We often point to literary figures who somehow put the pieces together and imagined a world – future or otherwise – that is eerily similar to the world we face today.
For science fiction buffs, you have Jules Verne writing about nuclear-powered submarines in “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” and Robert Heinlein writing about super computers, video conferencing, cell phones, and text messaging in “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.” George Orwell and Ayn Rand, having seen the negative results of liberal-socialist-progressive-statism, wrote “1984” and “Atlas Shrugged,” respectively.
But there is an author who conceived of a day when some teachers would teach to a test, when those teachers who didn’t were seen as odd (or worse, potentially flawed), and when schools that didn’t perform well on the test would be shuttered and their students sent elsewhere. This sounds vaguely familiar in today’s world, I’m sure; but the concept for this author’s story was put to paper at least 30 years ago, long before anyone had ever heard of No Child Left Behind, Agenda 21, or Common Core.
Ironically enough, this author is among the favorites of liberal-socialist-progressive-statist government indoctrinators: Theodor Giesel, who was better known by his middle name – Seuss. That’s right. Dr. Seuss wrote a critique of government-indoctrinated groupthink repackaged as “education.”
Unfortunately, he never finished it before his death in 1991. A couple years earlier, he had approached his editor at Random House, Janet Schulman, about a story he was working on about a teacher, Miss Bonkers. He was concerned, however, that teachers wouldn’t like it much.
Teachers in the late 1980s probably would have adored it; but many of today’s unionized “educators” likely do not, especially in the finalized form. “Hooray For Diffendoofer Day!” was published in 1998, based on Seuss’ concept, which was expanded upon by poet Jack Prelutsky with art from Lane Smith (Seuss illustrated his own books).
For homeschool families and those who oppose Common Core, I highly recommend reading this final, posthumous addition to the Seuss library. For those who want to become a teacher, it should be required reading.
Copyright laws prevent me from quoting from the book or republishing its text here. However, if you follow this link, you will be able to read a text-only version online.
I can summarize one key aspect of the book, however: standardized testing. In the book, the principal of Diffendoofer School is concerned because the students will be forced to take a test; and if students don’t score high enough, the school will be closed.
If Diffendoofer School is closed, the students will be forced to attend school in the neighboring town, where the students all dress the same, sing just one song, and never dance. The students there march single file, do not play in parks, and eat lunches with no taste at all (again – sound familiar?)
The students are terrified, as is the principal. After all, the teachers at Diffendoofer School are considered “odd” and “different.” But Miss Bonkers, the narrator’s teacher, isn’t afraid. After all, she said, the teachers had taught their students how to think, not necessarily what to know.
I won’t spoil the ending for those who haven’t read it yet, but most critics of government indoctrination will probably see it as predetermined at the onset.
Sadly, the outcome of “Hooray For Diffendoofer Day” isn’t as self-evident. That’s why it’s so important to share the story with others, including both those who choose to be teachers and those who may subject their offspring to government-run education.
I first read this book to my 9-year-old daughter four years ago, and she couldn’t get enough of it. I just recently introduced it to my 6-year-old son. He loves to have me read it as a bedtime story.
Isn’t it amazing how we thirst for intellectual freedom, even from an early age?
Of course, that makes a book like this dangerous for the status quo. Dangerous words and thoughts aren’t very welcome in our public indoctrination system. So, it would seem it’s only a matter of time before we see “Hooray For Diffendoofer Day” banned from the classrooms and school libraries.
Photo credit: US Army Africa (Flickr)