Dr.Seuss’ Yertle the Turtle too political for BC schools?

Courtesy Wikipedia. Click on image.

Update: Charles Adler weights in on educrats and how they are ruining childhood with their politically correct agendas. (H/T Catherine). Where I disagree with Adler is his assuming everyone in the system, or everyone was part of the system at one time, are politically correct educrats. Obviously. I don’t see myself that way or I wouldn’t have written this post. That said, Adler is correct. People need to allow children to be children and use books like Yertle the Turtle to teach lessons, not conformity.   


You have to know that political correctness has replaced common sense when the Prince Rupert School District in BC considers the children’s Dr. Seuss classic, Yertle the Turtle, to be too political to use, either with students in the classroom, or in BC Teacher’s Federation (BCTF) materials that might be visible in a teacher’s car.

Now, I may not agree with the actions of either the BC government or the BCTF during and after their recent walk-out, but forbidding union materials in a person’s car sounds like political harassment and bullying to me.

For example, here are a couple of selected quotes from a Globe and Mail article by Wendy Stueck:

“A Prince Rupert elementary teacher has been told a quote from Dr. Seuss’s Yertle the Turtle is a political statement that should not be displayed or worn on clothing in her classroom. 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.”

“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….”

So, why might Yertle the Turtle be a problem for the BC government or the Prince Rupert School District?  Well, it is a story that uses metaphor to show what oppression and bullying looks like.

In the case in point, Yertle forces his fellow turtles to hold him up, even when the turtles at the bottom are hurting and complaining.  In response he simply tells them to shut up and keep holding him up. Eventually, the bottom turtle burps and they all go flying and Yertle ends up in the mud.

Hmmm. In other words, in B.C. that is exactly how the teachers are feeling and the school district and BC government don’t like it one bit that they are being portrayed as bullies.

Well, as my regular readers know, I don’t agree with teachers strikes or work to rule campaigns, but I am definitely getting the feeling that the animosity that BC teacher’s are feeling is a huge problem that no amount of politically correct bullying is going to fix. In fact, it is going to make things even worse.  

Anway, the primary problem is, as I understand it, a decision by the BC Supreme Court that “working conditions were a teacher’s right,” that the BC government refuses to acknowledge. Personally, I disagree with the whole notion, as I have written about before, but that is irrelevant now.

I mean, when BC school districts are calling teachers on the carpet because quotes from a Dr. Seuss classic are “too political,” you know there is a serious breakdown, not only of communication but of respect.  You also have to know there is a serious problem when the BCTF and the government can’t even agree on a mediator.

Solution? Well, either the BC government has to take the BC Supreme Court decision to the federal court for a final resolution, or they have to simply put the “right” back in the collective agreement and get on with providing BC children with the education their parents expect.

However, if the BC government refuses to deal with this “political” situation, in the long term,  it is government officials and their school district administrators that are going to be covered in mud.

10 thoughts on “Dr.Seuss’ Yertle the Turtle too political for BC schools?

  1. This is a whole load of BS.

    #1. Teachers SHOULDN’T be placing union propaganda in their car windows at work. How would they feel if the administrators were coming to school with posters in their windows blasting the teachers?

    #2. He claims he didn’t even know where the quote was from. Not only that he called it a gray area and never actually fully banned it from her wall of quotes.

    #3. He claims he has had to approach her several times due to her posting pro-union material. Why shouldn’t he assume the worst on anything she is posting thereafter?

    If you agree with the tactics of the teacher in this instance then you should agree with me sending my kids to school with shirts with slogans targeting the teachers in a “clever” way.


  2. Kevin, if you read my previous post you would see I don’t necessarily agree with the teachers. However, if your reaction is indicative of the mood in BC, it is ugly indeed and going on as you did would be no help at all.

    The crux of the matter is that Canada is a free country. We can have whatever literature or signs we want in our car windows or brief cases. Talk about reverse political correctness.

    Sending kids to school with slogans on them? Absolutelt was done to the Harris gov’t by parents who were supportive of the teacher’s unions in the 1995 to 1999 period. I was working for a PC MPP and, as a retired educator, know intimately what that was like.

    Plus, given free speech, I would hope you are not condemning me for writing a post that at least tries to be balanced.


  3. Isn’t conscience rights enshrined in the Charter? Are they going to classify Dr Suess as hate speech now? Hold the teacher accountable for her words and actions, but banning or suppressing things only leads to deeper problems.


  4. It appears my point is completely lost. Just answer this: Do you want the administration and students to be allowed to wear politically charged items as well? I just don’t think our schools should be campaign grounds.

    I’d have to look up the ruling on political agendas in the classroom to be positive, but I assume it includes the whole of the school grounds. It makes sense..

    I didn’t say I want to send kids to school with slogans. I’m saying it’s the same difference as what this teacher allegedly did and I think either way it’s idiotic.

    I have no problem with free speech. But I think we all know that nothing in life comes free. If you REALLY want to open up free speech in schools you are opening up a giant can of worms.

    Condemning your article? Not really. But this issue has been completely one sided in every way. BCTF get a gold medal on the PR spin on this one. It’s almost as good as people referring to a mediator as an arbitrator.


  5. Sorry Kevin, I’m just not getting into this with you. Making Dr. Seuss political commentary is just plain silly no matter who does it.


  6. In context anything can be political. Given the teachers history and the fact the administrator didn’t know where the quote originated I would say it is plenty fair for him at the time to have called this quote a “gray area”.


  7. Seuss wrote Yertle the Turtle as an allegory about Adolf Hitler, so adjusting it to fit an introduction to the quest for human rights and the revolutions of the 17th and 18th centuries is effective. When I first heard of this story on CBC Radio, I was confused; I recognize the quote from a lesson I use to teach about authoritarian rule in my Grade 9 SS classes and did not understand what this had to do with the labour dispute.
    However, after reading an article in the Winnipeg Free Press, I have a bit more information:

    Stigant said he based his decision on an arbitration award last November, when teachers’ rights to freedom of expression were trumped by students’ rights to be insulated from political messages.
    “What I said was `If you put that quote beside a placard that is objecting to a loss of bargaining rights or some other right it becomes part of that political message.’ I never did direct that teacher not to use that quote in her classroom,” he said.
    “It has nothing to do with “Yertle the Turtle.” It has to do with the (B.C. Teachers Federation) protesting Bill 22 and undertaking a year of resistance.”

    (Sorry, cannot edit or link in comments, so the link is here: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/canada/dr-seuss-quote-thought-too-political-for-students-when-used-in-labour-dispute-148972485.html)

    I am a middle school teacher in BC. I like to think that if students really are learning to apply critical thinking skills that they’ll be able to make these connections (Yertle’s lesson and the labour situation) without me stating them explicitly.

    I was the local rep for our school up to a week ago (I resigned because I didn’t agree with the union’s new plan), but I worked WITH our administration to ensure that once this is all over (and it will be one day) we will be able to work together as a cohesive staff. We discuss what makes the most common sense when we don’t have clear direction from either BCTF or BCPSEA. (We are aware that our little middle school is an anomaly in BC!)

    The labour dispute between the BCTF and the BCPSEA is multi-faceted – it is not simply about a supreme court ruling on a phrase – and it is compounded by several controversial legislations over the past ten years. However, I am in the minority in my opinion that the bargaining tactics over the past 14 months were mishandled by both sides.


  8. Raabster – I am not an English major so I don’t know as much about Seuss as you obviously do.

    This is just a personal blog. My point is that by making the classic politically incorrect shows just how far this dispute has gone — too far it seems.

    But, I do disagree that the BC Supreme court decision is just about a phrase. I wrote a post on that. Working conditions being a right is about power and money, class sizes, you name it. That is not minor. And, as long as that finding is hanging in limbo, mediation is going to be hindered — regardless of Bill 22 or other legislation. The strike was illegal. If I was still in the classroom, I would not have walked out. If forced to walk out, I would not have walked the picket line. So, I am with you on being reasonable.

    In 1997, when Ontario teachers went out on their illegal strike, I was working for a Harris MPP. As a retired educator I was stuck in the middle since teachers were picketing my boss’ office locally. Which meant I would have to walk through hundreds of angry teachers to my place of employment. Because I had been a teacher educator (pre-service and graduate), many would know me personally. So, I took the easy way out. I worked from home for the entire two weeks. Yet, I have to tell you I was even more ashamed at the way teachers abused their positions and politicized Harris AFTER they went back to work.

    To this day, those now thirty something young adults think Harris was a dictator. He was not. Yes, he made some tough decisions but, truth to tell, all those young people were brainwashed by their self-serving teachers — which had very little to do with reality.

    But thanks for sharing. I very much appreciate it.


  9. Here is a column by Charles Adler about Yertle the Turtle and how we don’t need no educrats. The problem is, like all things in life, he lumps all of us educrats into one basket. But, its worth reading anyway. (H/T Catherine)


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