Monday, January 25, 2010

School bans the dictionary because it's too sexual

We can stop worrying about Harry Potter, Catcher in the Rye, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower when it comes to banning books. Folks, we have bigger fish to fry: Merriam Webster's Dictionary.

After a parent complained about an elementary school student stumbling across "oral sex" in a classroom dictionary, Menifee Union School District officials decided to pull Merriam Webster's 10th edition from all school shelves earlier this week.

School officials will review the dictionary to decide if it should be permanently banned because of the "sexually graphic" entry, said district spokeswoman Betti Cadmus. The dictionaries were initially purchased a few years ago for fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms districtwide, according to a memo to the superintendent.

"It's just not age appropriate," said Cadmus, adding that this is the first time a book has been removed from classrooms throughout the district.

...Really? The dictionary is now corrupting our youth? Give me a break. First of all, how many kids sit down with the goal of reading the entire dictionary and will accidentally stumble upon a naughty word? Or more importantly, who fucking cares if they do? Heaven forbid if parents have to explain things to their children. Are we going to require gender specific dictionaries now, so little girls can't accidentally find the word "penis"?

There are already plenty of fifth graders who know stuff about sex. The dictionary seems like a fairly benign source of information when you consider where else they're hearing things from - or not hearing things from, which is often the most dangerous scenario. I was in 5th grade during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, so I quickly learned what oral sex was. Did I immediately run out and start sucking dick? Of course not.

Thankfully some of the parents in that town are rational human beings, so hopefully the dictionary won't remain banned:
"Censorship in the schools, really? Pretty soon the only dictionary in the school library will be the Bert and Ernie dictionary," said Emanuel Chavez, the parent of second- and sixth-grade students. "If the kids are exposed to it, it's up to the parents to explain it to them at their level."
I dunno. Bert and Ernie are two dudes living together. That may be a bit to homoerotic for small children to handle.


  1. By the same logic figure skating should be banned from the olympics

  2. Even the name of the book has 'Dic' in it!

    We must sanitize the entire world! It's time to remove any reference to human sexuality that any child might accidental be exposed to. This includes members of the opposite sex because we can't have them know that their anatomy is different!

    Once we've completed that task, we can move on to converting every man-made object into nerf. Only then will our kids be truly safe.


  3. By this logic, shouldn't the bible also be banned?

    I'd love to see THAT conversation.

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  5. This brings back memories of sitting around with friends in elementary school trying to find dirty words in the dictionary and giggling.

    News Flash: Kids know a lot more about sex than parents want to think they know.

  6. I have (or had, since I can't seem to find it) a dictionary that was meant for younger children. It basically took out all the "big words" and all sexual words.

    I was in fifth grade when I got it. I found out about the lack of sexual words right away. It took me until I was in college to realize that it didn't have words like cynosure or zymurgy.

  7. @lagunatic - No, the Song of Solomon is about love for God, I have heard fundies say this...

  8. By this logic, shouldn't the bible also be banned? I'd love to see THAT conversation.

    That's exactly the conclusion we came to when we discussed this issue on Kink On Tap 26 (show notes) the other day. The podcast isn't out yet but you can watch the recorded live video stream.

  9. I'm glad I wasn't drinking anything when I read the very last sentence. I would have had to wipe off my monitor when the laughter subsided.

  10. So what's next, they going to ban the encyclopedia because of the Anatomy section?

  11. I remember there was always "that" kid who looked up all the "dirty" words and kept giggling and pointing and trying to get everyone else to look too. Which was infinitely lame.
    Suddenly I realize why. It genuinely was new to him. Because his mommy decided to pretend that that stuff didn't exist. Of course, parents were less helicoptery back then, so she never found out.
    ...writing out this post makes me feel so old all of the sudden. :(

  12. Oh I heard about this, how utterly ridiculous! We've all looked these terms up and they are surprisingly unsatisfying if you're looking for a thrill really. Kids could see worse things just switching the TV on every day! Giving the message that knowing the acceptable terms for sexual acts is wrong makes these things seem taboo and people won't talk about them.

  13. These are overly-litiginous times.
    Parents whine.
    Teachers give in to whine because the principal won't support them.
    Principals give in because school administration won't support them.
    Administrators give in because school boards won't support them.
    Board members give in because they want to keep their (usually) elected positions.

  14. I remember a bit of censorship my parents inflicted upon me due to a dictionary. There was an assignment where I had to look up a vocabulary word, and then give the definitions of the words before and after it.

    One of those words was 'dildo.'

  15. For some strange reason, my mother insisted that I use the next word up.

  16. How ya gonna keep kids viewing "Two Girls One Cup?"

    ... or googling up THE URBAN DICTIONARY? Just go there and type in "sex." And if you look up ANAL SEX in that dictionary, you'll learn stuff you never even KNEW.

  17. It was about in 5th grade when we were looking up dirty words in the classroom dictionary. I remember it very vividly, in fact...

    penis: the male organ of copulation

    Unfortunately, I don't remember the definition of copulation.

  18. @Pablo: it means the use of words to link subject and predicate, or the linking of marginal variables into a multivariate distribution.

    Actually, no, but it ought to. :-)