Thursday, March 29, 2007

Boys have penises and girls have vaginas (get over it)

Recently I read in a friend's blog about an incident in the after-school care program where she works. A kindergarten girl told a pair of boys in her class that boys have "wieners" and girls have "pee-pees." The official response to this incident was not to use the moment to teach the children that actually boys have "penises" and girls have "vaginas." No, the official response was to give the children "timeouts" and tell them not to discuss such things at school. And, when the little girl's father quite naturally complained to the school's principal about his child being punished for saying something so innocuous, the principal informed him that if she continued to speak of such things, she would be expelled from the after-school care program. Apparently, the principal considers the existence of "wieners" and "pee-pees" to be forbidden knowledge that must not be shared among kindergartners.

Now, one might well imagine this to be merely an isolated incident in a freakishly backward part of the country. But one would be wrong, because last month, I also read about this year's Newberry Medal winner, a book called The Higher Power of Lucky, by Susan Patron. The Newberry Medal is awarded annually for excellence in children's literature, and brings prestige and book sales to its winners. Ordinarily, libraries and schools all over America buy copies of the winners. The Higher Power of Lucky, though, is an exception. Many librarians, particularly those at elementary schools, are refusing to purchase this book. Why? Because it dares to use the word "scrotum."

On the very first page, the 10-year-old protagonist overhears someone say that a dog has been bitten on the scrotum and wonders what the word means. Oh, the horror! I can certainly see why elementary school students shouldn't be given access to such a book. Heaven forfend that children should actually learn medically correct terms for canine anatomy, much less their own or [shudder!] that of the opposite gender! Who knows what might happen if they learn at such a tender age that males have scrotums! Next thing you know, they might start talking about them in school!

I swear, when it comes to sexuality -- no, not even sexuality, just anatomy -- this country is completely nuts.

(Pun intended.)

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