Sunday, February 18, 2007

I'm Seriously Offended, and NOT by the Word Scrotum

Most* of what I've read about the Higher Power of Lucky "scrotum kerfluffle" (or "uproar," if you prefer, or "controversy") focuses on librarians** and book buying and censorship.***

Now it's time for an experienced (borderline old) career-long teacher of 9-11 year-olds to have her own personal tantrum about being lumped together with sissy teachers who are too afraid? modest? unsure of the meaning themselves? weak in the knees? to deal with a child who might ask what a scrotum is! (It's like a librarian being told, "The education and correct upbringing of a child is the responsibility of parents and teachers, and not of someone who merely knows what Dewey is and can sort books accordingly." Makes your blood boil a little, doesn't it?)

Teaching is not for sissies! We're an integral part of the team (team, not village, and yes, I would include the librarians) who raise the children of our world. We're important because we're NOT the parents. Kids can talk to us in ways they can't talk to their parents, and we can answer them with an honesty parents sometimes can't manage. Recently, sitting around the "coffee table" in my classroom playing Scrabble with about half-a-class worth of kids, A Boy turned to me and asked, "Can guys get breast cancer?" (I've had it, I talk about it. Could that be why a 10 year-old boy could say BREAST right out loud?) Not only could I answer his question without skipping a beat (yes, they can), I could also point out that men do have breasts, albeit undeveloped/non milk-producing ones, and they have the nipples to prove it. Yes, I said nipples, yes, they giggled, and then the conversation went on in other directions. Over the course of my career, I have always insisted that babies are in their mother's uteruses, not their stomachs. When asked if my dog, who was visiting the classroom and who was rolled over on her back when the question was asked, is a boy or a girl, I pointed out that she does not have a penis, so obviously, she is a girl. Breast, uterus, penis, nipple, scrotum. All words for human body parts. They are not "dirty" words unless we refuse to say them or explain them or use them in their proper context.

Okay. I'm done. Now I'm going to go read the book.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

*Do a blog search yourself. (I recommend you filter it.) There are pages and pages and PAGES of posts on the Great Scrotum Debate of 2007. I only read the ones posted in the last 8 hours.
**An author makes it clear that authors do not sneak. (Roger hates that part, too.)
***This is the smartest rant I found****.
****See * above.


  1. I LOVE that you include us librarians as teachers and influences on the kids that we teach - sending you a big cyber hug for that. I too have a comment on the situation at my new blog


  2. Anonymous1:35 PM

    Were a librarian actually to be trained as a teacher, I would tend to agree with you. However, the fact is that they are not trained as such and have no direct path to the teaching of children other than that they work in an institution which provides books.

    That a child - of whatever age - should ask you about breast cancer, and use the word breast, is hardly because you are a librarian. He could have asked absolutely anyone. The use of the word breast is, here, also not unusual, since that is how he would have heard it being referred to. Children ask about things that they have heard, and they ask whoever they wish, regardless of the person's job, training or nail polish.

    Perhaps those librarians who are against this single, innocuous word - and it is by no means all librarians - would care to suggest alternate words? Such as 'sack' or 'nuts' or 'balls'? These are all street-language words, once used in slang and, often, when swearing. I would rather a child knew the correct term for this part of the anatomy, and when to use it in polite company, than that a child stood before the vicar and commented on a book about someone's balls being chewed off. 'He was bitten in the scrotum' sounds considerably better, anatomically correct and, to be honest, polite.


  3. Anonymous4:28 PM

    I liked your point about how teaching is not for sissies, and kids can sometimes ask teachers questions that they wouldn't ask their parents. I think you're absolutely right to use proper terms, and not be afraid to use them. Personally, I live with a urologist, so I hear words like this all the time, so I'm pretty de-sensitized. I think I would have read the book without even noticing, but of course it's much too late for that.

  4. Thanks for this post Mary Lee. Nicely done!

  5. Anonymous12:27 AM

    Hoorah. I am really pleased to see this manifesto. Anyone think we're too busy protecting our kids from the wrong things?????

  6. Did you read it yet? I got my mom to read it today, and she really liked it.


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