Alex Blaze

What's next, banning the dictionary? Oh, wait...

Filed By Alex Blaze | January 27, 2010 12:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: betty cadmus, California, Manifee, merriam-webster, oral sex, school

This story proves two things: a) Fundies cannot be parodied because they're most likely already being as ridiculous as you can imagine them being, and b) the Global War on Sex stops at nothing and will attack any institution that seems to favor sex for pleasure, including the English language itself.

Dictionaries have been removed from classrooms in southern California schools after a parent complained about a child reading the definition for "oral sex".

Merriam Webster's 10th edition, which has been used for the past few years in fourth and fifth grade classrooms (for children aged nine to 10) in Menifee Union school district, has been pulled from shelves over fears that the "sexually graphic" entry is "just not age appropriate", according to the area's local paper.

The dictionary's online definition of the term is "oral stimulation of the genitals". "It's hard to sit and read the dictionary, but we'll be looking to find other things of a graphic nature," district spokeswoman Betti Cadmus told the paper.

The school says that the dictionary wasn't actually pulled, and much of the blog chatter said. Instead, they said they decided on a creative alternative, that's just mind-boggling to me:

"We are aware that there may have been misinformation and/or misunderstanding with regard to this issue and it is important to clarify that at no time did the District state that the dictionaries were banned from the classroom," Callaway said, reading from a prepared statement.

"We are confident that the Review Committee's decision offers a reasonable resolution to this issue and there provides closure," Callaway said during a school board meeting Tuesday in Menifee.[...]

Callaway said a letter will be sent home to parents Wednesday and they will be given the option of having their children use the previous dictionary or, if the letter is signed and returned to the school, a McGraw-Hill School Dictionary.

Callaway said after the meeting the fact that a controversy developed was not important, but that the issue was resolved quickly by following district policy.

No. That's not an acceptable alternative. Kids with stupid parents shouldn't be punished by having their schools deny them access to the same information and resources as other children. The Cycle of Stupidity has to be broken in some of these families.

The appropriate alternative is to hold a big school board meeting and laugh at the mother who went to the school, pulled out the dictionary, started looking up dirty words, and then filed a complaint when she, at long last, found the term "oral sex" listed in it.

Most people in the town seem angry with the initial decision to pull the dictionaries, which is good. The idea that the dictionary definition of "oral sex" isn't appropriate for kids who have already heard the term is offensive to me as a gay man, since sexophobia is one of the root causes of our oppression, and as a blogger, who's concerned with the speed with which people who find certain speech or information offensive will rush to censor, and as an educator, who'd rather there be more resources available to the kids who are motivated enough to want to know more about the English language (in all its beauty) than fewer.

Schools should be providing age-appropriate information to kids, but cutting them off from the English language, which is their language too, has nothing to do with age-appropriateness and everything to do with power.

And they chose the McGraw Hill School Dictionary? If it's the one I'm thinking of, then it's definitely going to dumb things down. Despite advertising copy, it really only has value up to the third-grade.

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I absolutely cringe at this type of censorship at such a basic level. Are we going to march to remove the term "murder" from the dictionary because we do not want our children to grow up to be murderers?

The school library was my private salvation during my early teenage years. Finding the definition for "homosexuality" in the dictionaries and encyclopedias at least informed me that (a) if there is a word for it, then I must not be the first male in history to be attracted to other guys, and (b) the information is matter-of-fact, meaning that maybe a few people out there in the world have a matter-of-fact attitude about it, rather than the universally derogatory attitude that I find among my peers.

The children are to be prohibited from looking up the definition of "oral sex" --- yet our culture has fully integrated the expression "It sucks!" even on television. Do we want our children to learn how to communicate via plain English, including an understanding of how the expressions we use every day came into being, or don't we?

One of the first institutional allies of the early LGBT movement (it was called "Gay Liberation" back then) was the American Library Association --- and with censorship campaigns like this, it is easy to see why.

Hmmmm... and according to the CDC, "In 2002, 55% of males and 54% of females aged 15-19 had engaged in oral sex with someone of the opposite sex."

So we can be sure that most, if not all, of these schoolchildren will engage in said activity after they graduate from fourth or fifth grade. Ah, I can't wait to see what the linguistic inventiveness of the average grade schooler comes up with as a name for oral sex! It'll be like watching cavepeople invent fire. (Although, if we're lucky, only a few parents will opt of using the Merriam-Webster dictionary).

Sheeesh. Where will this end? "Oral" and "sex" are to be removed as well? You know, just in case some kid realises that the two words might, gasp, be put together.

ShipofFools | January 27, 2010 4:43 PM

When I lived in the UK in 1987/1988, and Clause 28 was in planning, people completely lost their heads and acted in preemptive obedience before the law was even approved by the parliament. I was in a public library in London, and was trying to borrow a book by Oscar Wilde. I was told that these books were now locked because they were "promoting homosexuality" and government funded places like the library weren't allowed to do that. The whole shelf was empty. That must have been one of the creepiest experiences of my life.
They also tried to close the Arts Theatre, a big London stage with government funding, because the boss was an out gay man.

Our local news here in Columbus Ohio is reporting that the ban has been reversed. Parents are still allowed to opt out and provide their own dictionary though.

I think these outraged parents need to quit worrying about sexual semantics and start keeping an eye on the junk their children read, watch (both on tv and film) and listen to.

These kids are learning far more about sex from shows like Jersey Shore than a mere definition in the Webster's dictionary.

Willem van Oranje | January 27, 2010 8:13 PM

poor kid of that parent. How will his or her peers react to this stunt of the parent? Kids are brutal

battybattybats battybattybats | January 28, 2010 9:38 AM

Actually it was brought to my attention last year that in Australia (I don't know about other countries) many different brand and edition 'school' or 'student' dictionaries will not have one or more of the following words:


Listed above in alphabetical order in case you'd like to check those of your kids or in your local bookstore.