I read a disturbing news story today about a school in the U.S. that banned the dictionary. No…you read that correctly, they banned the dictionary! A school district in Southern California decided that the entry for “oral sex” was objectionable and offensive, after a group of parents complained. They further explained that they will also be performing “a thorough scouring of the dictionary for other offensive entries”
I don’t even know where to start with this one.
Seriously? The dictionary? Are we now so concerned with not offending anyone that we are going to be censoring reference materials? In a world of NASCAR, Larry The Cable Guy, and Golden Corral All-You-Can-Eat buffets, the American public can no longer learn that oral sex is “oral stimulation of the genitals”? (that’s the actual definition in the entry that prompted the ban) To be honest, I’m offended at the definition itself, because I think that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary should be providing a more comprehensive definition than that.
But apparently, that definition is offensive. Apparently no one in this section of Southern California knows anything about oral sex. Maybe it just doesn’t exist in the San Diego area? Highly unlikely. I would love to be there to see the “thorough scouring” of the dictionary by the school district. What else will be deemed offensive? What about ‘genocide’? That seems like a pretty offensive concept…why not make sure kids never hear about that either? Are they not going to allow kids to look up that a “pussy” is a cat, or that a “cock” is a rooster?
Yes, I understand the dictionary that was banned was a higher-level dictionary than the school it was intended for, but the fact remains that the item that led to the ban was the term “oral sex”, not the dictionary itself. It wasn’t just replaced, it was removed, banned, and the ‘thorough scouring’ promised.
And this isn’t the only ridiculous story regarding the banning of books that came from our Southern neighbours this week. In this fantastic nugget of a story, the State Board of Education in Texas banned Bill Martin’s books from all of their libraries. Bill Martin’s books include Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? However, the apparent intent of the ban was due to a book by Bill Martin entitled Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation, which was flagged because it contained “very strong critiques of capitalism and the American system.” Now, I’m annoyed enough that it was banned based on the content, but here’s the kicker…it’s a different Bill Martin!
Bill Martin the picture book author died in 2004, while the other Bill Martin is a professor of philosophy at DePaul University. But the board, in their infinite wisdom—and please keep in mind that this is the State Board, not some rinky-dink backwater municipality—decided that ‘Bill Martin” should be banned.
The real kicker in all of this is that in the ensuing shitstorm that this inevitably created, it was discovered that the key members of the board didn’t even read the books. I’ll repeat that…THEY DIDN’T EVEN READ THE BOOKS! And then went on to say that they didn’t do “any research”. They just blindly followed the suggestion of one board member.
Remember these stories the next time you hear someone complain about the American education system.