Dictionary Banned for “Oral Sex”

Merriam Webster’s 10th edition joins an illustrious group of books banned from some American schools, including selected titles by Maya Angelou, Maurice Sendak, Toni Morrison, Judy Blume, Margaret Atwood, J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Isabel Allende, John Steinbeck, William Golding and many, many others.

This newest ban comes after a parent in a Riverside, California, school district complained of a “sexually graphic” entry in the dictionary. The Guardian sums things up:

Dictionaries have been removed from classrooms in southern California schools after a parent complained about a child reading the definition for “oral sex”.

Merriam Webster’s 10th edition, which has been used for the past few years in fourth and fifth grade classrooms (for children aged nine to 10) in Menifee Union school district, has been pulled from shelves over fears that the “sexually graphic” entry is “just not age appropriate”, according to the area’s local paper.

That local paper indicates that not all parents are happy with the decision to pull the book:

“Censorship in the schools, really? Pretty soon the only dictionary in the school library will be the Bert and Ernie dictionary,” said Emanuel Chavez, the parent of second- and sixth-grade students. “If the kids are exposed to it, it’s up to the parents to explain it to them at their level.”

Board member Rita Peters questioned why one parent’s complaint would lead the district to pull the dictionaries.

“If we’re going to pull a book because it has something on oral sex, then every book in the library with that better be pulled,” she said. “The standard needs to be consistent … We don’t need parents setting policy.”

Meanwhile, the fate of the dictionary in that school system remains uncertain, while most of the thinking world laughs quite loudly, here, here, and here as well as other places.

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