Melania Trump Gets Schooled by a School Librarian
National Read a Book Day was on September 6th. To commemorate the occasion, First Lady Melania Trump sent some books to a school library in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Liz Phipps Soeiro, the librarian at Cambridge Port Elementary School, took the opportunity to school Melania on how better to serve schools and kids around the country.
Phipps Soeiro thanked Melania Trump for the donation. She then proceeded to explain why her school probably wasn’t the best place to send it.
— The Horn Book (@HornBook) September 26, 2017
In an open letter to the First Lady on “The Horn Book”, Phipps Soeiro thanks Melania Trump for the kind and thoughtful donation, but goes on to suggest that her school probably wasn’t the place to send it. The White House website says that one school per state was chosen “After 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”, and therein lies the problem, according to Phipps Soeiro.
Her school and library are excellent for a reason. According to Phipps Soeiro, yearly per-pupil spending in Cambridge is well over $20,000. That’s double the national average.
She goes on to say, “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.” Choosing schools that are already performing above state and national standards seems to undermine the goal of a program like National Read a Book Day.
“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?” Zing!
Then there’s the matter of the books themselves. Melania Trump sent a collection of books by Dr. Seuss. Yes, kids love Dr. Seuss. But there are some real issues with quite a few of his books. Says Phipps Soeiro, “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.”
She goes on, “Another fact that many people are unaware of is that Dr. Seuss’s illustrations are steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes. Open one of his books (If I Ran a Zoo or And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, for example), and you’ll see the racist mockery in his art.”
In closing, the librarian served up some petty, and included a suggested book list for Mrs. Trump. The titles are diverse, inclusive, and basically everything her husband’s administration is not.
In the end, the librarian acknowledged the thoughtfulness of the donation, but said her school wouldn’t be keeping the books for their collection. The First Lady’s communications director gave a statement regarding the controversy, saying, “Mrs. Trump intends to use her platform as First Lady to help as many children as she can. She has demonstrated this in both actions and words since her husband took office, and sending books to schools across the country is but one example.” She calls the decision to turn the donation into “something divisive” unfortunate, but says the First Lady remains committed to helping children everywhere. We’ll believe it when we see it.
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