On March 2, 2021, the 117th birthday of Theodor Geisel, the children’s book author and illustrator behind the Dr. Seuss pseudonym, Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced that it would “cease publication and licensing” of six titles in its collection because the listed books “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.” A new battle in the political culture wars ensued, with cries of “cancel culture” exploding in the conservative media.
But who is Dr. Seuss? And why did this action provoke such controversy?
Continue reading “The Dr. Seuss Controversy and the Serious Business of Curating Knowledge of the World for Children”
The Encuvati was the quintessential Tamil multiplication table book, used in precolonial South Indian schools. Nowadays they are available as palm leaf manuscripts, collected from different geographical locations of the Tamil-speaking region of South India and stored in various manuscript libraries there as well as in other collections inside and outside the country. But why is something as innocuous as a multiplication table book important for us? Their contents look nothing like modern tables, with lines and columns, but the numbers are arranged the same way. Their importance emerges from the simple fact that countless children participated in their making from about the seventeenth century, if not earlier.
Continue reading “Handbooks of the Mind into Ready Reckoners in Print: The Story of the ‘Encuvati’ in the Nineteenth Century”
Panel Series at the 41st Annual Conference of the German Studies Association in Atlanta, GA, October 5–8, 2017
In October 2017, Simone Lässig and Swen Steinberg convened a panel series at the German Studies Association’s annual conference that focused on the roles of family and kinship, including children, in knowledge and migration processes. In her opening remarks, Lässig emphasized that knowledge travels with migrants and is transformed by their experiences in the new homeland. Further, family is a forum for teaching and learning, for sharing, evaluating, and preserving knowledge. Kinship itself entails knowledge-of who is who and how they are connected to other family members. Kinship networks can serve as networks for communicating and processing other kinds of knowledge. They often take on particular importance when individuals and families migrate. Migrants carry knowledge with them; they produce and acquire new knowledge with the experience of migration; and they usually need new knowledge to establish themselves in their new cities, towns, and countries. Family, both immediate and extended, often constitutes a crucial knowledge resource for migrants. The aim of the panel series, Lässig concluded, was to explore the interplay of kinship, knowledge, and migration more closely by examining the experiences of German speakers who left German-speaking Europe and non-German speakers who migrated there.
Continue reading “Report: Kinship, Knowledge, and Migration”
Following up on Mischa Honeck’s interesting post, “Innocent Ignorance: Whitewashing an Empire with the Boy Scouts of America,” which includes a link to a 1914 Boy Scout Handbook, we have found a year’s worth of Boys’ Life from 1915 at the Internet Archive. This official BSA magazine contains stories, Scouting news, advice, photographs, advertisements, and more—some 580 pages of it in 1915. Below are four of the covers, one of them created by Norman Rockwell, an artist who was famous for capturing much that was ostensibly “innocent” about America.
The history of organized youth has much to offer scholars interested in processes of knowledge formation and dissemination. This is particularly true of an organization as easily recognizable and widely influential as the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). Popular culture in the United States is replete with images of cheerful Scouts roaming the woods or helping strangers in need. Among the more popular fictional representations are the Junior Woodchucks, which the Disney cartoonist Carl Barks created in 1951 to poke gentle fun at some aspects of Scouting. The Junior Woodchucks’ Guidebook, a satirical take on the BSA’s Handbook for Boys, appeared as a magical reservoir of knowledge that provided information on every conceivable subject, but was small enough to fit into a Junior Woodchuck’s backpack.
Continue reading “Innocent Ignorance: Whitewashing an Empire with the Boy Scouts of America”
On this May Day, it is interesting to read a Progressive Era speech by Florence Kelley from December 1905 entitled “The Federal Government and the Working Children.” Kelley was arguing for a federal solution to the dearth of accurate and timely data about child labor in the United States. The industrial and agricultural interests that objected to a federal role, she pointed out, were quick to band together when it came to demanding protection for their own commercial interests.
Never again can it be a matter of merely local concern what hours the children are working. They will be the Republic when we are dead, and we cannot leave it to the local legislators, here and there, to decide unobserved what sort of citizens shall be produced in this or that State, whether they shall be strong in body, mind and character, or whether they shall grow up enfeebled by overwork in early childhood.
Of course, compiling and disseminating the data would have political consequences.
Continue reading “Sources: Child Labor in the United States”
Here are the photographs from which the current selection of randomized header images on this blog were drawn. All of these images are housed at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. What do these photographs have to do with the history of knowledge? What stories do they tell? What questions do they raise?
(Click on the individual images to enlarge and for their captions and credits.)
Continue reading “Photographs: Organizing, Teaching, Storing, Learning, Practicing, Selling, and Using Knowledge”