For the "People suck" files

I just read this article in The New York Times about this year’s winner of the Newbery Medal (the uber-prestigious award for children’s literature), Susan Patron’s The Higher Power of Lucky. A big controversy is brewing about one work in this book. From the NYT article:

The book’s heroine, a scrappy 10-year-old orphan named Lucky Trimble, hears the word through a hole in a wall when another character says he saw a rattlesnake bite his dog, Roy, on the scrotum.

“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.”

Apparently, many librarians find the inclusion of this word appalling enough to ban the book from their shelves. Excuse me? Librarians? Aren’t they the ones who are supposed to champion the spread of knowledge and literature and all that other stuff? In banned-book cases, I general expect the people throwing hissy fits over this sort of thing to be outraged parents. But in this case, it seems that several librarians are deciding on their own–not because they’re being pressured by parents or school boards–to ban the book.

One of these librarians interviewed for the article said that he didn’t want teachers to have to explain the word. Um, hello? That’s what teachers do–they teach. Oh wait, I’m sorry–I was confused. These days most teachers just make their students memorize stuff in preparation for cookie-cutter standardized tests, right? (Sigh.) Would the world come to an end if we actually expected–and encouraged–teachers and students to engage each other in the classroom? And trusted them enough to do this without micromanaging the whole process?

Another librarian banned the book so she wouldn’t get angry phone calls from parents. Oh, great–so she’s caving before anyone has actually complained. That bothers me tremendously.

We’re not talking about porn or obscenity. This book is targeted to pre-adolescents. At that age, they’re growing up and learning about their bodies–and they need to learn what the parts are. I’m not talking about giving an extended sex-ed lesson in a book for ten-year-olds. This is the “official,” clinical term for a body part. Good grief.

/end rant

(The title of the post is what my husband said when I told him about the article.)

5 Responses to “For the "People suck" files”

  1. ariannaon 19 Feb 2007 at 4:44 pm

    Wow; I agree with everything you had to say there. Unfortunately, my agreement won’t do much towards changing sucky peoples’ minds! But at least you are spreading the word — that’s probably the best thing. :)

  2. Ginaon 20 Feb 2007 at 7:44 pm

    Yeah and it’s not like the word was used in any sexual, or perverse way, which might be inappropriate for adolescent readers. But the way it’s written in the story is actually quite educational, I think!

    Sigh…too many right-wingers out there, I’m afraid.

  3. Katie Jon 21 Feb 2007 at 3:22 am

    Sheesh, would they rather have the word used be “balls”?

  4. Slaax Gumboon 21 Feb 2007 at 4:08 am

    It wasn’t even a reference to a human scrotum. But yes, schools have to play it safe because not all of the paranoid people are homeschooling yet.

  5. Anonymouson 25 Feb 2007 at 10:12 pm

    Let’s be super clear, please, that the folks quoted are *school* librarians, not public librarians. Not that I’m advocating division within the field–far from it, actually–but just to say that the First Amendment is not alive and well in our nation’s schools (including higher education but somewhat less so).

    –a mortified teen services (public) librarian