Statement on Claim of Self-Censorship by Advocacy Groups

The decision to withdraw “A Birthday Cake for George Washington” was because it did not meet Scholastic standards for presenting information to children.

PEN and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) issued a statement on Friday, January 22, 2016, questioning Scholastic for withdrawing the book, A Birthday Cake for George Washington, stating that the decision to cease distribution of the book in response to the controversy is “a shocking and unprecedented case of self-censorship.”

PEN and the NCAC apparently did not correctly read Scholastic’s statement that we had withdrawn the book, not because of criticism, but because it did not meet the standards which support our publishing mission.

While we certainly read the unfavorable reviews and other critical comments, Scholastic’s chief executive officer, Richard Robinson, determined that the book should be withdrawn because the book did not meet Scholastic’s standards for appropriate presentation of complex subject matter in a picture book directed to young children. As we said in our statement, “we believe that, without more historical background on the evils of slavery than this book for younger children can provide, the book may give a false impression of the reality of the lives of enslaved people and therefore should be withdrawn.”

To read the full press release, click here.