Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Dumbing of America continues apace

I Twittered about it, I linked to it on Facebook, and now I think I shall inflict this upon you in a Mr. Crankypants blog post, gentle reader. Here's the headline and a couple of paragraphs from the Southwest Riverside News Network:

Menifee USD pulls dictionaries due to explicit word.

School officials in the Menifee Union School District pulled all copies of the book from its fourth and fifth grade classrooms last week.

A parent complaint that a dictionary in her son’s classroom at Oak Meadows Elementary contained the term and definition for “oral sex” prompted school officials in the Menifee Union School District to pull all copies of the book from its fourth and fifth grade classrooms last week.

Copies of Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition (published in 1994), were taken from a recommended reading list and put into use in district classrooms a few years ago to accommodate higher level readers, said Betti Cadmus, spokeswoman for the district.

Oh, sure, I could spend the rest of this post ranting about ridiculous levels of prurience. Or I could rant about the bizarre insistence that our society seems to have in exposing children to vast oceans of violence while insisting that the slightest hint of sexuality will corrupt them forever. I could discuss the salacious seas of sexuality that flood our media, even our purported children's programming, and examine whether therein lies a much greater threat to our nation's collective innocence.

Perhaps I could segue into a diatribe about the utter failure of abstinence-only sex education programs -- I use the phrase "sex education" loosely here, since as near as I can tell those programs are designed to inculcate"sex ignorance" -- in preventing pregnancy, preventing the transmission of STDs, or in encouraging any actual abstinence. That might perhaps indicate the effect, or lack thereof, that removing dictionaries with the objectionable phrase may have on the behavior of these children in the future.

Heck, I could just rant about the fact that shortly before these current fourth- and fifth-graders were born every newspaper in America seemed to carry the phrase "oral sex" on its front page. But I like to think we shan't go through that sort of thing again.

However, I won't rant about any of those things, gentle reader. Instead, I shall simply point out that the editor who wrote the headline for that story in the Southwest Riverside News Network used the word "word" to describe a two-word phrase.

Alas, that there are no longer any dictionaries in Menifee, so that we could see whether his usage of the word "word" was correct.


  1. Did anyone else find it odd that the dictionary in these classrooms was from 1994 Amazing.

    Yes, we can be sure on one thing. When a single parent's complaint can cause the pulling of dictionaries like Merriam Webster’s Collegiate from the classrooms of a whole school district, well, something is not working well.

    Cheers, crankypants.

  2. We regret to inform you that Mom's 1984 edition of Le petit Robert, which is sort of the French equivalent of the Webster's, has NO, repeat NO, entry for "tailler une pipe" which we think is probably the colorful French version of "o.... s..". But then everyone knows we Frenchies are super prude, right?
    On the other hand, "Nom d'une pipe" is classified there as a "juron familier" which translates to - if we use the 13th edition (June 1959) of the Cassel's French-English dictionary Monique gave Mom for her birthday - something like an "intimate oath." In 21st century France, "nom d'une pipe" sounds about as much like an oath as "leaping lillypads!" might in the Bronx today. I'm mean, how's a guy ever supposed to understand Snoop Dog or NTM without a Webster's in the classroom?

  3. I'm pretty sure our dictionary- The Great Big Book of Everything with Everything Inside as we like to call it- is in fact a 1994 Merriam Webster's Collegiate dictionary,the offensive dictionary in question.

    I'm going to start saying Leaping Lillypads, because that rocks.

  4. I'm pretty sure my daughter will be sent home from 1st grade for saying "fucking shit ass" when her pencil breaks. And I'm pretty sure KB will ground me.