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Brown Bear, Brown Bear, Why Were You Banned?

Bill Martin is a philosophy professor at DePaul University who has written a book called Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation.

Bill Martin Jr., who died in 2004, was a children’s author who wrote Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? The men are not related.

Last week, the two Martins were briefly fused into one persona by Pat Hardy, a member of the Texas State Board of Education, who moved that Bill Martin be removed from a suggested revision of the state’s third-grade social-studies curriculum. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram quoted Ms. Hardy as saying that his books for adults contain “very strong critiques of capitalism and the American system.”

She was speaking, of course, of the philosopher Bill Martin, who expressed amusement at Ms. Hardy’s remark when Tweed spoke to him on Sunday. ”I take it as a compliment,” he said. “I embrace it.”

Ethical Marxism gives nods to the scientific, systematic, political, and economic underpinnings of Marxism. But it also draws strongly on Kant, Mr. Martin says, arguing that if the doctrine “is not framed in an ethical perspective it will have a sort of coldness to it that won’t let us change society in the way it needs to be changed.”

Brown Bear, on the other hand, is beloved by toddlers for its repetitious description of serial surveillance in the animal kingdom: A bear is aware that it is being watched by a bird, which knows that it is being watched by a duck, and so forth.

While Mr. Martin the college professor wouldn’t exactly recommend his book to most 8-year-olds, he sees a couple ways it could apply to them.

During a brief stint teaching kindergarten before he headed off to grad school, he spent a lot of time talking to the children about sharing, and his audience was receptive. “There are a lot of impulses there that tend toward communism,” he says. 

Likewise, “most kids tend naturally toward vegetarianism,” says Mr. Martin, who notes that his book includes a section about the rationality of vegetarianism (an argument youngsters might be able to use next time their parents tell them to eat their liver and onions). —Don Troop

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