Saturday, February 17, 2007

About the Scrotum

The newest Newbery Award winning children's book, The Higher Power of Lucky, apparently has the word "scrotum" on the very first page, which, according to the New York Times article about it, has caused an uproar among some school librarians. To quote the Times, quoting the book:
“Scrotum sounded to Lucky like something green that comes up when you have the flu and cough too much,” the book continues. “It sounded medical and secret, but also important.”
Now that is an excellent example of how to use the word "scrotum" in a kid's book. It perfectly describes the way child figures out new, off-limits vocabulary. And heck, "scrotum" isn't even a swear. I can't think of a better place for my kids to learn the names of body parts than a Newbery Award-winning book. It certainly beats my having to teach them.

I don't know how the offended librarians are going to handle this, though. "No, Giselle, we don't have the 2006 winner, because it's very, very naughty." You might as well hang a big READ ME tag on it.

Sometimes I think we should tell kids, "You're not allowed to read until you're twenty-one." Next thing you know, we'll have a nation of binge-readers.


5 Red Pandas said...

Very silly. Someone should write a children's song that goes like, "This is your scrotum, this is your vagina..." so we can all become a little less uncomfortable with our bodies.

I overheard a group of students snickering over the words "virgin" and "vagina". Then one kid said to me, "Ms, what's a vagina?" I said, "Ask your mother, or look it up in the dictionary." I played it safe because I didn't want to be accused of something untoward, and these kids are 11. In a high school setting I feel I can say more without being accused of being abusive.

There was some controversy in the NYC public schools here when the city picked up a book called "Monster" because anal sex is mentioned. Of course people blew it out of proportion, and took it out of context. The book isn't about anal sex, but rather about a teenager on trial for aiding a robbery that ended in murder. The boy is innocent, and he writes diary entries where he talks about being held in prison. So anal sex comes up once in the larger context. I doubt a mention of anal sex in a prison context is going to drive kids to having anal sex. When I taught the book it gave my students a forum to talk about their own experiences with the justice system (unfortunately many of my boys had experience with being arrested). That was valuable in spite of any anal sex mentions.

Basically, what this is all about is adult discomfort with words and ideas. In my teaching I've found myself explaining some uncomfortable things, but I'd much rather give an honest explanation than leave students with incorrect information.

Mr. Inertia said...

When I was in Elementary School I remember the librarians removing a children's book from the shelf that just happened to show a little boys genitalia. It quietly returned to the shelf, but the boy was now wearing underwear. I think it was a carefully crafted label placed over his offensive anatomy. If I remember correctly, the book was "In the Night Kitchen" by Maurice Sendak. Do you remember this RMELLIS?