If they can look up the word, it’s already too late for a ban

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THE good people of Menifee, Calif., may have set something of a precedent recently when Oak Meadows Elementary School banned the Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary from its Grade 4 and Grade 5 classrooms.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/01/2010 (4578 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

THE good people of Menifee, Calif., may have set something of a precedent recently when Oak Meadows Elementary School banned the Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary from its Grade 4 and Grade 5 classrooms.

Book-banning in itself is nothing new, of course. Books are banned for any number of reasons — sometimes they are burned for good measure just to make sure they don’t come back — but it is hard to think of a case in North America where the offending tome has been a dictionary.

The book’s offence, apparently, is that it contains dirty words — sexual words. And one certainly hopes that it does. What is a dictionary without dirty words? When I was kid, back when all the dictionaries, and most of the books, in fact, seemed to have been edited by Mrs. Grundy, it was a constant disappointment to turn to a dictionary and find conspicuous gaps where all the good words, the words I now use so easily, should have been.

This dictionary should have dirty words in it, however, not because people are prurient, but because it is intended for college students, and if by the time a kid gets to college she doesn’t know what these words mean, then she is need of some serious remedial education with the help of a good dictionary. Oak Meadows graduates may in future fall into this category.

Exactly which and how many dirty words are in the book the school will not say, but it is reported that it only took one parent and entry "oral sex" — look it up — to move the good people of Menifee to have it removed.

One can’t, of course, look up a word in a dictionary if one does not already know it. The children of Menifee may be more genteel than the children of Winnipeg, but one suspects that it being California, their parents are just more delusional. They should listen to their kids talk. They’ll hear language that would make a newspaperman blush.

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