Joseph Abrams of Fox News – the most vilified and trusted news outlet in America — brings to light another episode in the annals of school bureaucrat inanity. He begins: “A California school district has added a new book to the controversial list of literature that is considered unfit for young eyes. It’s the dictionary.” What?! Yup. The offending entry, according to the geniuses entrusted to leave no child behind, comes in the “o’s”:
The trouble started when an inquisitive student got lost somewhere between “oralism” and “orang” and found a rather recent entry to the lexicon: “oral sex,” a phrase that has been in common parlance since 1973 but still makes many parents fairly hot under the collar.
A parent complained, and the bureaucracy lumbered into action to investigate the matter. But never fear, Abrams reports, there is a cumbersome committee on the way to resolve the matter: “a committee of principals, teachers and parents to pore over the book and determine whether it’s fit for young eyes. It could take a while: the unabridged edition available online contains over 470,000 entries.” First Amendment groups are rallying on the other side. The executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition says “If a public school were to remove every book because it contains one word deemed objectionable to some parent, then there would be no books at all in our public libraries. … I think common sense seems to be lacking in this school.” They’ll sort it out sooner or later. Abrams cracks, “One option they’re not likely to consider is Merriam-Webster’s interactive Visual Dictionary, which opens up for children a ‘visual world of information,’ and who knows how many more cans of worms?”
I wonder how much this is costing, by the way. The staff time, the alternative set of books, the mailings to the parents, and probably some lawyers on retainer — it all adds up. The liberal education establishment would have us believe our schools are suffering from lack of funds. Well, we’re spending more on schools than ever before and not getting much for our money. Perhaps the problem isn’t just (or even) money. It seems there is also, as the man said, a shortage of common sense, and a lot of people who are spending their time not teaching.
UPDATE: It seems that the school district dictionary police have retreated. Abrams’s follow-up report tells us:
California school district was embarrassed after it tried to ban America’s classic dictionary from 4th- and 5th-grade classrooms because it worried the book contained “age-inappropriate” words. After conducting an investigation of the very wordy book, Menifee Union School District has reversed its decision and invited Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary back into bookcases at Oak Meadows Elementary School.
School administrators can now presumably return to their usual activities (e.g., confiscating cold medication, running “sensitivity” workshops, and running recycling programs).