As you may have heard, the Menifee Union school district in California banned the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
That’s right. The dictionary. Why? Because a parent complained about the definition of oral sex. According to the parent, the entry wasn’t age-appropriate.
What did you expect, rainbows and butterflies everywhere? Let’s try to define oral sex in ways appropriate for nine- and ten-year-olds.
I’ve got nothing. Really, though. A kid knows what the word oral means. A reasonably intelligent kid who knows what sex is can probably figure out what oral sex is without the obvious definition. At least the dictionary didn’t go Kama Sutra on them. That’s not even touching on the inclusion of rainbows and butterflies in the definition. Speaking of the definition:
The dictionary’s online definition of the term is “oral stimulation of the genitals”. “It’s hard to sit and read the dictionary, but we’ll be looking to find other things of a graphic nature,” district spokeswoman Betti Cadmus told the paper.
Lady, I read random dictionary entries for fun when I was a kid. The game went like this:
1. Look up a word.
2. Choose the most interesting word in the definition.
3. Look up that word.
4. Keep going.
I did the same thing with encyclopedias. It was like Wikipedia, except this was the 20th century and Wikipedia didn’t exist.
Just put your resident smart kids on it, Menifee Union School District. Actually, don’t. They’ll just read and not say a thing. Or they’ll do like I did and giggle at the words of interest. They’ll still gain a better education by reading the dictionary than it sounds like you’re giving them right now with a move like this.
Age-appropriate dictionaries are useless here. I stopped using them as soon as I discovered parts of speech besides nouns, verbs, and adjectives that didn’t described how something looked. Kids need to branch out and learn new words. They also need to spell them correctly, as any trip longer than five minutes on the Internet will tell you.
Besides, how will kids study for spelling bees? If you’re really competing for the advanced bees, the little guides the schools will give you are useless. You can get any word in the English language, and they’ll make you like it. The dictionary is your friend here, not just for the spellings and definitions, but for etymologies, parts of speech, examples, and other things you can ask for in a bee. (Those are the main ones, if I remember correctly.)
If Menifee Union replaces the Merriam-Webster with an Oxford English Dictionary, they’re asking for another world of trouble. While they’re banning things, I’ll gladly take those dictionaries off their hands.
Kudos for the child for actually reading the definition instead of asking someone else, though. Using one’s own brainpower goes a long way.