dr. Seuss’ books because of racist and insensitive imagery found in them.

But unlike “criss-cross-applesauce,” the company wasn’t trading in the six recalled titles for six new ones with a social justice minded perspective. These six books were simply just done.

Dr. Seuss Enterprises did issue a short statement acknowledging that illustrations found in the six nixed books were racist. The company felt halting publication of these books also halted the spread of these harmful depictions and the stereotypes that they perpetuated.

And Dr. Suess Enterprises was right, too. Or, at least I think they are right, but as I’ve learned, not everyone would agree.

Throughout the day, posts were popping up on my friends’ social media pages. While many agreed with me that pulling these titles was the right thing to do, a number of posts regarded the act as a product of an overly sensitive society and a casualty of cancel culture. Since the six nixed books were “canceled” voluntarily by Dr. Seuss Enterprises, it doesn’t quite fit the description of cancel culture, which typically starts by being called out by the public.

But canceled or not, there is something to consider in all of this. Dr. Seuss Enterprises took an introspective look into their books, their messaging, and their role in children’s literature and made a change. I’m sure this was not an overnight decision and that other alternative solutions were proposed, but Dr. Seuss Enterprises taught us all a lesson in accountability on March 2.

Whether we call it cancel culture, social action or tikkun olam, may we all be able to look inside and make the necessary changes for a better tomorrow for every “Who Down in Whoville.”