A quote from Dr. Seuss’ famous children’s book “Yertle the Turtle” has become the center of a debate about what is or isn’t appropriate on Prince Rupert school grounds during the ongoing dispute between teachers and the BC government over the controversial Bill 22.
The quote in question – “I know up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here on the bottom, we too should have rights” – was deemed too political to be displayed in classrooms by acting director of instruction Dave Stigant.
According to a 2011 arbitration decision, political materials must be kept out of the classroom and it is the school district that enforces this policy.
“One teacher had a sign printed saying ‘Our Rights, 2b) or no 2)’ in reference to the freedom of expression in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Because of that and the direction from the district there were teachers wearing shirts or buttons in a sign of solidarity and some had taken to putting that sign in their car,” said Prince Rupert District Teachers Union president Joanna Larson, noting that the whole ‘Yertle the Turtle’ situation started from a desire to ensure the rules were being followed.
“To determine what was or wasn’t acceptable to be displayed in vehicles or on shirts, the teacher in question brought a list of quotes to see what would or would not be allowed. Some of them were fairly political, there were quotes from people like John Diefenbaker and other political figures. They were approved, then they got to one that said ‘Standing up for BC Students’ and the teacher was told it was borderline and then it got to the Yertle the Turtle quote and the teacher was told it was clearly political…It’s absurd.”
Among a list of approved messages that can be displayed on school grounds in a list sent by Larson are statements such as:
– The most perfect political community is one in which the middle class is in control, and outnumbers both of the other classes.
– There’s nothing more secure than a democratic, accountable, and participatory form of government…
– Whatever you do, adhere to the Union
– In a democratic society, you’re supposed to be an activist
– Fascism begins the moment a ruling class, fearing the people may use their political democracy to gain economic democracy, begins to destroy political democracy in order to retain its power of exploitation and special privilege
Calls to Dave Stigant and superintendent Lynn Hauptman for comment were not readily returned. Look for more on this story as it becomes available.