something in the water?

Back in September, I wrote a post about a complaint brought to the Temecula Valley School District by a parent who had a problem with a book available in school libraries entitled “Speak”. The school board, who collectively had not read the book, were going to decide if this cautionary tale of teen alchohol abuse, date rape and peer pressure was too much for the young minds who might turn its pages. ”None of us had read it,” said board member Kristi Rutz-Robbins, who expressed concerns about the book at an August meeting, saying she would not be comfortable with her daughter reading it. Let’s back up: no one had read the book yet they felt justified in deciding whether or not someone else could? Well, I’ve never eaten escargot but I’m sure it’s horrible, so no one should have to endure it! So there! No snails for you!

I’m reminding you of this because today in the LA Times another winning story comes to us from the province of Christian fear and prejudice on the borderland between Riverside and San Diego counties. In the community of Menifee (yes, I know you’ve never heard of it) another outraged parent came forward with a concern about a book. A Young Adult novel with gay themes, you ask? A historical narrative with a Pagan-inspired storyline? The Koran? The Torah? Nah… the evil, bound manuscript was none other than Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary! And its crime? A definition in the book, that of ‘oral sex’ (defined therein as ‘oral stimulation of the genitals’). It defines a word or concept! That’s what dictionaries do. Hello! Now, okay, this Dictionary was found in the 4th and 5th grade reference books, which is arguably not academically collegiate (although in a community like Menifee 4th grade is probably as close as most students will get to college).

Prompted by the parent’s complaint, the principal of Oak Meadows Elementary School removed the books and housed them ‘off location.’ Later when students tried to find the definition of the word ‘cluster-fuck’ they were forced to research it online where they spent the rest of the day looking at internet porn. The Menifee school board weighed in assuring everyone the Dictionary hadn’t been banned, but it was being decided whether or not the words in it were ‘age appropriate.’ Folks, kids (and boys in particular) are going to be kids. My mother, a retired 6th grade teacher, found out very early on that using words such as ‘climax’ in their proper context (i.e. the climax of the story) often elicited knowing giggles from the precious nine and ten-year old infants in the class room. Kids are going to look up the dirty words or phrases because that’s what they do and if the Dictionary is taken away, they’ll find what they’re looking for elsewhere.

I found this interesting tid-bit on the Sigmund, Carl and Alfred blog from a former middle school employee:

“My last few years in the middle school were spent largely chasing kids out of the bathroom of the opposite sex. Blowjobs were all the rage. It was all they could talk about. They even drew pictures and diagrams, of kids ‘doing it,’ or ‘how to do it’ for the uninitiated.Unpopular girls became suddenly popular. Early-developing boys were chased down the halls and solicited. It was sick. A time or two someone was actually caught in the act, but our principal had a hard time believing such things could happen at that age, and we had a really difficult time convincing her that yes, it was happening two or three dozen times a day. Nothing was ever done, because ‘the teacher must have just misinterpreted the situation and assumed the worst.’

Yes, it happened like that over and over. The parents were our worst problem, because they simply refused to believe their innocent child could possibly do that, and they became furious at the implication.
And the middle school kids were giving, and getting, blowjobs all day.”

So, let’s recap: kids look up oral sex in the Dictionary, parent gets upset, principal removes the Dictionary and in the meantime little Suzie is polishing little Tanner’s knob in the boys’ bathroom. Wow, seems like the Dictionary is the least of our worries.

I mean really, where does this conservative madness end? Obviously if a clinical reference book can cause this much trouble, how on earth can the bible still be available, in fact, usually in these circles, held aloft as The Word? What about the violence, death, destruction, sex, bestiality and incest so lovingly catalogued in those pages. I’m somewhere between blushing and offended just thinking about it. Pillar of salt, indeed!

The kids can’t read the Dictionary but they’ve been educated in loading and firing guns since they could walk. They’ve been taught to hate and judge others who aren’t like them since birth. They’ve been sedated by the Opiate of the Masses (do your own research on Oscar Wilde if you don’t know this one) since conception. They’ve been taught that to kill is fine, just not to murder. Ultimately, they’ve been allowed to re-define everything so as to pinpoint it within the perimeter of their own, narrow scope of life and the world as provided by their parents and religious leaders. Re-define it.

I guess if there are no definitive sources like a Dictionary around to set the record straight, the world begins to look entirely like Wikipedia… open to interpretation. There’s already too much of that going around, friends. Stop the madness.


2 Responses to “something in the water?”

  1. Yo Jess,
    Absolutely hilarious rant! Of course, most of the 4th graders in menifee probably can’t read, so little damage was done. One wonders how the parent even found out about the term being in the dictionary unless her husband suddenly got frisky and tried something new.
    The only disagreement I have with your commentary is that you refer to kids looking up “dirty words.” Oral sex is not a dirty word(s). The act itself may be “dirty” depending on one’s point of view, upbringing etc. Anyway, I think book dictionaries are pretty much out of date. Most people, kids included, will go online and then really find some interesting definitions as you point out.
    Well done – definitely one of your best. Have you thought of sending it to the LA Times.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by genrepix, Julieanna Hever. Julieanna Hever said: RT @genrepix: The latest madness: […]

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