Can someone please explain to me why librarians, who often position themselves as defenders of literacy, are scared of a word?
Do we really have to go into the libraries and play George Carlin’s “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” aloud, so they can hear his reminder that there are no bad words? As Carlin points out, there are plenty of bad intentions and bad deeds, but words? Words are used to convey a person’s intention or describe their deeds, but the word itself is just shadows scratched on a page.
To say that certain words are bad is the same as saying that booze is bad–people may do bad things as a result of drinking booze, but the booze is just a chemical compound. The booze is not the criminal–the person who committed the crime is. Similarly, words are not the source of hatred, intolerance, and Penthouse Forum letters–people are.
Declaring that a word–one word–renders an entire book unfit for reading is an absurd response. After all, if that’s your approach, you should remove Moby Dick from library shelves. Fercryinoutloud! It’s got the word right there on the spine of the book!
A rational response would be for these librarians, whom we trust to teach our children about language, among other topics, to use this as a teachable moment. I’m not naive enough to believe that there won’t be some tittering and snickering from the students as they do this, but the librarians could at least make the effort. Because if they don’t explain it, someone else will. Ideally that someone else would be children’s parents, but it will likely be other kids on the playground, who aren’t renowned for their depth of biological and medical knowledge.
And when your little Timmy or Johnny or Lance grows up and has swelling and pain in his scrotum, indicating testicular cancer, which could very well kill him if he doesn’t attend to it, do you want him relying on what the librarian told him or what his friend Bobby yelled over his shoulder as he ran back to the classroom after recess?
In an age when ignorance about sex and your sexual organs can kill you, it should be socially unacceptable for professional educators to avoid the topic and any words related to the topic because–and let’s face it, this is the real reason the librarians don’t want to talk about a scrotum–sex makes them squeamish. I wonder how they propose I talk to 3B about his orchiopexy, or explain to 3B what Lance came back from, or why Melissa Etheridge was bald at the Grammys.
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