“I know up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here on the bottom, we too should have rights.” – Dr. Seuss | Yertle the Turtle
Yertle the Turtle can once again gather fans, for Yertle the Turtle is no longer under ban.
Over a year after a ban was placed on the aforementioned quote from the Dr. Seuss classic, a settlement, to this freedom of expression argument, has been reached between the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association.
The quote by a lone turtle simply trying to assert his rights became a maelstrom of controversy when it was adopted by teachers on bumper stickers and t-shirts in the midst of the 2012 labor dispute.
The teachers had already gone on strike over issues including wages, classroom conditions and the province’s response to a court ruling last year that found previous education legislation was unconstitutional. However, when they were forced back to work by hastily passed provincial legislation, their continued battle-cry came in the form of a turtle’s quote.
In the eyes of children, Yertle was hastily ordering the other turtles to stack up one on top of the other, so he could climb to the top and see all there was to see, but in the eyes of the Prince Rupert School District particularly, the book was seen as political propaganda. All signage and t-shirts displaying the quote were ordered covered up and/or banned.
Though the labor dispute was settle last year, this grievance continued until last month, when it was decided that yes, teachers do have the right to “display or wear union posters, buttons and T-shirts.”
Dr. Suess’s books have long been associated with hidden messaging. Horton Hears a Who is said to tackle prejudice, while The Butter Battle Book is seen as a critique of the Cold War. The Lorax, which is clearly noting the horrors of environmental degradation, became a lit fuel keg of controversy recently, tying in with the film, when it was labeled by Fox News in particular as “indoctrinating our children” with its “anti-industry message”.