Menifee school officials remove dictionary over term 'oral sex'
Monday, January 25, 2010
By JULISSA McKINNON The Press-Enterprise
Read an update to this story
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.
"It's hard to sit and read the dictionary, but we'll be looking to find other things of a graphic nature," Cadmus said. She explained that other dictionary entries defining human anatomy would probably not be cause for alarm.
"Graphic nature?" Wowsers! - let's have a look at what Merriam-Webster's has to say for itself.
oral sex n (1973): oral stimulation of the genitals: CUNNILINGUS, FELLATIO
These are a few of my faaaa-vorite things!(Ed: Stop that! no singing, no sniggering!)
Whew! is it hot in here or what? Anyone thinks of that as "sexually graphic" probably thinks of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue as hard core pornography. (Ed: Keep using those key search words, think of the traffic!)
The first thing kids do when handed a dictionary for the first time is to look up every so-called dirty word they can find. Admittedly, the full-on Merriam-Webster's Collegiate might not be the optimal choice for first graders, but these are fourth and fifth graders we are talking about. I have one of those and he stays up and watches television past 8 p.m. In North America that would mean he's seen television commercials for boner pills, tampons and watched sitcoms. I betcha he's even heard some of the seven words you used to not be allowed to say on television. Actually, I know he has - he's seen me watch the news a few times. It's one of the reasons I wasn't allowed to watch any of the U.S. presidential campaign debates at home since the first Bush-Kerry debate in 2004. Mind you, he hasn't really heard the best stuff yet since we haven't had occasion to do any carpentry work together yet. But I digress slightly.
If the powers that be in
Their school libraries must be a treat. I'm guessing no occult-promoting Harry Potter or even ghost stories, no stories that depict violence (like every detective story ever written, most history books and the Bible), nothing vulgar (good bye Capt. Underpants and Judy Blume) nothing that might suggest evolution is more correct than creationism (farewell Origin of Species and all biology texts) or that suggests -- I suspect it's probably a broom closet with a copy of the local White Pages and a couple of old Dick and Jane books.
Once you start taking out the dictionaries for not being age-appropriate, how do the kids advance their vocabularies beyond their current reading level? Where does the censorship end?
After all, almost any word can be dirty if you say it right.