School Bans Dictionary

Hi Readers — As many of you have pointed out today, a grammar school in California has banned the Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary because it contains a definition of “oral sex.” I guess the parents who complained would much rather their kid get his sex information from the geniuses on the monkey bars.

Here’s the local story. And here’s the one in the Guardian, which points out:

The Merriam Webster dictionary joins an illustrious set of books that have been banned or challenged in the US, including Nobel prize winner Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, which last year was suspended from and then reinstated to the curriculum at a Michigan school after complaints from parents about its coverage of graphic sex and violence, and titles by Khaled Hosseini and Philip Pullman, included in the American Library Association’s list of books that inspired most complaints last year.

When I was growing up there was a movement to ban Huck Finn, and I’ve heard of pushes to ban Harry Potter, too. Doesn’t seem to have hurt their popularity. All I know about the dictionary scandal is that there is one term all those California kids are going to be buzzing about tomorrow. — Lenore

110 Responses to School Bans Dictionary

  1. Aaron January 26, 2010 at 4:59 am #

    I’m just giddy with delight imagining some Real Housewife of Orange Country pretending to be interested in her kids’ school day and amusing herself by looking up dirty words in the dictionary, then getting herself into a fit of righteous rage about it.

  2. Email or Username January 26, 2010 at 4:59 am #

    I think they should ban math next. It would be far too scarring for kids to learn that the number 69 exists…

  3. dahlia January 26, 2010 at 5:04 am #

    *forehead slap*

  4. Joette January 26, 2010 at 5:05 am #

    I can say with certainty that the Puritans of the school district haven’t ever looked in a thesaurus, else they’d all have already been dead of a conniption, whereby the dictionary banning wouldn’t have happened. I recall going through my thesaurus in junior high with a fine toothed comb, giggling at some of the craaaaazy ways people cuss and talk about sex.

  5. Christie January 26, 2010 at 5:06 am #

    While I wouldn’t condone it, couldn’t they just pull out the offending pages (along with all the non-offending words on both sides?) Do they really have to toss out ALL the words?

  6. bequirox January 26, 2010 at 5:21 am #

    Or put a label over it or whatever. (Which is still a ridiculous solution.) But seriously, isn’t the term, “oral sex” pretty self-explanatory anyway? And the kids who are looking up the definition for that are going to just find it somewhere else.

  7. Bambs January 26, 2010 at 5:21 am #

    When I was in school, when I heard a book had been banned, I rushed as fast as I could to read it. Just to see what the fuss was about.

    Wait, I still do that.

  8. bequirox January 26, 2010 at 5:22 am #

    Oh, wait! Maybe Mirriam Webster could publish a special edited version of the dictionary, just for uptight people!

  9. MFA Grad January 26, 2010 at 5:26 am #

    Wait, wait – banning the dictionary is the completely wrong thing to do if they want to prevent the soiling of impressionable young minds! You know what happens when adults ban something & call attention to it. Next thing you know, there’ll be a rash of kids at the bookstore all clammering for dictionaries so they can look up all those “dirty words.” Like “defenestrate” – I know it means throwing someone out the window, but it sounds like a dirty word, doesn’t it? It’s based on the French word “fenetre” (“window”) and we all know how dirty-minded the French are, right? Words like that might even lead to kids learning another language and we can’t have that, can we, because English is the greatest language in the world, right? Won’t someone pleeze think of the children?!?

    I know that doesn’t actually make any sense, but hey, it’s logic like that that’s gotten the dictionary pulled from the school shelves in the first place. *facepalm*

  10. Dot Khan January 26, 2010 at 5:36 am #

    This sicks! (couldn’t resist)

    As George Carlin used to say there are no bad words, just the meaning attached to them.
    What would George Carlin say now? …. Hey let me out of this box in the ground!

  11. Emily January 26, 2010 at 5:41 am #

    Wonder what would happen is the aforementioned Real Housewife found … ?

    (@ Aaron, I totally gigglesnorted at your comment.)

  12. Ben January 26, 2010 at 5:42 am #

    Another one for the list of “dangerisms”. I’d rather see kids look up the meaning than trying it out.

    Censorship never works. Anything that is forbidden draws more attention by definition. What’s next? Banning all dictionaries because they include definitions of the word “oral” and the word “sex” (smart kids can combine the two).

    If you’re so uptight about kids learning about sex, then take a black marker and strike them out, but don’t be ridiculous and ban dictionaries altogether. It’s wreaks havoc on their vocabulary knowledge — just because a few parents want to protect them from something that isn’t actually dangerous.

  13. Nikki January 26, 2010 at 5:53 am #

    I’m a teacher aide, a few years ago we had a boy calling the girls “The C Word”
    Oh yes.

    So what did we do, we asked him if he knew what it meant. He didn’t, he’d heard it being said at home and realised it was a powerful word. So we pulled the dictionary out, found the word and pointed to it – he was mortified – didn’t do it again.

    And when I was a kid I would’ve killed for a dictionary with “Oral Sex” defined in it – I was convinced that Oral Sex was tongue kissing – OH HOW WRONG WAS I! 😀

  14. Ben January 26, 2010 at 5:59 am #

    “However, Cadmus said that when the parent — who was volunteering in her son’s classroom when she came across the word — complained to the school’s principal about the explicit language…” In other words, it’s the mother who has the problems. She looked up the word and she is attaching negative meanings to it.

    That father has the right idea. Kids are supposed to learn. Not be dumbed down.

  15. Jacqui January 26, 2010 at 6:08 am #

    I think it’s especially funny that the mother was upset that the DICTIONARY defined things too explicitly.

    I love everyone’s funny comments for this post.

  16. Kashmir January 26, 2010 at 6:16 am #

    good grief…..

  17. sam caldwell January 26, 2010 at 6:16 am #

    uh…MFA Grad has a point.

    How many things were banned when I was a kid that ended up on my must-read / must-do list?

    I would assume that this instigators of this short-sighted policy never heard of google?

  18. MFA Grad January 26, 2010 at 6:35 am #

    @ sam caldwell – Yup, totally short-sighted. Policies like that make me think those people have completely forgotten what it was like to be a kid. NOTHING piqued my interesting like “forbidden fruit” when I was a kid. I would never have gone out and read things like Judy Blume’s tale of lost virginity, “Forever,” or even “Lady Chatterly’s Lover” if my best friend’s mom hadn’t freaked out and forbidden her from reading them. Fat lot of good that did.

  19. Eric the Read January 26, 2010 at 6:37 am #

    If you want kids to ignore something, teach it in English class. At least according to my aunt (2 years to retirement as an English & German teacher). Sounds like the dictionary was already well-placed for oblivion before the complaint. 🙂

  20. rachel January 26, 2010 at 7:08 am #

    When I was teaching middle school, we didn’t have to worry about them reading it in the dictionary, we had a president who defined it for them.

  21. CRA January 26, 2010 at 7:34 am #

    When I was in fifth grade, we were assigned dictonaries for English and mine had EVERY SINGLE SWEAR WORD circled and highlighted (care of the kid who had it the year before). I got quite an education that year. And that was a dictonary made for high school students…

    Wonder what that mother would say about that?

  22. Renee January 26, 2010 at 7:36 am #

    I looked up online the Mirram Webster’s definition. It defined it, as what it is.

    If I was a parent and I found this in the dictionary, yes I would ‘report it’. Not to ban the book just to let teachers and staffers be aware so if they see a bunch of 10 year old giggling at the dictionary they can have a heads up.

    Not sure how librarians/staff should handle it? I don’t think shame or even discipline at this age, but yes I think an adult should step in. May just asking, ‘Are you working on a research product?” I would hope, they would be embarrassed and stop. Of course it is tempting to look up such words, yet we should redirect them also.

  23. Sarah January 26, 2010 at 8:22 am #

    @ Renee – I don’t think that we should shame or embarrass children from wanting information! What an odd concept. I would praise a 10 year old who knew how to use the dictionary to look up whatever they wanted. Same goes for encyclopedias (though I’m sure very few homes have whole sets nowadays, but when I was about 8 or 9, I looked up all the “adult” words I could think of!)

  24. Wyngdlyon January 26, 2010 at 8:45 am #

    So now instead of looking it up in the dictionary, they’ll Google the term and really get the definition and an eye opening one it will be.

    My dad’s response to me asking what something meant or how to spell something was “Look it up in the dictionary”, either I gave up on it or went and looked.

    And yes, my friends and I went through the phase of looking up curse words in the dictionary just to see what the meant. I think all kids go through this phase.

  25. Susan January 26, 2010 at 8:48 am #

    “I guess the parents who complained would much rather their kid get his sex information from the geniuses on the monkey bars.”

    Doubt that, I bet they banned the monkey bars too!

  26. Gail January 26, 2010 at 8:49 am #

    It took them this long? I would have thought they’d have done it years ago for “stupid”, since in my neck of the words that’s considered pretty bad.

    Plus, shock of shocks, they’re going to have to ban all dictionaries if they want to protect their precious children from the evils of the world. I just noticed my (or maybe my son’s, not sure) Oxford paperback sitting on my desk and guess what I found in it! “Oral sex” doesn’t have its own listing but it is included in the definition of “oral”.

  27. Gail January 26, 2010 at 8:51 am #

    PS – the Oxford also includes the definitions of fellatio and cunnilingus.

  28. L. Vellenga January 26, 2010 at 9:00 am #

    sigh. the mirriam-webster definition is still somewhat vague. all the kiddoes will still have to look up “stimulation” and “genitals.” too much work = kids won’t do it.

  29. Nikki January 26, 2010 at 9:36 am #

    Just a thought… I think my dad would have preferred for me to read it in a dictionary than to one day (after hearing it on the news) ask him over dinner “hey dad, what does sodomy mean?”

  30. bmj2k January 26, 2010 at 9:50 am #

    Think about it, what’s wrong with banning a dictionary? All the words in the Communist Manifesto can be found in there, as can all the words used by the KKK and all English-speaking pedophiles. These books are clearly dangerous.

    And yes, this is a ridiculous joke. As ridiculous as banning a dictionary.

  31. Mae Mae January 26, 2010 at 9:57 am #

    Ha ha, Nikki! That was my first thought. I keep hearing from my friends the questions their children bring home from school and I was thinking that maybe having my kids look it up in the dictionary might be a little less uncomfortable. Of course, since I would probably be sitting with them as they did it, that might not work for us…

  32. Helen January 26, 2010 at 9:59 am #

    How to make a book an instant bestseller. Duh!

  33. Lori January 26, 2010 at 10:09 am #

    Guess what? When I was in 2nd grade, our teacher read Tom Sawyer aloud to us. When she finished, she planned to read Huck Finn. (I don’t think she had bothered to read it before.) When she first came to what I believe was the “N” word, she stopped & refused to read any more. I went home the same day, found a copy my mom had bought and read it myself. Trying to keep things from children doesn’t work; as soon as they know you’re trying to keep them from something they run right out and find it themselves. To this day, some of my favorite books are from banned book lists…

  34. Uly January 26, 2010 at 10:10 am #

    Like “defenestrate” – I know it means throwing someone out the window, but it sounds like a dirty word, doesn’t it? It’s based on the French word “fenetre” (“window”) and we all know how dirty-minded the French are, right?

    No it doesn’t. It comes directly from the Latin – not through French.

    If I was a parent and I found this in the dictionary, yes I would ‘report it’. Not to ban the book just to let teachers and staffers be aware so if they see a bunch of 10 year old giggling at the dictionary they can have a heads up.

    Not sure how librarians/staff should handle it? I don’t think shame or even discipline at this age, but yes I think an adult should step in. May just asking, ‘Are you working on a research product?” I would hope, they would be embarrassed and stop. Of course it is tempting to look up such words, yet we should redirect them also.

    Why should they be redirected? They’re not harming anybody, not even themselves. They’re getting a little bit of giggles at reading the most boring and dry description of sex ever, because they have never had any sex yet.

    And besides, what do you think, that teachers and librarians are STUPID? They already know – without your “help” – what a group of giggling kids around a dictionary, encyclopedia, or convenient edition of National Geographic (or, for that matter, In The Night Kitchen) means!

  35. AirborneVet January 26, 2010 at 10:12 am #

    If they’re going to ban the Miriam Webster Dictionary, they might as well ban the entire use of the internet because sex is everywhere. Sheesh! And they call these people educators. What the heck are they educating the children about?
    Ooh! Also, at least now no one can take off points for a child misspelling words. There is no longer a resource available to check spelling!

  36. SKL January 26, 2010 at 10:22 am #

    Ha, one of my childhood memories was me at my grandma’s house telling my mom that the health teacher had refused to define oral sex. (I was in middle school.) Naturally both my mom and grandma started choking on their spit, but nevertheless I continued, “Of course we all know what oral sex is . . . ” mom: “that’s enough” . . . me: “it’s just-” mom: “that’s enough!” . . me: “it’s just kissing!” (sighing, rolling eyes, but now knowing it must be something a lot worse than kissing . . . .)

    But seriously – unless it’s an elementary school dictionary, let’s get real. Hey, this could actually be a good thing – now a lot of kids who have never cracked open a dictionary before will learn how to use one.

  37. MFA Grad Student January 26, 2010 at 10:32 am #

    Uly, I stand corrected. But you see the point I was trying to make right?

    SKL – that’s hilarious!

  38. Jaynie January 26, 2010 at 10:45 am #

    That actually happened at my school when I was a ‘tween (so within the last decade). I think the “bad word” in question was cunnilingus, IIRC. Guess what everyone spent the *whole* computer class googling? Even with enforced safe-search, I’m pretty sure nobody left that school year without a *very* clear understanding of not just both main varieties of oral sex, but a wide array of other private activites as well.

    Perhaps these parents haven’t heard of the internet?

    Also: I really don’t think we should be discouraging kids from looking up dirty words, banned dictionary or not. There is enough completely unfounded shame about sexuality in the world as it is.

  39. Stephanie January 26, 2010 at 11:01 am #

    Checked out the link to the dictionary. I fail to be horrified. It’s such a bland definition. Really doesn’t give a curious child any information.

  40. Angeline January 26, 2010 at 11:04 am #

    I hope Kevin Bacon shows up soon with the reverend to scold the book burners so they can all realize the error of their ways and start planning the prom.

  41. Uly January 26, 2010 at 11:09 am #

    SKL, that is pretty funny 🙂

    MFA G S, yes, I get your point, but niggling details niggle at you until they’re corrected.

    If they’re going to ban the Miriam Webster Dictionary, they might as well ban the entire use of the internet because sex is everywhere.

    Well, the internet IS for porn….

    Also: I really don’t think we should be discouraging kids from looking up dirty words, banned dictionary or not. There is enough completely unfounded shame about sexuality in the world as it is.

    As in: It’s disgusting, it’s dirty, it’s awful, you’ll die – so, you know, save it for the one you love! ^.^

    Yeah, that message doesn’t have any problems with it. AT ALL.

  42. MFA Grad Student January 26, 2010 at 11:12 am #

    “Also: I really don’t think we should be discouraging kids from looking up dirty words, banned dictionary or not. There is enough completely unfounded shame about sexuality in the world as it is.

    As in: It’s disgusting, it’s dirty, it’s awful, you’ll die – so, you know, save it for the one you love! ^.^

    Yeah, that message doesn’t have any problems with it. AT ALL.”

    Amen to that!

  43. Floyd Stearns January 26, 2010 at 11:25 am #

    Well, all the kid has to do is “Google it”.

    Although I don’t have that particular dictionary, I’m sure it’s much less graphic.

  44. Jacquelyn January 26, 2010 at 11:30 am #

    Hahaha! I suppose those schoolchildren must have no access to the Internet or public libraries or any other sources of information whatsoever, making throwing out one book an effective way to prevent them from finding out the information that’s in it.
    I just don’t get people who try to protect their kids from knowledge. We are raising them to be adults (supposedly); how can we think they are just going to be innocent, pure, and clueless until they move out and then suddenly know how to make wise choices in the world? It’s ridiculous.
    Personally, I answer every question my daughter asks me with the whole truth, whether I squirm or not. She doesn’t have to look things up in the dictionary! The last thing I want is to remove truth, facts, and the benefit of my experience from her pool of knowledge and information and leave her subject to the half-truths, lies, and myths that permeate what’s left behind.

  45. Andy January 26, 2010 at 11:57 am #

    Banning can backfire. When I was a young Catholic in Brooklyn we had a newspaper put out by the Catholic Church (can’t remember the name) that had a weekly list of “condemned” movies. Naturally, those were the flix me and my buddies would get tickets for. Granted, many of the condemned movies should have been banned because they were garbage, but you take your chances.

  46. Library Diva January 26, 2010 at 12:05 pm #

    Looking up dirty words in the dictionary is a cherished institution of childhood. I’d forgotten about this phase in my life until now, actually. I’m really against any book ever being banned, anywhere, for any reason. Kids need to learn, and not just the stuff adults are comfortable with them knowing.

  47. Mike Ruff January 26, 2010 at 12:08 pm #

    Don’t worry folks! Just because they’ve pulled this dictionary doesn’t mean the poor kids won’t have a dictionary available!

    I heard it’s going to be replaced with the latest edition of the Newspeak Dictionary!

  48. SKL January 26, 2010 at 12:09 pm #

    We didn’t look up dirty words in the dictionary so much . . . we looked them up in the phone book . . . hello, Mr. Shitz, Mrs. Fuchs wants to date you HA HA HA . . . . Yes, stupid, but like the above poster said, a cherished institution of childhood. (At least, before they had caller ID . . . .)

  49. Dragonwolf January 26, 2010 at 12:16 pm #

    I wonder if that school has banned Fahrenheit 451?

  50. Uly January 26, 2010 at 12:19 pm #

    Do you know that some textbooks print expurgated passages of Fahrenheit 451 for the students?

    The irony knows no bounds.

  51. Casey January 26, 2010 at 12:46 pm #

    Jacquelyn, I completely agree!

    Words are words. Information is information. Knowledge is knowledge.

    Children will not immediatly stop what they are doing and start performing oral sex on each other just because they now know what it is. Which is not to say that none of them try things like that, but knowing the definition changes nothing.

    The same goes for adults. Reading the Koran doesn’t make you a Muslim. Reading the Bible doesn’t make you a Christian. Seeing something from another’s perspective doesn’t have to change yours, but it’s not the end of the world if it does either. Just because one cares for or is respectful of a homosexual doesn’t mean they turn into one…. This culture of fear isn’t doing anyone any good. Let us teach our children to be open minded because, honestly, what’s the harm?

  52. Ben January 26, 2010 at 1:45 pm #

    @ Jacquelyn:
    “Personally, I answer every question my daughter asks me with the whole truth, whether I squirm or not. She doesn’t have to look things up in the dictionary! The last thing I want is to remove truth, facts, and the benefit of my experience from her pool of knowledge and information and leave her subject to the half-truths, lies, and myths that permeate what’s left behind.”

    I admire your approach when it comes to answering every question your daughter has regardless of your comfort zone, but the fact she is not encouraged to look something up strikes me as wrong. If you don’t want to keep facts from her, then shouldn’t you also teach her how to find her own information if there’s no one around to ask?

  53. Jen Connelly January 26, 2010 at 1:49 pm #

    What is the world coming to? Seriously. Of course, like someone else said, the surest way to get people to read a book is to ban it. Heck, they have “banned book week” every year that encourages people to check out books that have made the most contested list or have been on the banned book list in the past.

    Almost every single book we were required to read in my Catholic high school was on the banned book list at some point. Probably every one of them. I remember being in English class one year and our teacher closing the door so the nuns that prowled the halls wouldn’t hear her reading word for word from The Catcher in the Rye as a bunch of 15 year old girls giggled at every swear word (which is like every other word in the book). I think that is where I got my formal education in cussing…that and the halls of the school (it’s amazing what comes out of the mouths of teenage girls when confined to small spaces).

    Every kid that reads that article is going to go home and look up “oral sex” in their dictionary or google it.

  54. Alex January 26, 2010 at 1:53 pm #

    The Streisand Effect should take care of this little problem…

  55. Shaylene Haswarey January 26, 2010 at 2:16 pm #

    This reminded me of my 7th grade science class. The kids were talking about hickeys, and someone said, “I wonder if it is in the dictionary?” Yes, the teacher was in the room, and he joined the conversations. A kid picked up a dictionary and looked it up. Sure enough, it was there. Even the teacher thought it was funny. The next day, we all came to school with several (just kidding about the last part).

    Kids are going to learn things no matter what! I actually lived in a highly religious area in Idaho growing up, and we still learned everything one way or another. When I was 14, my sister, who is 3 years younger than me laughed when I didn’t know what oral sex meant (and a lot of other things too). I got educated from her LOL.

    This talk is everywhere, and since most kids don’t read the whole dictionary anyway (I wish my kids would LOL), they’ll learn in from their friends and/or strangers. I am amazed about the words my kids have already learned from people walking down the street and talking. I took my son to a pediatrician. A lady was really mad at the doctor and the nurses. She said FU out loud, and all the kids heard. I guess doctors should make house visits LOL.

    One more thing, my husband was born and raised in Kuwait. People would think you wouldn’t get much ‘exposure’ to things there. However, as a teenager, my husbands knew kids who had porn magazines, and talked about sex. And yes, most of these kids my husband knew matured and are good, normal citizens of the world!

  56. Steven January 26, 2010 at 2:34 pm #

    What kind of world are we coming to when we cannot have a dictionary, of all thinks, allowed in school.

  57. Nicola January 26, 2010 at 4:00 pm #

    They need to ban this school.

  58. lonedattyof3 January 26, 2010 at 4:49 pm #

    “I guess the parents who complained would much rather their kid get his sex information from the geniuses on the monkey bars.”

    Ha! There’s still hope–The above statement got through the filters without unscathed.

  59. Dawn January 26, 2010 at 8:17 pm #

    Hi. Just found this blog. I raised 2 “free range” kids (they are in college now). My kids walked to and from school in all weathers, almost 2 miles to HS, 1 mile to elementary/middle. They walked to friends’ houses (unless they were several miles away, then I did drive them). They are happy, independent, intelligent adults, and I am DAMN proud of my kids! 🙂

    Re: oral sex. This brings back memories. I had a copy of “Changing Bodies, Changing Lives” on the bookshelf while I worked as a midwife. My children were allowed to read anything on the bookshelves, and encouraged to ask any questions they had (there were also all sorts of medical, pharmacological, and midwifery books on that shelf, along with childbirth videos). At age 7 or so, my eldest asked, while we were at my in-laws house, at dinner time, “Mom, what’s cunnilingus?” I simply told her that I would answer that after dinner, (while my in-laws and the other company choked). And after dinner, we went into her room and I answered all her questions, much to the in-laws’ dismay!

  60. Rachel January 26, 2010 at 8:45 pm #

    Puts me in mind of a sketch from A bit of Fry and Laurie (classic British comedy sketches):

    I’m sure it’s on youtube somewhere too, but with filters and such, it might be blocked there…

  61. Rich Wilson January 26, 2010 at 9:10 pm #

    Re: Fry and Laurie- Americans, please note a very young ‘Dr. House’ 🙂

    @Uly 🙂

  62. catgirl January 26, 2010 at 10:14 pm #

    Why do some people insist on believing that kids will never discover anything sexual on their own? When these kids get a little older, I can guarantee you that most of them would discover oral sex, even if they never knew there was a term for it. At least this way they’ll know they’re weirdos for doing it. There are several things that I discovered, by myself or with a partner(s), that really surprised me to find out their was a term for it, and that plenty of other people are doing the exact same thing.

  63. Lola January 26, 2010 at 11:10 pm #

    Sorry, caught on a bit late, but…

    “As in: It’s disgusting, it’s dirty, it’s awful, you’ll die – so, you know, save it for the one you love! ^.^”

    LOL!!!!! Best comment so far!!!

  64. Lisa Romeo January 26, 2010 at 11:22 pm #

    What great comments.
    I only can add that maybe it’s a good thing the dictionary was banned after all. You wouldn’t want those kids having access to information or knowledge now would we? And besides, if they had access to this horrible book, the kids might look up words like ignoramus or short-sighted or hypocrite, blockhead, imbecile, or philistine, and realize, hey, these apply to all the members of that school board!

  65. Renee January 26, 2010 at 11:48 pm #

    @ Sarah and those who think I shouldn’t redirect.

    I’m a volunteer at my children’s school library. I wouldn’t just sit there as 10 year olds looked up naughty words, I would yes redirect them. That’s why adults are around. We’re not hovering, but we’re there.

    And well I’ll put it out there, I’m also Catholic. As Catholics we really like sex, yes my children will know a lot sex. I will teach my young daughter the biological knowledge of her reproductive system (and sons too). Which by the way is very graphic, because since I practice Natural Family Planning I chart my cervical mucus. TMI, I know but I’m trying to make the point I’m not ignorant of sex nor do I want my children to be.

    Sex is powerful, it has to be respected. I assume we all agree and shouldn’t be taken causally. Sexuality involved hormones, like the release of oxytocin, that involve pleasure (good, very good indeed) but this hormone also makes us feel attached (it considered a bonding hormone, Love).

    I realize my children are sexual beings, yes, I do. I want my children to understand mature relationships. As they grow become a complete and independent persons, so when the engage in sexual activity it represents a true relationship between two people, and not simply something fun to stimulate the genitals.

    That’s why I wouldn’t ban or hid the book. I would redirect at the moment of curiosity, if I was NOT the parent of the child. Then get the message to the parent “Hey, your kid needs ‘the talk’, sooner then later”

    A natural curiosity into a dictionary, can lead to a lesson about what sex is all about (but ONLY if the right someone steps in). As adults we end up knowing the reality is that sex is more then playing around with one’s genitals, but rather a relationship with a whole person.

    Yeah, this all sounding so preachy. Still that’s what I would do if my children were looking up sexual terms online or in the dictionary.

  66. Chrystal @ Happy Mothering January 26, 2010 at 11:51 pm #

    That is just plain disturbing! It’s one word in the dictionary, and if they think banning the dictionary is going to stop kids from learning what that word means, they are in for a sad surprise! Sheltering our kids is not always what’s best for them. Educating them and preparing them to live in the world today is a much better gift.

  67. Alexis January 26, 2010 at 11:51 pm #

    Somehow, this site has not been blocked at my school yet. However, when I clicked on the links to the articles, both of them came up as blocked through our internet filters. Reason? Pornography.

  68. max January 27, 2010 at 12:17 am #

    I found that in the dictionary in 4th grade, ya know what i did? i giggled. i showed my friends; theyall snickered.
    were we scarred? no. were we amused for five or ten minutes? yes.

  69. Ben January 27, 2010 at 12:41 am #

    @Alexis: What sort of school are you at? Banning newspaper websites is almost as sad as banning dictionaries.

  70. helenquine January 27, 2010 at 12:45 am #

    Renee – If they’re supposed to be working on a project and they’re clearly not, then getting them back on task seems like a reasonable thing to do. But if my daughter is in the library with time on her hands and decides to look up a word (any word) I’d be a bit miffed if a volunteer decided it was appropriate to redirect her curiosity.

    One of the things dictionaries and other good reference books do is allow people (including kids) to look up factual information away from the agenda of their teachers. Not that i won’t give her my view of sex, but she needs to find out about it, and many other things, from other sources too.

    If volunteers in the school library won’t let her look things up in the dictionary I hate to think what sources she will end up using.

  71. Alexis January 27, 2010 at 12:51 am #

    @ Ben – I’m just at a regular public school in Virginia in the US. LOTS of things don’t make it through our school filters because of “flagged” words. I’m guessing the words in the oral sex article are some of them.

    All I can do is roll my eyes and send an email to the network administrator.

  72. Uly January 27, 2010 at 12:53 am #

    Renee – If they’re supposed to be working on a project and they’re clearly not, then getting them back on task seems like a reasonable thing to do. But if my daughter is in the library with time on her hands and decides to look up a word (any word) I’d be a bit miffed if a volunteer decided it was appropriate to redirect her curiosity.

    Just that.

    Mind, if they’re standing there long enough giggling it might be reasonable to redirect them because they’re just being ANNOYING, but that’s a different matter.

  73. JMP January 27, 2010 at 12:58 am #

    I fondly remember my high school library maintaining a display table consisting entirely of books that had been banned somewhere or another, with a sign reading “Celebrate Freedom, Read a Banned Book.” Whenever there was a new news story about some ridiculous new effort to ban some book not previously banned, they librarians were quick to add it to the table. It was made extremely clear that students were expected to help themselves to anything they wanted to from the table.

    There were plenty of students over the years who read some of those books for no reason other than their presence on that table. The librarians saw it as a wonderful marketing tool…

  74. Blake January 27, 2010 at 1:41 am #

    I guess the parents are just offended that a dictionary is doing what it’s supposed to do.

    This will probably get a lot of profits for the dictionary. Possibly from kids with allowance money who want to know what it is since it’s so controversial. Or they’ll just look it up on the internet. If they do the latter, I hope they don’t run into any Japanese stuff. That really will wound them for life.

  75. LauraL January 27, 2010 at 1:49 am #

    I would have just rolled my eyes and hoped the kid didn’t notice it with me so I wouldn’t have to say or do anything about it, lol!

  76. Virtual Linguist January 27, 2010 at 2:01 am #

    Hi Lenore
    Lots of books have been banned from schools, libraries etc at some time or other and in some place or other in the USA. Yes, Harry Potter but also classics such as Huckleberry Finn, Grapes of Wrath, To Kill a Mockingbird, Lord of the Flies and Catcher in the Rye.

    I liked the comment in the Guardian article by the Californian spokeswoman Betti Cadmus: “It’s hard to sit and read the dictionary, but we’ll be looking to find other things of a graphic nature.”
    Poor Betti! It’s a tough job looking up dirty words in a dictionary … !!

  77. indosungod January 27, 2010 at 2:27 am #

    I just wish they would ban helicopter “parent volunteers” from schools. That will put an end to this madness. How many things are they going to ban before they ban the one thing that would do a world of good.

  78. DairyStateMom January 27, 2010 at 2:44 am #

    Maybe the mommy was upset because it was an experience she had never had. “Nope! No way! If I can’t get any, Little Clementina’s never even going to LEARN about it in the DICTIONARY!”

    Oh dear, I’m afraid that’s very mean.

  79. Uly January 27, 2010 at 2:45 am #

    Actually, parent volunteers can be a very good thing. Schools have limited resources and can use all the help they can get.

    However, there’s no need for a parent volunteer to be perusing the dictionary while at work. Heck, many schools don’t even bring them into the classroom, and not because of “safety” reasons – they simply have their hands full with stapling and printing out worksheets and collecting the attendance and the like.

  80. Tobias January 27, 2010 at 2:56 am #

    Wait, they were allowed unabridged dictionaries at an elementary school? That alone amazes me, most schools where I am now only allow the watered down “youth” versions. The one used by the nearest elementary school doesn’t even include a definition for “dumb”, let alone “oral sex”. My kid sister was rather perturbed, she wanted to know why the sidekick on Zorro was said to be “deaf and dumb” when he was neither deaf nor stupid.

  81. jim January 27, 2010 at 3:33 am #

    Another great Orange County moment! This is why I take a look at the OC Weekly at least once a week – I need to be reminded that there is at least one place stranger than Texas.

    Great snark, DairyStateMom! Reminds me of the story about the 19th-century British Parliment passing a stringent anti-homosexuality law, and then sending it to Queen Victoria for her signature. The law as written and passed outlawed same-sex relations between both men and women and when they tried to explain to Vickie what lesbian sex was she refused to believe such a thing was possible and wouldn’t sign the bill. So it went back to Parliment for a re-write. As a result, for many years in the UK being a male homosexual meant a trip to Reading Gaol, but it was perfectly legal to be a lesbian.

    Loved the comment about highlighted words in the jr. high dictionary. So that the enlisted swine will have something to read, the inside of the stall doors in the restrooms (“heads”) on US Navy ships have Plexiglas-covered 17×24″ posters of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. One every one of these posters I saw, someone had removed the Plexiglas long enough to highlight the phrase “penetration however slight” from the sodomy statute.

  82. Gary January 27, 2010 at 4:13 am #

    Hmmm…I wonder if dictionaries in China have this definition in them?

  83. Leppi January 27, 2010 at 4:28 am #

    are you people working/living in the USofA or China?

  84. Virginia January 27, 2010 at 5:34 am #

    It gets better: the term “oral sex,” which the parent volunteer was originally said to have complained about, is not even in the dictionary that was pulled from classrooms!

  85. Joette January 27, 2010 at 5:55 am #

    From the above link:

    “On that theory, you would only have ‘Dick and Jane’ left in the library.”

    Incorrect. My elementary aged son giggles over the name ‘Dick’ every time he sees one of those primers. And a co-worker’s daughter, at age 8, flatly refuses to read them to her younger sister. So, in fact, the library would have no books at all.

  86. Gail January 27, 2010 at 6:07 am #

    @Uly “Do you know that some textbooks print expurgated passages of Fahrenheit 451 for the students?

    The irony knows no bounds.”

    Okay I confess, I had to run for my dictionary to understand your post! Now that I do, ironic indeed. I’ve always said that we’ll really know we’re in trouble when some fool bans Fahrenheit 451.

  87. Sarah January 27, 2010 at 7:02 am #

    Nikki, had to laugh about your sodomy comment. But then, I once accused my father of buggery, under the impression that it meant that he was bugging me.

    Boy, I sure wished I’d looked THAT word up in the dictionary first…

  88. Kimberly January 27, 2010 at 12:45 pm #

    You just reminded me of a fond memory of my Father. I took a school novel with me to CCE and CYO. The head of CCE took my book away. When Dad came to pick me up, she gave the book to him and told him it was on “THE LIST”. THen she gave him a list (not the whole “THE LIST” that would be as thick as a dictionary), and said he should monitor my reading better.

    He looked her in the eye and said you are right. Handed me the list and said “Be sure not to bring these books to CCE or CYO, when you read them.”

  89. Jen Connelly January 27, 2010 at 11:55 pm #

    My son loves Dick and Jane books. They were the first books he was ever able to read on his own. He’s 8 now and obviously knows that “dick” is a dirty word because last time he was reading one he said it was weird to call a boy Dick and refused to say it and instead read it as Richard and Jane. I was cracking up, especially since our neighbor (well, they moved a couple years ago but he’s the grandfather of my oldest daughter’s BFF) is named Dick and that’s what the kids call him.
    And my dad, too, encouraged me to read “banned” books. He always said those were the best books. When he was a kid they just weren’t allowed. He said he picked up Treasure Island from his elementary school’s library (it was a Catholic school) and was reading it in class (probably 5th grade) and his teacher freaked out and took it away and said he couldn’t read filthy books. When he said he got it from their library they went and culled the library to get rid of inappropriate books. Of course, that made him want to read the book even more which he eventually did.
    Things really changed by the time I was in school. Like I said early, every book we read in high school was on the banned book list. And I read To Kill a Mockingbird in 8th grade for a book report. My teacher was surprised to find a student that picked a classic book (most kids picked something easy). I had to read it again in high school (American Lit in 11th grade) and I was one of the few kids that had read it already but probably the only one that read it because I wanted to.

  90. jim January 28, 2010 at 12:13 am #

    Surprised to hear the Dick and Jane books are still around – the grade-school kids of pro-literacy friends have never heard of them, but they love it when I stop by on the weekend with my dog Spot. (I mean, what would you name an English Pointer/ Stafordshire rescue mutt? Reginald?) However, I understand the giggles over the name “Dick.” (If you want to have some fun with a canned-goods drive, hit and English-imports specialty store and get a can of Spotted Dick. More fun than canned haggis.) I served with a junior officer named Richard Dick; the guys up forward called him Dick-Dick and the nucs back in the engineering spaces called him Dick Squared. Just one of those “what were the parents thinking?” names.

  91. Uly January 28, 2010 at 1:26 am #

    They don’t teach Dick and Jane in schools, but there’s a big market for reprints of various stories for nostalgics and their kids.

  92. bequirox January 28, 2010 at 5:39 am #

    I remember asking my mom what “Sperm” was after a friend told me a dirty joke (Something about a person going into a sperm bank to make a withdrawal.) She said, “Look it up,” which led me on a dictionary chance from Sperm to Semen (a viscid whitish fluid of the male reproductive tract consisting of spermatozoa suspended in secretions of accessory glands) to viscid, tract, spermatozoa, secretions, …… Anyway, After I finished looking up everything, I still had no idea what it meant.

    I plan to tell my kids to look it up, then come talk to me for clarification.

    Side note: When I got bored in German class, I looked up the swears in German. Also, when I found a sign language dictionary I looked up all the signs for swears.

    Words that sound like swears, but aren’t:

  93. Mike January 28, 2010 at 7:22 am #

    Great comments. I won’t claim to have read all ~100 of them, sorry if this is completely redundant.

    If a kid looks up “oral sex” it means s/he knows the term. Kids have three main ways to look up definitions…as a school administrator, teacher, librarian or busybody parent, is it better for said child to look it up (1) in a bound dictionary, which provides an antiseptic definition, (2) via Google, which will likely provide innumerable strands of text from steamy web sites, or (3) via Wikipedia, with integrated graphic drawings of the act?

    Extend foot, aim gun, pull trigger…..

  94. Lisa January 28, 2010 at 10:41 am #

    BTW, this wasn’t in Orange was in Riverside. Then again, I was surprised to hear it didn’t happen here in boring OC. So lame. If those were my kids, I’d pull them out of the school that would ban a dictionary.

  95. PartyPiper January 28, 2010 at 11:53 am #

    I used to use my calculator to type “BOOBS,” but I suspect that the calculator won’t get taken away. I’m back in school finishing the dregs of my bachelors after working, and while I may have forgotten how to use a microscope, I don’t have to whup out a fancy-pants graphic calculator to do simple division or multiplication… especially by 10, 100, 1000. I once had a supervisor in a restaurant tell me that she could now tell my age…. because she caught me calculating my tips/cash information with pencil and paper!

    And other than that? It’s called the internet. I actually think that Urban Dictionary is a boon to middle school kind. Any time you hear a sex term you’re not familiar with, you just nod and smile, head home and look it up. Back in my day, we used to nod and smile to euphemisms to avoid admitting we had no idea, because somehow we were expected by our peers to have a categorical understanding of any and all terms and concepts covered in Penthouse Letters.

    And typically, kids who look up oral sex in a dictionary probably aren’t having any. So I don’t understand what the problem is. Next they’ll be removing biology books because they show “privates.”

  96. jim January 29, 2010 at 1:26 am #

    @ bequirox – Years ago a co-worker and I were putting in a tiltwall commercial building in Pasadena, Texas which is a stinky refinery town near Houston. Most of Pasadena is “dry” but our job site happened to be right next to one of the few stores deemed “wet.” (Don’t get me started on Texas liquor laws.) So every day after work we would each grab a quart of beer and take a different back-street route to the freeway, since we figured this would be the only time either of us would spend much time in Pasadena. One day we were motoring along and went past a little two-block dead end called Finfrock Street. We decided that was the best cuss word we had ever heard, because we had had a real finfrocker of a day and the building inspectors in Pasadena were finfrockin’ idiots. Of course, since my buddy was Italian, it didn’t take us very long to get to “Finfrock me? No, finfrock you!”

  97. irishturtle January 29, 2010 at 3:33 am #

    You know what? SCREW the innocence of childhood. It’s not the parents’ jobs to teach their kids about sex! Highly technical and complicated issues such as these should be reserved for PROFESSIONALS and people who publish dictionaries! Besides, the sooner these kids learn the definition of various sexual acts, the sooner they can grow up and become proficient oral sex providers, right?!

    And I don’t know about you, but I’m LIVID that Websters doesn’t contain definitions for other critical sexual skills such as donkey punch, dirty sanchez, hot carl, pooper prolapse, tittie f*ck, handjob, bukkake, snowjob, and fisting to name a few.

    THIS, ladies and gentlemen, is why our country lags behind all others in education. We got these crazy “Christ followers” running around saying crap like, “Gee, do you really want your seven-year-old to know what ‘oral sex’ is?” Get off your high horse! As a matter of fact we DO want our seven-year-old–nay, our FIVE-year-old–to know what’s involved in the process of oral sex! That way they can decided for THEMSELVES what is good for them because lawd knows it’s not MY job.

    And let’s face it, the sooner they know about oral sex and other fun facts and tasty tidbits the sooner they can get in on adult humor and laugh along with us. FINALLY, they’ll understand “that’s what she said” jokes, because THAT is what’s important, here. Protecting the children? Pshaw, good people. Pshaw, indeed. The only thing the “children” need protection from is … well, hell, they don’t need protection from anything! Other than STDs from performing various sexual acts with various orifices, but that’s why we have the government: to protect us from … ourselves.

    Stand with me! DOWN with all this protect the children junk! Down with this archaic notion that we’re supposed to “lead” the youth to become wise adults! We’re not kids’ leaders, we’re their buddies! And what do buddies do? Buddies don’t lead, steer, correct, or protect; who wants a downer buddy like THAT?! Buddies joke, tease, and have sophisticated vocabularies that include “oral sex”! Come on!

  98. s January 29, 2010 at 4:54 am #

    I would wager that any kid who actually knows how to spell and look-up the word probably a) has cursory knowledge of it already and isn’t that the issue? this mythos of children being asexual b) as others have stated, doesn’t have Internet access.
    An earlier commenter stated that sex is powerful and is to be respected as an emotional act, not one of the body. If we spent more time worrying about how to instill that value instead of trying to protect children from knowledge of various sex acts, we’d be better off in general. For controlling, fearful parents, the emphasis is on the forbidden in life, the dangerous — and all the fascination that comes along with those two labels in life. They are emphasizing that knowledge is to be feared instead of encountered then critiqued. And I would actually agree with it on some level if that approach worked. It simply doesn’t.

  99. bequirox January 29, 2010 at 4:03 pm #

    Jim, that reminds me… There’s a radio DJ out here named Arty Fufkin. One day my brother (about 15) called him and shouted, “You’re Fufkin LAME!” And ever since then, it’s my favorite fake swear.

  100. bequirox January 29, 2010 at 4:07 pm #

    And irishturtle… YIKES! I’m not sure if you’re “on our side” or not. But the point is that banning a whole dictionary over one word is ridiculous and an over reaction. No one is saying we should teach our kids every dirty word or phrase we can think of (by the way, I have no idea what half the things you said mean), just that it’s not the end of the world if they learn one.

  101. Anna January 29, 2010 at 8:36 pm #

    As a kid i read a book with the line “good morning erection” in it. It was a class where we could do something for ourselves, so after thinking what it could possibly mean I asked my teacher!! Somehow I do not remember his answer, but I still feel embarased remembering asking it!

    @irishturtle: Banning a dictionary over a explaining a word is ridiculous. That is the soul function of dictionaries. It has nothing to do with teaching children about sex.

  102. kbrum January 30, 2010 at 6:32 pm #

    I once worked with an opus dei catholic woman, age about 40 who used the word ‘bugger’ a lot in a really annoying mock yorkshire accent. It was pretty clear she had no idea what it meant as she would use it during important meetings with clients. I was very embarrasesd for her. She only stopped using it when I finally asked her to borrow my dictionary so she could look it up. She also nearly lost her job.

  103. tired_triumph January 30, 2010 at 11:32 pm #

    Better to look it up in the dictionary then to search it on google.

    Am I right?!!? 🙂

  104. Greta July 22, 2010 at 2:01 am #

    -Ban anything written by Shakespeare, because, you know, they mention occult and fighting!
    -Ban Robinson Crusoe because native Venezuelans/Blacks/All Amerindians might find Friday offensive.
    -Ban Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys, because kidnapping’s occur!

    Seriously, though, kids are going to find out anyway, especially with internet.

  105. Warren September 11, 2012 at 3:10 am #

    Denis Leary, the comedian, once said that as an altar boy he was privy to the lists of books, songs and movies that the Ladies Aux, disapproved of.

    Said they became must see, hear or reads.

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