High Marx in Reading


What do the authors of the children’s book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and a 2008 book called Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation have in common? Both are named Bill Martin and, for now, neither is being added to Texas schoolbooks. .…The State Board of Education tossed children’s author Martin … from a proposal for the third-grade section. Board member Pat Hardy, R-Weatherford, who made the motion, cited books he had written for adults that contain “very strong critiques of capitalism and the American system.” —Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Jan. 25, 2010

Fellow members of the state Board of Education:
There is a specter haunting America, and it is more dangerous than swine flu, Mexicans, same-sex marriage and trans fat put together. Yes, I’m speaking of the insidious Marxist tract Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? This loathsome tome must be removed from the Texas third-grade curriculum posthaste.

Do you know how long it takes to get dialectical materialism out of these kid’s heads? It’s like chocolate—they can’t stop once they get a taste. Before you know it, your ingrate son is telling you, “The tenets of collective ownership dictate that I get the car on weekends.” You can see where this is heading. From the first stanza alone, we see the author fattening our children up on Marxist dogma:

Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?
I see a red bird looking at me.

Aside from the nod to Marxist poet César Vallejo, the opening lines evoke the Moscow Olympics in 1980. Brown bears everywhere. On bikes. Taunting us from a world away as our athletes are forced to watch in disbelief as three brothers from Kiev win the women’s powerlifting gold, silver and bronze. And what exactly does Mr. Brown Bear see? A red bird. This creature is none other than a stand-in for Vladimir Lenin, hammer and sickle in hand. Perhaps our children will be amused by this chance encounter between a bear and a bird. “How sweet,” parents will think. We’ll see how “sweet” things are when Leon Trotsky infects their children’s dreams, screaming slogans from Das Kapital while riding a Soviet bear riding a bicycle.


Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?

It gets worse: The red bird goes on to see a yellow duck who sees a blue horse who sees a green frog who sees a purple cat. Something seem funny here? Perhaps you failed to notice Mr. Martin’s subtle inclusion of a blue horse and a purple cat— abominations in the eyes of God, like homosexuals (purple) and Democrats (blue). This is Martin’s vision of a socialist worker’s paradise. Now we at the Texas State Board of Education recognize that paradise only exists in heaven, where, when I die, I’ll ride a nice, gray Republican elephant over to the edge of a cloud and shout something offensive at Karl Marx and my ex-wife, both assuredly living in hell.

What I find most disturbing about Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? is its sickening climax. The story culminates in a field trip to an anti-Orwellian animal farm where the animals live together in some sort of egalitarian utopia. (Also, scratch 1984 from the high school curriculum. It is not, as I had hoped, the thrilling account of Denison’s 4A state championship victory over Tomball, 27-13.)

Brown Bear concludes:

Teacher, teacher, what do you see?
I see children looking at me

You want to know what I see? The breeding of tyranny. Marxist teachers hypnotizing their students, promoting the dissolution of families, the abolition of all rights of inheritance, the establishment of industrial armies, state control of the instruments of production, and free education for all children in public schools! We are in a war for the soul of America!

Oh, there is one more thing: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? is a veritable kitten (and not a purple one) compared with the greatest specter haunting the youth of today. You may have missed the first go-around, but the tenets of radical Islam are laid out quite clearly in the pages of the children’s classic, Goodnight Moon, which I will address at our next meeting. Thank you.

Tyler Stoddard Smith’s work has appeared in McSweeney’s, The Best American Fantasy, Meridian and other publications. He is also an associate editor at the humor site, The Big Jewel.