Opinion & Editorial

We are Creswell, we can do better

The Skippyjon Jones series of children’s book has created controversy in the literary community because of its racist stereotypes of Hispanics Image provided

CRESWELL – I am a Creswell community member as well as an educator and a young white woman. Months ago, a child I work with told me about a favorite book series of theirs to get from the Creslane Elementary Library.
It was the Skippyjon Jones books by Judith Byron Schachner.
I hadn’t heard of them so I looked for it online through the app, Epic!, so we could read it together. It wasn’t on this children’s book app so I found a reading of it on YouTube to watch.
I was horrified by the blatant stereotypes and fake Spanish throughout the story.
The child could tell I wasn’t enjoying listening to the story and asked me why. I was really unsure how to respond. I started by pointing out the way very few real Spanish words were being used and the rest seemed to make fun of the way the language sounds.
I did not feel, at the time, that I knew how or had the words to explain the harm of stereotypes to a young white child.
I grew up in this area myself and I know how segregated our rural towns can be. Each class of students can average 95-100% white. The staff makeup is more often near that 100% as well. This doesn’t mean the experiences of people of color should be ignored or re-written for our entertainment.
Not only do the students of color in our community suffer, but so do the white students who grow up uneducated in the experience of their own neighbors who are different from them, which continues the segregation and intended or unintended harm of racism by white people toward people of color.
I understand from working in classrooms myself, our schools throughout the state and throughout the country are underfunded, standards can be impossible to meet, and teachers don’t get enough time in the day to prep or teach.
But we are in a critical time right now in our country. We know better now, so we can do better. The information, history, and experiences of people of color are out there and in our own community. We no longer have an excuse to passively let books like Skippyjon Jones sit on the shelves of our libraries for our impressionable present and future children to absorb without the education of the harm books and media like these have on all of us as individuals and as a community.
As educators, we know education is power and we aim to empower the next generation to do their best, and even do better when we share the information we wish had been available to us when we were in school. As uncomfortable as the topic of race is for us whites, that is the obvious sign it needs to be discussed.
I hope I’m not alone in believing that most of us are uncomfortable with the topic of race because we don’t want to say the wrong thing and we don’t want to hurt anyone. As educators, we want to have the right information and we can be uncomfortable when we know we don’t have it. Sometimes if we know we don’t have it, then the topic goes unaddressed. That’s what’s been happening.
Let’s address the problem so we can all learn how to make ourselves and our community better.
There are online resources available with multiple articles addressing the controversy regarding Skippyjon Jones – as well as a multitude of other ”classic” children’s books.
There are different ways this problem can be approached, but I encourage our schools, childcare centers, and libraries to take a close look at the books on their shelves and remove the ones that promote stereotypes of other cultures and people as well as false histories, such as ”The First Thanksgiving.”
If you are an educator, then you are a leader. And if you interact with young people, you are an educator. Each one of us has a responsibility to the next generation to make sure they have the tools to make better choices and actions than we did when we didn’t know better. We owe it to ourselves to teach ourselves what we can to continue to grow as well.
Just because we aren’t in school as adults, doesn’t mean we have to stop learning and growing as human beings.
Editor’s note: Joelle Jordan sent a version of this article first as an email to school and city officials. An edited version is reprinted here with her consent. You can contact her through The Chronicle at [email protected].



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