Friday, February 23, 2007

Teacher, What's A Scrotum?

Controversy swirls around this year's Newbery Award winning book which has this passage:

"The Higher Power of Lucky" is the story of a 10-year-old girl in rural California and her quest for "Higher Power." The opening chapter includes a passage about a man "who had drunk half a gallon of rum listening to Johnny Cash all morning in his parked '62 Cadillac, then fallen out of the car when he saw a rattlesnake on the passenger seat biting his dog, Roy, on the scrotum."
The scrotum is what you don't see in this picture. It is that chicken-like sac surrounding the testicular-epidydimal complex. It's not pretty and its aesthetic shortcomings are exploited by pubescent boys everywhere. Girls generally ignore the scrotum.

Scrotum-awareness doesn't dawn until boys start noticing their pubic hairs sprouting down south--I'm guessing at this developmental milestone as none of my children have reached it. Now, every literate fourth-grader in America will wonder, "What's a scrotum?" And how will a teacher answer her curious charge? And will she enjoy all the scrotum talk that is sure to follow the answer to the question? Ah, yes, third grade teachers will love anatomical discussions about testicles, penises (they are in the vicinity after all) and scroti.

Here's my question: Can you imagine JRR Tolkien or Mark Twain writing about a scrotum?

Please. My biggest concern for my children isn't alcohol and it isn't the scrotum. I can explain both. (Though, should I have to explain a scrotum to my seven year old who is reading chapter books? Nancy Drew and other adventures manage to be less banal than this.) My biggest concern is that the literary level of books has diminished to an almost ridiculous point. One book given to my kids is written using quasi-ebonics. The lazy language and lack of denouement to the story just grates on me. It's not good writing. The illustrations are cute, so I kept it.

At home, I'm encouraging my children to read challenging and fun books. I don't mind more adult stories--the classics can be read on many levels. I mind average writing passed off for something great because it's controversial and makes nerdy librarians feel dangerous. Mark Twain pushed the envelope. JRR Tolkien pushed the envelope. Neither had to condescend to children to do it.

Here's a source of children's books by a former librarian--Glenn Reynold's mom. She also positively reviews the book here. Still, I wonder if she would be happy to answer a ten year olds questions about a scrotum.

Via reader Matt

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Please. My biggest concern for my children isn't alcohol and it isn't the scrotum. I can explain both. (Though, should I have to explain a scrotum to my seven year old who is reading chapter books? Nancy Drew and other adventures manage to be less banal than this.) My biggest concern is that the literary level of books has diminished to an almost ridiculous point.

As in:
"Hey Beavis! SCROTUM! Heh-huh! Heh-huh! Heh-huh!"

One book given to my kids is written using quasi-ebonics.

You mean Slave Patois? Like you'd hear coming from atop an auction block in Antebellum Alabama?

Anonymous said...

This made me laugh today.

Also, thanks for the book list today.

Anonymous said...

"it's" means "it is"

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