Cover of McElligot’s Pool by Dr. Seuss

First, foremost, and (in my opinion) leastmost, everyone is within their rights here. The Geisel family can stop printing these books, eBay can stop selling them, we can complain, others can critique us, eBay and the Geisel family can ignore us, platforms can host our complaints anyway, etc. etc. So everyone is within their rights.

But rights are boring. “I have the right!” is only the beginning of an analysis of what one should do. It merely means that the law is not an obstacle here. Great. Lots of things are lawful, so which lawful action will you pick?


The estate of Dr. Seuss has decided to cease publication of 6 books because they carry images that offend modern sensibilities, and perhaps for good reason. It’s an easy decision to criticize, but also an easy one to defend. After all, the book was not censored by a government, and there are no penalties to anyone who already owns a copy. Besides, some books really aren’t appropriate for kids. And books go out of print all the time if nobody buys enough copies to justify continued printing.

All of these things are true, and yet. And yet.

And yet there’s…

Image from

I’m old enough to remember Before Times, when the anti-science cranks were the ones who told you that vaccines protect neither the vaccinated nor anyone in their vicinity. In that simpler, more innocent time, when we worried that violent unrest might spring from comic book movies, the pro-science message was that vaccination was prosocial, a civic duty that benefited all.

Nowadays it’s nominally pro-science people who remind us that it isn’t safe to be around people who have been vaccinated. The more enthusiastic they were about the 2017 “Science March”, the more loudly they scold us that being vaccinated will…

Buzzword bingo card
Buzzword bingo card

Like most professors, I spent part of last summer in an online teaching workshop. As happens in workshops, people asked us to specify Learning Outcomes for our courses, lest we professors teach without plan or purpose. Though I had begun preparing fall’s Mathematical Methods for Physicists course long before the workshop, the organizers may claim A’s on their self-assessments if they wish, as I had the tightest integration of Learning Outcomes and graded Assessments of any class I’ve ever taught. …

I have never identified with a movie character as strongly as I identify with Billi Wang in The Farewell (the role for which Awkwafina just won a Golden Globe), despite both our different backgrounds and the fact that the movie’s dramatic tension springs from the one plot point that could never happen in America. Billi’s family is lying to her grandmother (“Nai Nai” in Mandarin) about her cancer diagnosis, to spare her the pain of knowing that her death is imminent. As a pretext to gather the family for a final visit with Nai Nai, they pressure her other grandchild…

A scientist’s case for taking STEM off its cultural pedestal

Antique copy of Homer’s “Iliad” | Credit: Duncan1890 (Getty)

As a physics professor, I probably ought to celebrate parents and policymakers’ calls for more kids to study science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM, in the parlance). I should be cheerleading the drive to devote more resources for STEM education. I should be enthusing over STEM the way educational reformers on both sides have been—progressives in seeking to empower a diverse new generation to solve social and environmental problems, and conservatives in steering kids toward practical subjects over alleged nonsense peddled by radicals in arts and letters.

And yet.

I increasingly turn to old books (and not just old science…

Alex Small

Alex Small is a professor of physics in Pomona, CA. His opinions are his own, but the awesomeness of Office Space is objective fact, not opinion.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store