Dr. Seuss and Human Rights

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened”

As my internship comes to an end, I can’t help but take the advice of one of my favorite authors, Dr. Seuss.  

My name is Desiree Fuller and I am a University of Toronto student, enrolled in the two-year Masters of Museum Studies program. In my program, all students have the option of completing an internship for credit during the summer months, between the two school years. When I decided to take the internship course, I never would have imagined I’d be spending my summer two thousand kilometers away from home. But, the education intern position at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights came up and it was an opportunity that I just couldn’t pass us. A few phone calls and a successful interview later and I was on my way to Winnipeg for the summer.   

“Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away!”

During my 12-week internship, I was tasked with creating a pilot program of activities for children, with the help of the education programming staff, who are developing school programs relating to human rights for K-12 students across Canada. Through national consultations, teachers have told us that human rights can be challenging to teach. So, I took on the complicated task of creating age appropriate activities. How would I create messages for children, which would meaningfully relate to human rights?

“A person’s a person no matter how small”

Desiree reads Dr Seuss book
 Desiree Fuller, a Master of Museum Studies student from the University of Toronto, has been interning with the Learning and Programming unit at the CMHR over the last three months.

Thankfully, inspiration struck. When I was younger, my mother would read a lot to my sisters and I. Our favorite books were by Dr. Seuss, which my mom would read in a lyrical voice. As we grew older, we still loved Dr. Seuss and had begun to appreciate the more subtle messages he weaved into his books like The Lorax, Yertle the Turtle, and The Sneetches. 

“But down at the bottom we, too, should have rights”

You’re probably wondering at this point how Dr. Seuss relates to human rights. It’s true that Dr. Seuss also wrote One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish – no deep messages there. While not all of Dr. Seuss’s works contain life-altering messages, some of his books have the power to transform human rights from complex to child-friendly. 

“The day they decided that Sneetches are Sneetches and no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches.”

With his messages in mind, I developed seven activities that address a variety of human rights topics including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, upstanders against bullying, human rights defenders, diversity and acceptance. While all of the activities are engaging and meaningfully tied to human rights, my personal favorites are the two that were inspired by Dr. Seuss.

 Museum staff test an activity geared towards a middle school audience.

I encourage you to read The Butter Battle Book or Horton Hears a Who! and discuss the messages behind the silly rhymes and whimsical illustrations with your family. Let us know what you think about human rights and Dr. Seuss.

I leave you with the Once-ler’s words of wisdom:

“UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” 

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