A reading of Dr. Seuss’ book “The Sneetches” during an NPR taping of “Planet Money”, to a classroom of third grade children, was terminated by an assistant director for Olentangy Local School District, Amanda Beeman.
The book was being read to students at Shale Meadors Elementary as an economic lesson. It covered examples of open markets, preferences, and economic loss and was one of six books that had been selected and cleared by the district and teacher Mandy Robek.
The district has stipulated that politics were not to be covered.
In the storyline of the book, there are two kinds of Sneetches. Some have stars on their bellies, and others have none. Capitalist Sylvester McMonkey McBean makes money selling belly stars to those judged for not having them. But those with stars don’t like this so start having their own removed.
During the reading, one student is heard saying “It’s almost like what happened back then, how people were treated … Like, disrespected … Like, white people disrespected Black people…”.
Mrs. Robek kept reading and soon after Beeman interruped. “I don’t know if I feel comfortable with the book being one of the ones featured…. I just feel like this isn’t teaching anything about economics, and this is a little bit more about differences with race and everything like that.”
Despite Beras’ explanation about the economics lesson of the book, Beeman says, “I just don’t think it might be appropriate for the third-grade class and for them to have a discussion around it.”
Onlentangy Schools and Beeman both later clarified that this was a personal call made by the assistant director. “As (‘The Sneetches’) was being read, I made a personal judgment call we shouldn’t do the reading because of some of the other themes and undertones that were unfolding that were not shared that we would be discussing with parents.”
Beeman later said the book does in fact touch on discriminatory behavior, segregation, and racism – as well as the economics lessons – but that she wished she’d handled the situation in a different way.