The First Lady's office gifted a package of books to one school per state in honor of National Reading Week, but one school librarian in Cambridge, Massachusetts turned Melania Trump's gift into an excuse for "Resistance."
Liz Phipps Soeiro, an elementary school librarian and advocate for "inclusive" libraries, turned down the package of books, which included a few ubiquitous kids' titles, because she felt the First Lady could have made better choices when doling out the reading material.
"I work in a district that has plenty of resources, which contributes directly to 'excellence,'" she wrote. "My students have access to a school library with over nine thousand volumes and a librarian with a graduate degree in library science."
Soeiro could have, of course, simply donated the books to a school without the titles — it appears the libraries were selected based on their home school's record of academic excellence, and not on the basis of need. Instead, Soeiro made the rejection personal, penning an open letter to the First Lady (in a family reading blog, because nothing can ever be free of politics) about her husband's policies, and attacking Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos for her pro-school choice views.
"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?" Soeiro wrote, seemingly lifting teachers' union talking points right from their campaign literature. "Secretary DeVos would do well to scaffold and lift schools instead of punishing them with closures and slashed budgets."
Elementary school budgets are, of course, set at state level, and Massachusetts doesn't skim on its public education. Betsy DeVos, while in Michigan, advocated for schools that operated outside of the traditional union scheme, which threatened union finances and bargaining power, and gave way to intense opposition when DeVos was appointed Secretary of Education earlier this year.
Of course, Soeiro didn't stop there. Melania Trump gave Soeiro's school a handful of Dr. Seuss books — titles found in nearly every library and private collection in any American home. According to Soeiro, however, Seuss' books, including The Cat in the Hat, are full of " racist mockery," and his drawings replete with "minstrel characteristics," making the kids' books emblematic of "systemic racism and oppression in education and literature."
Yep, Dr. Seuss, a leading voice (and pen) in pushing the United States to enter World War II to prevent Hitler's mass murder of millions of Jews and other ethnic minorities, was an unabashed, flaming racist.
Unfortunately for Soeiro, while she felt entitled to make a political statement out of a small donation, her school district wasn't as enthusiastic. A spokesperson for the district told local media that "was not authorized to accept or reject donated books on behalf of the school or school district" and that the librarian has been counseled about "using public resources for political purposes."