A librarian in Massachusetts thanked first lady Melania Trump for the Dr. Seuss books the White House donated to her school, but declined the gift calling the author “cliché, a tired and worn ambassador.”
The White House chose one school from each state to receive 10 Dr. Seuss books as part of National Read a Book Day by “working with the Department of Education to identify schools with programs that have achieved high standards of excellence, recognized by State and National awards and Blue Ribbon Awards.”
“Getting an education is perhaps the most important and wondrous opportunity of your young lives,” Trump said in a letter to the children.
Liz Phipps Soeiro, the librarian at Cambridgeport Elementary School, answered the first lady in a blog post explaining that there are more deserving schools in need of library materials.
“My students have access to a school library with over nine thousand volumes and a librarian with a graduate degree in library science. Multiple studies show that schools with professionally staffed libraries improve student performance,” Phipps Soeiro wrote.
“You may not be aware of this, but Dr. Seuss is a bit of a cliche…” A librarian wrote to Mrs. Trump after she gifted the school 10 books pic.twitter.com/kX4KPabWlQ
— CBS News (@CBSNews) September 28, 2017
Phipps Soeiro took a swipe at Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
“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,” Phipps Soeiro continued.
“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? Why not reflect on those ‘high standards of excellence’ beyond only what the numbers suggest? Secretary DeVos would do well to scaffold and lift schools instead of punishing them with closures and slashed budgets.”
— SchoolLibraryJournal (@sljournal) September 3, 2017
The librarian and advocate also took umbrage with the Dr. Seuss titles the first lady chose.
“You may not be aware of this, but Dr. Seuss is a bit of a cliché, a tired and worn ambassador for children’s literature. As First Lady of the United States, you have an incredible platform with world-class resources at your fingertips,” she wrote.
She added that the Seuss illustrations are “steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes,” and suggested 10 alternate titles in lieu of the Dr. Seuss books in a second post.
— Your Name (@BDC_Towanda25) September 28, 2017
Parents outside the school told CBS Boston the “articulate” letter is Phipps Soeiro’s “prerogative,” but the Cambridge school system said Phipps Soeiro’s editorial does not represent the district, adding “the employee was not authorized to accept or reject donated books on behalf of the school or school district.”
“We have counseled the employee on all relevant policies, including the policy against public resources being used for political purposes,” the district said.
Phipps Soeiro’s actions were met with mixed reviews on social media and her Twitter account has since been deactivated.