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Cambridge University Warns Several Classic Children’s Books are ‘Extremely Offensive’

Books like 'Little House On the Prairie' and works by Dr. Seuss are among those flagged for being racially insensitive

Cambridge University is reviewing 10,000 children’s books and magazines to document when an author has been “offensive to historically enslaved, colonized or denigrated people.”

Thanks to a taxpayer-funded grant from U.K. Arts and Humanities Research Council, the project focuses on adding content warnings to the archives of Cambridge’s Homerton College before they are uploaded to a digital library. 

Not only will warnings be added to the texts when they are converted to online documents, but words, phrases, and images deemed harmful will be flagged.

So far, Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author of 1932’s “Little House On The Prairie,” was cited for her “stereotypical depictions of Native Americans” as was Dr. Theodor Seuss Geisel, the creator of the Dr. Seuss series, for or “overt blackface” and cultural insensitivities.

“The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz” author L Frank Baum promoted white supremacy, according to Cambridge, in “Bandit Jim Crow,” which he wrote under a pen name.

The university also tagged Charles Kingsley’s 1863 novel “The Water Babies” because of its potential to “harm readers without warning” for comments about Irish and black people. The book is considered a children’s classic.

According to The Daily Mail, “authors such as Enid Blyton, ‘Peter Pan’ writer JM Barrie and Roald Dahl have been criticized for racist and insensitive portrayals in their novels and are likely to be among those attracting a warning.”

The library said in a statement that the digital library would be “less harmful in the context of a canonical literary heritage that is shaped by and continues, a history of oppression.”

It added that it would be “a dereliction of our duty as gatekeepers to allow such casual racism to go unchecked.”

Earlier this year, “anti-racism campaigners flagged racial slurs in Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’” per The Express.

The University of Florida, with funding from the U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities, has partnered with Cambridge University for the project. The ultimate aim is reportedly the online provision of children’s books by “people of colour” and texts that “showcase diversity.”

In its grant application, the creator of the projects wrote:

“Problems are encountered continually with respect to the history of demeaning terms associated with disability and indigenous cultures, as well as the immigrants who have shaped modern America and Britain. … Trigger warnings, with indications of harmful content for intersectional identities, will protect researchers, children, and general readers from offensiveness or hurt that can emerge in otherwise safe search queries or acts of browsing.”

Critics of trigger warnings argue that they can lead to overt censorship.

“The whole point of much of children’s literature is to introduce them to alternative worlds. Fairy tales, for example, are saturated with scary characters and that is partly the point of them,” said Chris McGovern, the chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, in a statement. “Only woke-afflicted adults have such silly notions as trigger warnings.”

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