Sunday, February 25, 2007

So is the word "scrotum" really the problem here?

My sister called me the other day to talk to me about something she saw on The View, a show I normally do not watch. She wanted to talk to me about the banning of the Newbery Medal winning book, The Higher Power of Lucky. Much like me, my sister is very strongly in favor of intellectual freedom and parents making decisions regarding what their children read, not necessarily teachers, librarians or legislators. Barbara Walters brought up the controversy and the co-hosts all weighed in. The guest host, Sherri Shepherd was bothered that the author, who is also a librarian, used the word because its "delicious." I tend to think that most kids aren't thinking "delicious" when they read the word scrotum. View a clip here. An AP article claims that the book was defended on The View. I'm not sure that I would agree with that assessment but it certainly brought the issue to the attention of the general public.

I'm not sure where Barbara Walters heard about this, but I suspect it may have been The New York Times article from 2 days before. What I find particularly interesting is that it doesn't appear (from this article) that the word "scrotum" is the problem with this book in the eyes of those that will not purchase it or otherwise censor it from their collections. It is a short coming on the part of the teachers and librarians, in my opinion.
“I think it’s a good case of an author not realizing her audience,” said Frederick Muller, a librarian at Halsted Middle School in Newton, N.J. “If I were a third- or fourth-grade teacher, I wouldn’t want to have to explain that.” (NYT article)
Is it really that the author doesn't know her audience? Or is it that some people would rather her audience not hear the word? There is a real distinction here. Its not the word. Its that no one wants to have to EXPLAIN what that word is to a student.

Are we as adults really that immature that we can't use the correct anatomical term for a body part? Elisabeth Hasselbeck on The View suggested saying that the "dog got an ouch in its pouch." Why can't we openly discuss body parts, especially those that may have a sexual connotation? We're doing a disservice to kids by trying to "protect" them. Maybe its just me, but I'd rather kids learn the actual names and proper functions of body parts than to resort to learning the slang terms and being uncomfortable discussing what amounts to biology. Kids, especially teens, are keenly aware when a conversation makes an adult uncomfortable. All the anti-drug and anti-smoking ads advocate parents talking openly with their kids about these topics. Why is sex so different? We're worried, as a society, about the oversexualization of kids at younger and younger ages. And yet very few are willing to openly discuss these issues with kids, giving them an open forum to be curious! The truth is they will be curious, even if they don't read about it in a book. They will want answers. Wouldn't you rather them hear about it from a teacher, librarian, nurse, their parents than on the school bus?

1 comment:

GroovyDave said...

There's something you're missing here Karen, and that is this: anti-drug and anti-smoking groups want more than for parents to "talk to their kids". They want them to say certain things. They want them to be carriers of the approved, official message. Now, whether or not you agree with that message--and most reasonable, sane parents do NOT want their kids smoking cigarettes or screwing around with drugs--it's the same thing with sex and "biology" and so forth. It's not enough that parents "talk to their kids"--they have to pass on the approved message. That's the problem. The word "scrotum" is not part of the approved message. That wasn't always true but it seems to be the case now.

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