January 29, 2010

Soapbox Theatre: I really, really, really, really, really hope none of my friends who are parents would do this.

(This story is a few days old (or possibly slightly older), so you may already be aware of it. But I just heard about it, so I'm annoyed NOW. Hence...)

What is becoming of our nation? SERIOUSLY.

A California school banned dictionaries for students. (See story here.)

Why? Because one of the students found a definition for oral sex, and parents were outraged.


OK. I am not a parent. I have never been responsible for shaping and guiding a tiny person's value system.

But if and when I am?

I am not going to encourage things like banning the dictionary just so my little person can be shielded forever from something I'm too afraid to address with him or her myself.

Because that's what this reeks of to me. Sex (in all its many forms) is a thing. In the world. That people do. Every day. It is OUT THERE. It is EVERYWHERE. There is NO shielding kids from it, not if they're going to live in the world.

In my (admittedly inexperienced) opinion, it's a parent's job to take what is in the world and explain it to their kids. Help shape their opinions of the world and everything in it. Not that you're going to take a three-year-old and give him an explicit explanation of oral sex, of course -- that would be inane. But common sense should allow you, as a parent, to come up with a way of explaining things, at an age-appropriate level, to your child. I'm not going to pretend it won't be awkward. But it is (in my opinion) one of your responsibilities as a parent.

Taking away a dictionary that the school had purchased for advanced readers? Is cowardly, I think. We're not talking about a novel with subject matter designed to titilate. This is a dictionary. A learning tool. It probably also includes definitions for "behead" and "episiotomy." You can bet none of those parents want to explain to their first-grader what those words mean, but you can also bet that those words wouldn't inspire a parent to demand the dictionary be banned.

This kind of thing? Makes me depressed. I don't want a world where kids grow up without ever learning about things that make them uncomfortable. That is part of the world they are IN. There are so, so many things in the world I disagree with. But it just isn't feasible (unless you're Amish, which: more power to them if they can do it) to keep your kids away from everything the world has in it.

Instead, you just have to try to prepare them as best you can, keep talking to them and pray. Pray and pray a lot.

Can we not blame the dictionary?

Because, seriously? From the resumes I've seen from some recent college grads, and from some of the e-mails and Facebook postings and whatnot from that generation (and several others), the one thing we do NOT need to be getting rid of is the dictionary.

OK, so down off my soapbox I skip. I would love to hear from some of you who are parents: Am I totally off base? Do you agree? What would you have done in this situation?

P.S.: In the interest of full disclosure: After catching major (justified) flak for banning the dictionaries, the school did decide to allow them back, although parents can ask for their kids to use an alternative dictionary if they are still too freaked out by Merriam-Webster.

3 backtalk:

Amber said...

I think this is crazy. I'm a very new parent, but I can't see myself reacting like this in the future. The best case scenario (as awkward as it would be) would be for my children to ask me about these kinds of things, but I think a dictionary is a good alternative. Definitely better than Google, for example. Can you imagine what would come up if they searched 'oral sex'?

Sex is a part of life; I know my son is going to do it one day (one day very, very far into the future). I kinda think (right now, with very little parenting experience) that the more I try to keep things from him, the more he'll want to know. Like, if I am matter-of-fact and honest about things, he might not be so inclined to see what all the hype's about (one day very, very far into the future).

If I used my online www.webster.com right, oral sex has been in the dictionary since 1973. Interesting that someone was able to raise such a stink about it now.

Mickey D. said...

My daughter is five-weeks-old. I just gave her the sex talk. I figured it would be less awkward this way, and I was right!

I'm sure when she's 13 or 14 she'll remember this conversation and how I told her that she doesn't have to do it to be liked by some boy.

Phew, glad that's over!

Now I can move forward and tell her that the dictionary is her friend. And Amber is right, I'll bet Google's definition (and photos) are far more descriptive that the dictionary. I remember looking up "shit" in the dictionary when I was a kid. And now I can use it correctly in a sentence.

wrestling kitties said...


Maybe we should take away everything that will educate our kids and just baby our children even more so that we can have a generation of uneducated zoombies running our world.

I get so angry at these parents who make such a big deal about everything and want to point fingers at everyone else. They want to shelter their children, but in all reality they are causing more curiousity and problems. By the parents making such a big deal about this they have created an interest in oral sex that may not have even been there before. Instead of just talking to their kids and forgetting about it now kids are either interested more or feel ashamed for finding that.

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