The stunning dismissal of the climate emergency and ecological breakdown in Capitalism, Alone: The Future of the System That Rules the World, as Alyssa Battistoni points out in her excellent review of Branko Milanovic’s new book [“Diminishing Returns,” May 17/24], is typical of the economics profession, especially in the United States. Milanovic recently blogged that proponents of degrowth are engaged in “magical thinking” because they allegedly advocate measures that have no political chance. It may be so to propose policies that violate political realities, yet it is magical thinking an order of magnitude greater to propose policies that violate physical, chemical, and biological realities.
Past as Prologue
Re “Free Dr. Seuss!” by Jeet Heer and “Clearing the Shelves,” by Katha Pollitt [April 19/26]: Trying to see how and why earlier generations came to what we now consider unfortunate judgments is a valuable exercise. For one, it guides us toward the humble recognition that our current assured and confident views will in turn face reconsideration.
As Pollitt correctly points out, obsessions with judging the past by today’s values distract us from the real issues. Keep the focus on the infrastructure bill. Focus on the voting rights bills. Take on immigration reform. Don’t get hooked into false culture war issues that the right just loves to focus on.
It is a false dichotomy that we have to choose between inclusive children’s literature and what Pollitt writes are “social and economic changes.” Rather than swallowing the sins of the past with a wink and shrug, we might make better choices about the texts we teach. There is no excuse for fostering a questionable nostalgia for Dr. Seuss when there are so many talented authors of color writing nuanced, beautiful, and authentic stories from a wide variety of perspectives, opening windows onto new worlds or allowing students to be reflected in what they read.
If we ban offending books, we erode the most important skill we can teach: reading critically. Adults should be commenting and questioning as they read to children, not just to point out the flaws in a particular book, but to teach them how to question and analyze what they read.
“A Solitary Trade,” by Jennifer Wilson [May 17/24], incorrectly stated that Jhumpa Lahiri’s first book published in Italian was titled Il Altre Parole. The title of the book is In Altre Parole.