Brown Bear, Banned Bear

In 1967, Bill Martin, Jr. collaborated with author and illustrator Eric Carle (who wrote The Very Hungry Caterpillar) on a children’s book titled Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? The book has since reached iconic status — see First Lady Michelle Obama reading it to a classroom, as pictured on Martin’s official site.  The book has been translated into Spanish and has resulted in a few spinoffs, including Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? (published in 1991) and Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? (2003).  It has nothing to do with Marxism, ethical or otherwise.

And if that last phrase seems entirely out of place, you probably are not a member of the Texas State Board of Education.  For them, it made perfect sense that a lifelong author of children’s books could have penned a book titled Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation, a treatise which, according to a Board of Education member, is critical of capitalism and American economic system.  Given this, and given that Ethical Marxism was geared toward an adult audience, the Texas Board of Ed did something else wholly illogical:

As reported by the Dallas News, in 2010, the state authorities pulled Brown Bear, Brown Bear author from the list of people who third graders in the state would study, as part of the curriculum studying the contributions of authors and others on culture.

Of course, Bill Martin Jr. did not write Ethical Marxism — Bill Martin did.  An entirely different Bill Martin, one who is a professor at DePaul University in its Philosophy department.  The Texas Board of Education did not realize this when they made their decision, leading to the mistake (although whether the decision was a good one anyway is certainly debatable, to say the least).  And once the error was brought to the Board’s attention, they thankfully reversed their decision.

But perhaps the oversight of a school curriculum is not well entrusted in those who could have avoided such an error by doing a moment of homework.  You see, Ethical Marxism was published in 2008.  Bill Martin Jr. passed away in 2004.  (And, for avoidance of doubt, Yankee manager Billy Martin died in 1989.)

Bonus fact: In 1972, a struggling singer took to Los Angeles and adopted the stage name Bill Martin, taking his act to lounges and anywhere else where he could grind out a dollar or two.  A year later, he got his big break — but not before William Martin Joel dropped the stage name.  Since then, the artist we now know as Billy Joel has released 13 studio albums, 5 live albums, 11 compilations, and 59 singles.

From the ArchivesLiquid Memories: In The Very Hungry Caterpillar, the caterpillar changes into a butterfly (sorry to ruin the ending). But while the caterpillar’s body turns into goo, it — amazingly — retains its memories even after it emerges as a butterfly.

Related: The official Brown Bear/Panda Bear, What Do You See board game, for ages 3-8.

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