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Opening Arguments

A dirty book

Sometimes I get lost in the dictionary, forgetting the word I am looking up and just browsing and stopping here and there at interesting words. But it's been a while since I went through it looking for the dirty parts:

The Menifee Union School District is forming a committee to review whether dictionaries containing the definitions for sexual terms should be permanently banned from the district's classrooms, a district official said Friday.

The 9,000-student K-8 district this week pulled all copies of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary after an Oak Meadows Elementary School parent complained about a child stumbling across definitions for "oral sex."

Further down in the story, someone defends the decision by saying a college dictionary shouldn't be in an elementary classroom anyway. But shouldn't we be encouraging kids to stretch themselves early on by adding to their vocabularies? And how are they going to keep the kids from looking up whatever they want to find on the Internet? I tend to agree with anti-censorship guy quoted who said people normally look up words they've heard or read, which means they've already been exposed to the words and are trying to understand them.

The story mentions in passing that there were efforts in the 1970s and early 1980s to ban the American Heritage dictionary at schools in Alaska, Missouri, California and Indiana. The Indiana case was from Cedar Lake, and people back then objected to a number of words, including slang definitions for words such as "knocker" and "balls."