February 19, 2007

"Scrotum sounded to Lucky like something green that comes up when you have the flu and cough too much."

"It sounded medical and secret, but also important." Oh, yes, it's important enough to make the school librarians want to exclude the book that won the Newbery Medal. "The Higher Power of Lucky,” by Susan Patron, begins with the young heroine overhearing someone talking about where a rattlesnake bit a dog.
Reached at her home in Los Angeles, Ms. Patron said she was stunned by the objections. The story of the rattlesnake bite, she said, was based on a true incident involving a friend’s dog.

And one of the themes of the book is that Lucky is preparing herself to be a grown-up, Ms. Patron said. Learning about language and body parts, then, is very important to her.

“The word is just so delicious,” Ms. Patron said. “The sound of the word to Lucky is so evocative. It’s one of those words that’s so interesting because of the sound of the word.”
"Scrotum" is a strange and funny word. It is oddly similar to "sputum." Why not invite readers -- the book is aimed at 9 to 12 year olds -- into the mysteries of words... and genitalia? If it's done well enough to win the Newbery Prize, isn't it awful for the librarians to object?
“This book included what I call a Howard Stern-type shock treatment just to see how far they could push the envelope, but they didn’t have the children in mind,” Dana Nilsson, a teacher and librarian in Durango, Colo., wrote on LM_Net, a mailing list that reaches more than 16,000 school librarians. “How very sad.”
It seems way off the mark to compare this to what Howard Stern does, but that teacher's remark can make sense. The point is there are limits that are understood or assumed in broadcast radio and in children's literature, and one way to operate is to do things that make people notice where the line is and to divide them up about why it should be there. I can see feeling hostile to a children's author who uses this technique to get attention.

Did she?

Just because in real life the snake bit the dog on the scrotum doesn't mean the writer has to keep that fact the same. If the point is a poisonous snake has bitten a dog, it could just as well be on the nose. But if the point is that a young girl hears something strange that she can only struggle to understand, that touches off imaginative thinking about all the unknown words and body parts, well, then, it really must be "scrotum."

So it doesn't seem to be a dispute about a single word, in which case, this is not about whether prudish librarians are taking something out of context. Of course, I have not read the book, and I assume it's extremely good, since it won the Newbery Award. Much as I want to support the author, I think we should also resist disparaging the librarians.

120 comments:

George said...

As of yesterday, this book was #21 on Amazon, and the author, as of the publication of the front-page NYT article, was officially the happiest writer in America.

Her publisher is rushing the sequel to press. In it, a cat's vulva is bitten. (Surely who could object to that word in a book for third-graders!)

There's also talk of a third book in which a dachshund named Frederic performs an act of self-abuse with a squeaking mouse-shaped sex toy, Stuart Biglittledong.

Peter Palladas said...

...he saw a rattlesnake bite his dog, Roy, on the scrotum.

I would wish to know how this is phrased in the original novel before passing judgement.

'Scrotum' is fine, but 'on the scrotum' doesn't read right: "Mum, Roy's been bitten by a snake on his scrotum!" No kid would say that.

'Up' it maybe - considering the geometry of the thing - or 'a snake bit his scrotum' with no preposition needed. 'Through' even if we are remembering it's just an easily penetrated sac.

"Ma, snake bit Roy's balls." That's what a real kid would have yelled.

Pogo said...

Rre: "I assume it's extremely good, since it won the Newbery Award."

That would be an unwarranted assumption. I used to steer my kids to the Newberry Award books for the same reason, but for books judged after about 1990 their quality has been mixed at best, and often afflicted with the usual diversity-PC-anti-male-feminist bleating as the rest of the world, and that's made for some painfully dull reading. One or two pages, and the book would go unread forever.

And why should school librarians bother with this? They face a pointless and losing battle against parents.

And besides, this is all Brer Rabbit stuff: "No, don't ban me; please no!" Lots of books will be sold, so censorship isn't an issue here. But the purchasers should be forewarned: expect a very dull tome. Newberry = Boring.

chuck b. said...

There's only one book children ought to be reading anyway.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Perhaps banning books is good. I remember racing to the library to take out a copy of Catcher in the Rye after hearing it had once been banned. Furiously I read through the book in search of gratutitous sex and violence, but the apex of the book's salaciousness involved a hooker who sat on the protagonist's lap before they went ice-skating. Curiously enough, Catcher in the Rye had been on the Recommended Reading list for some time, and I simply didn't get around to skimming it until I discovered the book had once been forbidden. So, to the extent that banning books encourages literacy, I support it.

On a more serious note, librarians should realize that they serve the interests of readers. No one goes to the library to be sermonized to. Books are often the best escape from prudery, conformity, and a culture of phony self-righteousness, because so many of them mock that. And that is exactly what I told the librarian when I returned that dreadfully boring Catcher in the Rye before sprinting home to watch television.

MadisonMan said...

I think a library should hold books. I don't want librarians deciding for me what my kids should read -- that's my job as a parent. Parents who ask librarians to ban books are, in my opinion, being lazy. They don't want to take the time to monitor what their kids are reading.

peter hoh said...

Does anyone remember the controbersy about a drawing in Maurice Sendak's book, In the Night Kitchen?

rightwingprof said...

I think this is all rather silly, but not ordering a book for a library is certainly not censorship -- or book banning.

AJD said...

"I can see feeling hostile to a children's author who uses this technique to get attention."

Then maybe you do understand the hostility against this blog from time to time. Way to go, Annie!

Bissage said...

I once wrote a children’s book but it got rejected, even though it had a scene very similar to the one now getting so much attention. My scene went like this:

SNAKE: Hello, Mister Dog, have you ever had a Hertz Donut?

DOG: Why, no, Mister Snake, I don’t believe I have.

(Snake bites Dog on the nutsack.)

DOG: Ouch!!!! Why did you bite my nads, Mister Snake?

SNAKE: Hurts, don’t it.

- - - - - - - - - -

Personally, I thought it was first rate stuff. The problem was I’m a visionary and it was way too far ahead of its time. It’s nice to see the market has finally caught up.

By the way, I clicked through to the illustrator’s website. It’s very beautiful work but there needs to be much more. Doesn’t Mr. Phelan understand that the internet exists solely so people like me can load up on his free samples?

Mortimer Brezny said...

Exactly, Madison Man. Except my parents didn't believe in monitoring reading material. I had an adult library card and I read whatever I wanted. More than once a librarian tried to stop me from taking out a book and the result was my mother coming down to the library to shriek in that librarian's ear. If her ten-year old son wanted to read a 900-page tome about the sex trade in Japan, well, that was his prerogative...

Rightwingprof,

Not ordering a book is even worse, because the absence of the book from the library can be explained away as a budgetary decision rather than a secret moral one, which it is. There is no literary reason not to purchase notable award-winners. The library exists so that books will be there to read; it is not a forum for librarians to selectively purchase books they would prefer you be exposed to so as to shape the contours and limits of your imagination. Which explains my shrieking mother.

Pogo said...

Re: "There is no literary reason not to purchase notable award-winners."

But lots of non-literary ones. Which is precisely why the state might prefer to shy away from public libraries, and give their financing back to philanthropists who can tell folks who complain to bugger off.

But anyway Mortimer, buy your own damn copy. Now that people are wealthy enough to make libraries very nearly superfluous for all but a few, I very much doubt that more than a mere trace of folks desiring to read My Pokey Little Puppy's Painful Pudenda will be unable to do so.

And I am willing to bet that, given the uneven modern Newberry track record, and pretty pictures notwithstanding, the book's a dog.

P. Froward said...

"The word is... delicious"? The association with sputum is oral as well. Likewise, the event that dragged the poor scrotum into the story. All very oral, with that scrotum, there. Am I the only this sticks out at? Err, lemme rephrase that...

But it's funny, is the thing. It's a funny word all by itself, the dog getting bitten in the scrotum is funny (until you think about how the poor dog felt afterwards), and the kid's wrong guess about the word is funny. It's also something a child reading the book can relate to, in a very immediate way, because he or she is probably wondering what it means too. The whole episode is a real humdinger.

If I were the writer and I thought of it, I would very carefully consider the best interests of the children, and the legitimate interest of parents in wanting to raise their own kids as they see fit, and the painful double bind librarians would find themselves in. In view of all that, the only right thing to do is leave it out of the book.

I would then gleefully use it anyway, because it's paralyzingly funny.

Children should be exposed to unfamiliar words beyond their alleged reading level. Kids soak up information like sponges. It's absolutely natural and right for kids to encounter the unknown and struggle to digest it. When they're not confused, they get bored and stupid.

The best children's books, like the best adult books, always go for the throat now and then. Anything that doesn't go for the throat is flavorless pap, and all it'll teach the kids is that reading is a waste of time.

P. Froward said...

Was "humdinger" the wrong word?

Mortimer Brezny said...

Thanks, Pogo, but the issue wasn't whether the state should finance public libraries. The issue was whether, given the existence of public libraries, librarians should exercise a veto check on your reading selections. In any event, if you were really trying to argue that libraries shouldn't be financed via the public fisc, I'm sure you wouldn't have forgotten to address that libraries often store books that are out of print or forms of media no longer easily obtainable on the market, like microfiche. Even the most ardent free-marketeer doesn't reject that market failure exists and government can cure it in select contexts.

You're right that I can afford a copy of a children's book. But I'm also not a child and many children, not to mention many families, don't have the disposable income to support a healthy reading habit. Indeed, one of the number one factors in personal debt today is book buying. If you cared about the domestic savings rate or our debt to China, then perhaps you might have a different attitude toward the value of libraries. I certainly doubt you mean to argue that poor children should have lesser access to books than other children or that ensuring literacy amongst the poor does not make us all better off.

hdhouse said...

We are putting too much on the librarian here. By in large, librarians are a darn good lot and have surfaced very well in this PC and Homeland Security world.

If the bite story were true or false is of no matter. The word is proper and used correctly. It is a body part but not referred to in a slang or nasty context. It is what it is.

Two observations:

1. If you happen to be around 3-4-5th graders, there is NO lack of more explicit terminology, and,
2. Like the professor who takes some delicious delight in the word, it appears the the potential hangups or reddened cheeks are mostly on the part of grownups...not the kids.

Every kid has seen worse on the side of buildings. Ann was just in NYC....she should know.

Pogo said...

Re: "[The library] is not a forum for librarians to selectively purchase books they would prefer you be exposed to..."

Hogwash. Of course publicly-funded libraries choose titles with politics in mind. That's how all state-funded systems operate. Who truly thinks otherwise?

As a result, I don't really give a damn if the libraries choose to buy or not buy children's books. I'm no free marketeer here. Yay for public libraries and all that.

But at the same time I just don't think people can complain at all or ever when a state-funded institution makes politically-based purchases. It is their nature to do so. To believe otherwise exposes an enormous ignorance of reality. And bitching about it is like yelling at the rain.

Re: "libraries often store books that are out of print or forms of media no longer easily obtainable on the market, like microfiche"
Well, not so much anymore. Unchecked-out books are going away, at quite a pace.

And hdhouse said:
"Every kid has seen worse on the side of buildings...."
true. But there's no burning need to make Newberry award winners out of spray-painted swear words.

sonicfrog said...

Judy Blume must be turning over in her grave... oh, wait, she's not dead?

mcg said...

I hear that "AJD" is an acronym for a disease that targets the scrotum.

MD said...

In grade school, in the seventies, I came home with "Are you there God, it's Me Margaret," (Judy Blume) and found it slow going. So, my mother picked it up, started reading, and came back to me some time later,"Uh, I don't think you need to read this book right now." So, I went back, quite happily, to my Little House on the Prairie Books. Relieved, actually. I never really liked Judy Blume books. It felt like having some yucky version of adulthood forced on me. I mean, I was only 10! Go away yucky adulthood! I liked being 10. 12 seemed scary and Judy B. was only making it worse.....

*I don't think I would have liked the scrotum book as a kid, but I don't know. Do kids actually like these award winning books, or do they think they should like them to please teachers and such?

Mortimer Brezny said...

Pogo,

I am simply going to have to end this "debate" because it is not constructive. It is a fact that major libraries archive material for posterity and the purposes of research, often in media formats that are no longer popular with consumers. A microfiche of a newspaper from 1913 is not equivalent to "unchecked-out book" in the sense of a Grisham thriller that isn't selling. Apparently you have never visited a library.

But at the same time I just don't think people can complain at all or ever when a state-funded institution makes politically-based purchases. It is their nature to do so. To believe otherwise exposes an enormous ignorance of reality.

Except no one here (but you) is complaining about ideological bias in purchasing decisions. The complaint is that the purchasing decisions are nonresponsive to demand and contrary to the purpose and function of libraries. Neither Democrats nor Republicans have a monopoly on obscenity or blandness or scrotums.

Furthermore, any bias of that kind would be evident at the wholesale level, where political appointees make broad policy decisions. That "all state-funded institutions may at some time make political decisions" is rather irrelevant to criticism of the moral paternalism of an individual librarian. This discussion is about the retail level, where individual librarians exercise discretion contrary to market demand of the readers frequenting that particular library.

PatCA said...

You're right, Pogo, the Newberrys have been controversial for some time now, with both sides of the contretemps being the usual suspects in the culture war.

Since Eve Ensler liberated the "V" word I guess this writer decided to liberate the "S" word. How totally dopey - good marketing though! And every real writer knows that "but it really happened that way," is the absolute rock bottom for an excuse. Shame on her!

Patrick said...

"Books are often the best escape from prudery"

What is this? 1950? Is prudery even a useful word anymore? A great many books are boring precisely because they are conforming to the juvenile snickering about these kinds of subjects. Exactly like Howard Stern, except dressed up in pretty sentences and with an air of sophistication.

Peter is right, a real kid would have said "Ma, snake bit Roy's balls" then run off to play in dirt. Scrotum is word used in books for adults that want to be honored as books for children. My guess is any book that so honors the word scrotum, which isn't really a nice sounding word at all no matter its meaning, is a sort of book any normal child wouldn't read. Libraries should have books children will like and read. It's not like there is a lack of really good books, by really great writers, who aren't sophisticated enough to have the word scrotum but are genuinely good reads.

What bothers me is that a charge of censorship will be raised, so that libraries include this book which won't be read by the most important critics and because of budget will not buy a book that will be read.

bearbee said...

When do kids begin sex education? Aren't most most kids by age 10-12 or so, aware of body parts, by whatever name?

I don't recall ever using the word in conversation but then I have never had a pet injured on the scrotum, so, anyway, I am curious who is using the word.........a vet?

reader_iam said...

The word “scrotum” does not often appear in polite conversation.

I'm fascinated by the first sentence of this article. On the one hand, it's true that the word "scrotum" doesn't come up frequently in day-to-day conversation, but does that have to do with whether it's "polite" or not?

Also, given what words DO come up in day-to-day conversation, it's sort of hilarious to consider the word "scrotum" as an eyebrow-raiser.

Finally, what does constitute polite conversation these days? It used to be somewhat synonymous to "day-to-day," in that it was the type of conversation people used to move smoothly through their various interactions, reducing conflict and emphasizing the shared over the divisive. Does that mindset really apply anymore?

It came down to "time and place, time and place, time and place." It seems to me that not only is that not really a shared value anymore, it's at least a somewhat reviled one in many quarters. Or at least an ignored, or overlooked, one. Hard to put it into words, exactly.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Is prudery even a useful word anymore? ... Peter is right, a real kid would have said "Ma, snake bit Roy's balls" then run off to play in dirt.

1. That was part of the irony of using the word "prudery".
2. I know this is supposed to be a dig at me, but I wrote above about rejecting a pretentious book in favor of watching television. And instead of continuing this debate, I'm going to go watch a really stupid movie.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Oh, and I agree that this book is probably crap.

reader_iam said...

The other thing is that people on a daily basis use words the implications of which they no longer even consider, so ubiquitous has the usage become.

But kids overhear what people say around them, and the sharp ones (or at least the "language-aware" ones) will ask what words mean, and thus skewer us.

Here's an example from my son (and note that I'm a mom who doesn't get uptight about any question about language, body parts, sex etc. etc. etc.), one of the very few queries of this nature that took me aback:

"What does 'sucks' mean? Sucks what, exactly?"

(Now, I should say that that's one of the very few words I've never used, even back in my copious swearing days, and one of the fewer I really can't stand, though I never say anything. So that's probably partly why that question bugged me.)

Pogo said...

Re: "This discussion is about the retail level, where individual librarians exercise discretion contrary to market demand of the readers frequenting that particular library."

End the discussion if you wish, but your statement is wholly erroneous.

When the state is the purchaser, its subjects often express their desire to make available or forbid certain items. This is not a market by any means. Therefore, to believe that "market demands" has the same meaning as that which defines why Coke is preferred over Pepsi is a huge mistake.

All purchases by the state operate with stated and unstated political agendas. To believe otherwise begs credulity. While I understand that you believe libraries should be run by market demands, the facts are against it.

P.S. I go to our public library 4 or 5 times a week, but mostly to buy discards. Fewer and fewer libraries serve as the repositiories of dated material as you describe, as their budgets are (politically!) pushed away from archiving (and even books) and toward the internet. You're quite simply wrong here.

reader_iam said...

And I'm ordering the book.

MadisonMan said...

The word “scrotum” does not often appear in polite conversation.

Yet if I'm describing, in polite conversation, my dog being bitten on the balls, I'd definitely use the word scrotum if I could remember it. Much more refined than balls. (Of course, my dog's been de-balled).

Mortimer Brezny said...

While I understand that you believe libraries should be run by market demands, the facts are against it.

Do you have your glasses set on "distort"? I was quite clearly talking about the market demand of the consumers of a particular library, not market forces in general. I never argued that a local library should be in competition with the Borders down the street. That's your argument.

When the state is the purchaser, its subjects often express their desire to make available or forbid certain items.

Except, again, your general rule is inapplicable and inapposite to this context. Here, we are discussing a librarian expressing her desire not to purchase books that taxpayers who frequent and fund the library want to read. It is indeed a market; and were it a responsive, functional one the librarian in question would be fired.

Fewer and fewer libraries serve as the repositiories of dated material as you describe

Your description is biased. It is true that serving as a clearinghouse for books -- order the book online and show up at the library to pick it up or return it -- is cheaper than running a full-service center. The question is what is done with the savings. The answer is that a good portion of the savings is redirected into the traditional functions of libraries, including archiving.

When you state that libraries are "pushed away from archiving and toward the internet" you show your ignorance. The material available via Internet archives is greater than that available on the shelf for take-out (so access is increasing, not being reduced) and converting shelf space to Internet accessible data is a form of archiving (there is no inconsistency in "moving toward the Internet" and "archiving").

And now I really am leaving.

Fritz said...

I remember the episode when Jodie and Buffy wanted to know how babies were created. Sissy wanted to give them the liberated scientific explanation, but Uncle Bill knew what to do. He told them that when two married people love each other so much, they are so close that God creates the miracle of a child. In one short generation such uplifting human enlightenment has been replaced with animalism. Uncle Bill talked of love, relationship, responsibility. I don't find that prudish, it should be considered what we want our children to aspire to.

Ann Althouse said...

Reader: The answer to the question "sucks what" is wind. It is not a sexual thing at all. It refers to a vaccuum, to emptiness. People have forgotten that, though they never forget to think about sex.

chuckR said...

Guy goes out with a kindergarten teacher. Things go reyther well and eventually he whispers 'Talk dirty to me baby' She replies
'pee-pee,poo-poo,doo-doo, SCROTUM!'

ancient joke, sorry, got nuttin' else

oh, wait

from D'Arconville's Cat

'He read only children's books, to keep his mind both simple and cruel.'

Mortimer Brezny said...

I don't find that prudish, it should be considered what we want our children to aspire to.

Okay, one more. If you're my librarian, and you prevent my kid from reading a book, I'll deck you.

MadisonMan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fritz said...

Mortimer,
I thought liberalism demanded non-violence?

MadisonMan said...

Fritz, what did Mr. French do in that episode?

The doorknob fascinated me on that show.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Mortimer,
I thought liberalism demanded non-violence?


I'm not a liberal. Avoiding the pitfalls of failed empires that let their libraries fall into disrepair is prudent. Archiving is conservative. Providing access to information is libertarian. Decking self-righteous moralists is American.

I just bought my ticket. Bye!

reader_iam said...

Aren't most most kids by age 10-12 or so, aware of body parts, by whatever name?

I'd hope well before that. Really, I can get people getting upset on the basis of their suspecting the author trying to be deliberately edgy, or whatever (though I don't whether she was or not). But I really don't get the problem with the word, per se. I mean, what do people tell their kids when they ask the name of body parts? Me, I've always used the actual names...including scrotum. What's the big deal here?

OTOH, as someone who isn't so old that she can't remember her own childhood (raised by parents who also used real names for body parts), I can remember finding some of those real names somehow more forbidden, even smutty (though I wouldn't have used that word) than euppemisms--even than some of the more, let us say, colorful ones. So maybe that's partly what going on. I suppose part of the point of using euphemisms is to be able to hide from the starkness of reality, which is sort of what I feel some adults are doing with regard to this situation.

litsskad said...

Me, I've always used the actual names...including scrotum.

What, you speak Latin natively? How old are you?

But seriously, it's no fair feeling progressively superior because you're willing to use medical terminology that's become somewhat mainstream for euphemistic reasons. You can only feel that way if you told your kid it was called the very English "ballsack". Or something like that.

Anthony said...

You know, I never did know where the "suck" phraseology came from. I thought it had to do with eggs (as in, Go suck an).

In other news, I am preparing an exciting and provocative new play called The Scrotum Dialogs. It will feature my own quirky, yet penetrating (heh) views on male sexuality and the ego in our modern deconstructed patriarchal societal milieu. It opens thusly:

Scrotum (to Penis): Hey. How's it hangin'?

Penis: THAT'S NOT FUNNY!

Scrotum: Chill out, dawg, don't get our perineum in a lather.

Pogo said...

Re:"I was quite clearly talking about the market demand of the consumers of a particular library"
Then you don't understand markets. Without prices to guide them, how exactly does a librarian know what's "demanded" except by (1) copying Borders or (2)bowing to political pressure? Those aren't "markets".

"Here, we are discussing a librarian expressing her desire not to purchase books that taxpayers who frequent and fund the library want to read."
We are indeed. And she gets to decide it, even if you don't like the decision. That's my point.

"...and were it a responsive, functional one the librarian in question would be fired."
And it isn't responsive, so she need not be responsive, so she doesn't get fired. My point again.

"The question is what is done with the savings."
There are no savings. The budgets are annual, and spent anually. Did you mean "excess"? But there is no excess.

"The material available via Internet archives is greater than that available on the shelf for take-out "
Agreed. And this means that libraries aren't archiving anymore (someone else is), which is what I said.

George said...

I wonder how many of the posters here would favor inclusion in a children's library of a book titled "Captain Cheerios" or "The Exxon ABCs"?

Assuming that both were crass attempts to market a product to unsuspecting children, this book is no different.

The world of book publishing is very crowded. Most authors earn bupkis. Profit margins aren't great. So...how do an author and publisher break through the clutter?

Do something shocking.

Who cares whether it's good or bad for children to read the "s" word. So what! Let's exploit them. We'll get more publicity. The publisher will sell more product, er, books. The author gets a bigger advance for her next book. The tub thumpers in hicksville don't buy books anyway, much less esteemed works whose artistic validity has been confirmed by some faceless panel of "judges".

reader_iam said...

A. I don't feel progressively superior. I just feel it's a fuss over something not so big, given all the language out there that kids hear all the time--as do I when I walk through playgrounds and parks. I use the clinical names I use because that's what was used by my parents. Had they used ballsack, I suppose I would use that--although, honestly, I'm not sure I could keep a straight face. I find that word inherently funny, unlike scrotum, or sputum, for that matter.

B. I know about the sucks wind thing, but I also know--back when I first started hearing that phrase all of the time--there were specific words appended often that later got dropped again, but were still intended by my own contemporaries. Who collectively may very well not have known the "wind" thing (as I didn't, until later); perhaps this has to do with the age cohort; I don't know. In any case, the connection stuck. Given that I still hear kids say "sucks dick/ass" whatever, I daresay that's still the connection often made, however adults may be using it.

Which I guess brings us full circle back to the fact that's it's all based on personal, and therefore I suppose idiosyncratic, experience, impressions and preferences.

Side--but serious--philosophical question, Althouse (a veteran mother, after all, of, I suspect, a certain type): Are you supposed to explain what slang actually means and its origins, or likely how it was intended given where it was heard and by whom (both may be too many words, in a given situation)? Which approach promotes greater practical cultural literacy? And is less likely to leave your child looking like an idiot, one day?

reader_iam said...

By the way, my last question is really with regard to moving forward.

My kid is young enough that the question is irrelevant with regard to what he asked (the specific context of which I did, in fact, find out--and it wasn't wind). No way was I going into that; my so-called progressiveness has huge limits, lol.

Jennifer said...

While 9 to 12 year olds may not be familiar with the word scrotum, I can't imagine most are unfamiliar with the idea of genitalia. Didn't How To Eat Fried Worms start off with the "wrecked 'em? Darn near killed 'em!" joke? I suppose it wasn't the focus of the book.

Well, now I'd like to read The Higher Power of Lucky and see whether it's any good or not!

Peter Hoh - I didn't know there was a controversy about In the Night Kitchen. That seems pretty silly given the age group the book is tailored to. My son loves that book (which is his father's copy) and I think it's adorable - nekky Mickey and all.

MadisonMan said...

I wonder how many of the posters here would favor inclusion in a children's library of a book titled "Captain Cheerios" or "The Exxon ABCs"?

It wouldn't bother me. I wouldn't check them out, though, unless my kids wanted me to -- hardly likely, given their ages. Books in a library with Scandalous! language are not a threat.

Pogo said...

My sentence " 1) copying Borders or (2)bowing to political pressure? Those aren't "markets" " should be made more clear.
A library copying a bestseller list is not responding to any market at all, much less a local one. A library complying with political pressure also isn't responding to a market.

At best, librarians who purchase use guesswork, their colleague's gueswork, bestseller's lists, library magazines, and their own judgement to decide what to buy. They do not have a market by which they are held responsible, and political control doesn't count.

I don't care if libraries stock it or don't. It's pretty much a nothing book, as far as I can tell.

Solomon said...

My librarian wife has been getting very upset about the way this story is being reported, as if it is librarians against the Newbery Award. The Newbery Award is given by the American Library Association. There are librarians on both sides of the story, and probably quite a few more pro- than con-.

Honestly, she's had the book checked out since before it won, and we had both read the first couple of pages (where scrotum appears) weeks ago without thinking anything about the word -- she made me read it (or maybe read it to me, I don't remember) because that initial story is so funny.

Jennifer said...

Well, Peter Hoh, I just read up on the In the Night Kitchen controversy. A 30 year old book is #25 on the Most Challenged/Banned Books of 1990-2000 because of a very young, naked child? I find that ridiculous!

The mental image of parents checking library copies out, recoiling in horror at a - what...? 4 year old penis and hunching over the illicit material to draw little White-Out diapers on the suggestive toddler is cracking me up.

reader_iam said...

I don't know if this will be useful or not to the discussion, but here's a couple of posts from A Fuse #8 Production, a blog (certainly not the only) about children's lit by a children's librarian.

These not offered to bolster any side; just thought they might be of interest (commments, too):

From Friday
Follow-up from yesterday

Among other issues (including the obvious), there is discussion of the "deciding what to buy" question which a number of people here have been talking about.

reader_iam said...

I sure am regressing with all the typos, I do note... . Ick on me.

Ploorian said...

Mortimer, I agree with you in principle and would continue to do so if we were talking about a city library or local branch library. But this story is talking about school libraries. School librarians have more constraints imposed on them--they have a school principal, and ultimately a school board and specific community, to answer to, so there's more pressure on them to adhere to "community standards" regardless of what their personal opinions may be.

When they make book purchases, they have to ask themselves if the book in question is good for the community they serve. They also have to take into account that they usually have a very limited budget, so is it going to be worth it to purchase a book which is just going to piss people off and get banned anyway?

School librarians carry the extra burden of having to make judgment-calls on what is "good" for the children entering their libraries. Sometimes that makes their jobs very difficult and now the NYT has added to that difficulty. You can be certain there will be principals all over the country going into their libraries demanding to know whether they carry this particular book and why the librarian did or did not purchase it.

Banning is bad in general, but you may want to show a little more sympathy for the position school librarians are in. They may not purchase a book that they know their community won't accept, but they've got an author and/or publisher who, after receiving the Newberry Award, is making a First Amendment-based stink about it because they're losing what they assumed were guaranteed sales to school districts.

reader_iam said...

Spam in German! How cosmopolitan is that, Althouse? Or maybe you've requested information from a German firm involved in event planning--for another meet-up, perhaps? Are you wending your way toward some fair European city, even as we chatter away?

; )

reader_iam said...

More likely working on your NYT deadline, though...which is romantic in its own way, I suppose.

Finn Kristiansen said...

When all the fuss is over, the ultimate result will be another word that little kids will be able to fling at each other when teasing. Eventually some principal or teacher will send letters stating that the scrotum epithet epidemic should not interfere with the educational process, and that we should all be mindful of maintaining positive interaction with each classmate.

Peter Palladas said...

Reader: The answer to the question "sucks what" is wind. It is not a sexual thing at all. It refers to a vaccuum, to emptiness.

I'm sure you know more about American idiomatic expressions than I as a Brit, but I've always assumed otherwise.

Still science [I could do it all day] teaches us that wind doesn't blow, it sucks. So maybe so.

Guess Lear then must have skipped physical geography:

"Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!"


...ooops there we go again. No escaping rude words even in madness.

Christy said...

When I was 12 I used pliers to pull ticks off the testicles of my German Sheppard. Better than getting bit by a rattler, I suppose. Testicles is a so much prettier word, almost lyrical or lilting. Scrotum is a heavy ugly word. Nope, I don't like it at all. Doubt I'll ever have cause for it to cross my mind again.

MadisonMan said...

Actually, you pulled the ticks off the scrotum. The testicles are enclosed within the scrotum. That's my understanding at least.

Was the dog sedated?

Peter Palladas said...

Madison Man is so right. If you'd pulled anything off an Alsatian's testicles as such at 12 you wouldn't have turned 13.

Ploorian said...

As MM and PP so aptly demonstrate, most 12-year-old boys understand the difference between testicles and scrotum.

If you get kicked in the "balls", you are in fact getting kicked in the scrotum. Understanding the details of that difference and expressing that understanding is very important within the heirarchy of saying naughty things on the playground.

So maybe the author's use of the word "scrotum" does in fact express a nuanced understanding of the way children think.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Mortimer, I agree with you in principle and would continue to do so if we were talking about a city library or local branch library. But this story is talking about school libraries. School librarians have more constraints imposed on them--they have a school principal, and ultimately a school board and specific community, to answer to, so there's more pressure on them to adhere to "community standards" regardless of what their personal opinions may be.

Thank you for bringing the conversation back to its focus, which is school libraries. I agree with you as to the constraints on school librarians, but my point is that the decisions these librarians are making are contrary to the wishes of the parents in the community. The political pressure that is exerted in the specific community at issue -- or political market -- is local and involves the school board and the parents' association. Prices are simply information about preferences and the preferences of the community should be reflected in the books bought (clearly the cost of the school librarian is higher if she more often chooses books out of step with the community). I think we simply disagree about the facts: you appear to believe the librarians are acting in accord with community standards; I believe the librarians are not (otherwise there wouldn't be an uproar). The political market here could be made more efficient by permitting the parents' association to prevent the renegade librarian from receiving a raise, etc., but that is impossible because of the teachers' unions. Certainly it is not a liberal argument to blame the teachers' unions for market failure.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Also, because of the way the budgeting is done, librarians have incentive to spend all of what is budgeted. If a cost is eliminated, the money will be shifted to another purchase, even if unnecessary, simply to keep the allocation level constant next year. There certainly is waste, so pretending that there is no waste because there is no "excess", i.e., all of the budget is spent, is sophistry.

Steve Donohue said...

Vielen Dank, Wir für Sie! Ich benötige jemand, zu bieten meine Partei, und ich bin wahrscheinlich, Ihre Firma jetzt zu verwenden.

Wieviel sind Ihre Würste? Zahlen Sie für Transport? Wandeln Sie mein Geld für freies um? Reagieren Sie bitte bald. Danke!

bearbee said...

The testicles are enclosed within the scrotum.

NOT FOR THE SQUEAMISH

One can always count on YouTube

And then there is this

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pogo said...

Re: "The political market here could be made more efficient by ...
...it is not a liberal argument to blame the teachers' unions for market failure."


Not a market (not even a political one, since voting doesn't even occur as a proxy for purchasing power), so not a market failure.

And what does it matter if this is about a public school library or a public library? All that changes is who bitches when decisions they don't like are implemented.

In sum, this is a slightly naughty book that says a poo-poo word for attention. Lovely. Some districts won't buy it because they know who will complain loudest. Some will buy it because their community won't object (in large enough numbers) and will congratulate themselves on being so progressive (yawn).

For me,it's another example that people never seem to learn wherein the state by its very nature cannot serve markets, be efficient, or be responsible, but people expect it to do so anyway, a desire that always leaves me flummoxed. Like expecting a dog to wash the dishes.

Re: "There certainly is waste, so pretending that there is no waste because there is no "excess", i.e., all of the budget is spent, is sophistry." I never used the word "waste". In response to your query, "what is done with the savings", I said that because it's the state, there is "no savings" and "no excess", meaning there is no money left over to save or invest. It's all spent (and indeed often wasted).

Ploorian said...

Thank you for bringing the conversation back to its focus, which is school libraries. I agree with you as to the constraints on school librarians, but my point is that the decisions these librarians are making are contrary to the wishes of the parents in the community.

How do you know that?

The article doesn't indicate that the librarians who are declining to purchase the book are doing so based on any personal moral objections. In fact, from the article: "Andrea Koch, the librarian at French Road Elementary School in Brighton, N.Y., said she anticipated angry calls from parents if she ordered it." That, to me, sounds like she's anticipating the community's desires and acting accordingly.

I think we simply disagree about the facts: you appear to believe the librarians are acting in accord with community standards; I believe the librarians are not (otherwise there wouldn't be an uproar).

I assume that school librarians' primary goal is to provide as much reading material to the children in their schools as possible. In that light, if librarians are activist at all, they're usually activists in favor of free speech and unfettered access to books. The "uproar" seems to be within the school librarian community itself, not in the communities where it hasn't been purchased.

I wouldn't be surprised if the NYT published this story at the urging of someone from the publishing house or the Newbery Award as a way to manufacture uproar.

The political market here could be made more efficient by permitting the parents' association to prevent the renegade librarian from receiving a raise, etc., but that is impossible because of the teachers' unions.

LOL, "renegade librarian"--that's quite a picture.

If a school librarian is doing something which the community objects to, it won't take financial punishment to get him or her to change. Pressure from the principal and/or school board would be enough.

Certainly it is not a liberal argument to blame the teachers' unions for market failure.

It's not. Though I think you're making a very liberal unfettered First Amendment argument without taking into account that once you enter a school, First Amendment rights are very limited, as has been proven time and again in court.

Maybe these librarians are, in fact, acting contrary to their communities' desires. That happens sometimes when something controversial comes up and usually when that happens, school librarians more often than not will comply to the community's wishes.

Mortimer Brezny said...

1. Yes, there is voting. The parents association and the school board are elected positions. The principal is appointed, but can be replaced by the Superintendent. There is in fact a market of local elections and appointments.

2. That you didn't use the word waste is what makes it sophistry. Reduced waste is a form of savings. Redirecting savings into alternate purchases that are responsive to parental demand (or technology upgrades that render future expenditures less costly) would still not result in an excess, but it would improve the market. Looking to "excess" is just the wrong test. To the extent that excess could be confused for waste, you appear to be playing word games and ignoring substance.

Ploorian said...

And what does it matter if this is about a public school library or a public library? All that changes is who bitches when decisions they don't like are implemented.

The rules and expectations are completely different for the two institutions.

Christy said...

No, the dog was not sedated, and yes, I was terrified.

How could I have gone my entire life without knowing that the testicles were just the insides of the scrotum? Why couldn't I have gone the rest of my life without knowing it? Darn book!

reader_iam said...

NOT a comment on Althouse's post, the story linked therein, or any discussion within comments, but rather a quotation I came across when looking at library quotes and rather liked and found amusing, in a horrified-fascinated sort of way:

For him that stealeth a Book from this Library, let it change into a serpent in his hand and rend him. Let him be struck with Palsy, and all his Members blasted. Let him languish in Pain crying aloud for Mercy and let there be no sur-cease to his Agony till he sink in Dissolution. Let Bookworms gnaw his Entrails in token of the Worm that dieth not, and when at last he goeth to his final Punishment, let the flames of Hell consume him for ever and aye. ~Curse Against Book Stealers, Monastery of San Pedro, Barcelona

That might have scared the crap out of me as a small child, even more than the stern children's librarian at our local branch.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Pressure from the principal and/or school board would be enough.

I disagree. I know of too many janitors who have purchased snowmobiles for personal usage with the remainder of their budgets for the year. No, it doesn't count as excess, but it is waste, and the principal lacks firing or salary reduction authority because the janitors are protected by the union and paid by the square footage of the building. Librarians have similar insulation.


Though I think you're making a very liberal unfettered First Amendment argument without taking into account that once you enter a school

But my argument is not focused on the listener's rights of the students, it is focused on the directness of control the school board and the parents' association have over school policy and the quality of education relative to the tax dollars extracted from the parents in the form of property taxes. I'm talking about getting bang for the buck.

Andrea Koch, the librarian at French Road Elementary School in Brighton, N.Y., said she anticipated angry calls from parents if she ordered it."

Yes, but her anticipation is a subjective determination. As I stated before, the librarian is exercising discretion in line with her beliefs. It is irrelevant whether she expects backlash; the question is whether she correctly expects backlash. She is being paid to get these decisions right. The problem is the parents cannot review unreviewable decisions and the decision not to make a purchase is not recorded anywhere.

The "uproar" seems to be within the school librarian community itself, not in the communities where it hasn't been purchased. I wouldn't be surprised if the NYT published this story at the urging of someone from the publishing house or the Newbery Award as a way to manufacture uproar.

It isn't manufactured if parents in tht community get authentically upset about it. And the only way they can find out about it is if the decisions that librarians make are exposed. How else would parents find out that librarians are short-changing their kids? The kids don't know what hasn't been bought; the whistleblower librarians do.

Simon Kenton said...

Ms Althouse wrote:
"Reader: The answer to the question "sucks what" is wind."

The answer is "chrome." "She could suck the chrome off a trailer hitch." - Willie Nelson

While law enforcement slang is as evanescent as criminal, we used to use the word "scrote" for what, in the later report, would be "subject." As I recall, the women officers used it with particular zest.

Pogo said...

Re; "Yes, there is voting."
I'll let you know who wins the next school librarian race, as soon as I figure out who's running.

Re: "Reduced waste is a form of savings." Exactly like savings, exept that after the end of the fiscal year, it's gone, so you have to spend it all. But otherwise exactly like savings.

Re: "The rules and expectations are completely different for the two institutions." Completely different? Both are state-run services that buy books with tax money according to budget criteria set by the government. One serves exclusively children of certain school districts, the other serves all comers. Both operate under some political pressure, but not much. I think they're more alike than not, but not worth arguing about if you find otherwise.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Exactly like savings, exept [sic] that after the end of the fiscal year, it's gone, so you have to spend it all.

Congrats on spending President's Day being asinine. The obvious point is the savings can be redirected within the fiscal year to purchases that are both more reflective of parental demand within that fiscal year and more efficient in the long-run (i.e., in future fiscal years). Books last longer than a year.

As for school librarians being elected, that's just deliberately otiose. Federal judges aren't elected, but the President and the Senate are.

Ann Althouse said...

Reader: "Side--but serious--philosophical question, Althouse (a veteran mother, after all, of, I suspect, a certain type): Are you supposed to explain what slang actually means and its origins, or likely how it was intended given where it was heard and by whom (both may be too many words, in a given situation)? Which approach promotes greater practical cultural literacy? And is less likely to leave your child looking like an idiot, one day?"

I would and did discuss the entire topic, including the misunderstanding and why the misunderstanding is interesting.

Thanks for keeping the blog going, talking about scrotum all day! I was working on my column as somone -- Reader? -- guessed.

P. Froward said...

Mortimer Brezny,

I'm sorry to be such a scrotum, but did you mean to type "otiose" or "obtuse"?

chuckR said...

Too bad we've forgotten the story.

I can't help but wondering how a raconteur like Jean Shepherd would handle it.

reader_iam said...

Thanks for keeping the blog going, talking about scrotum all day!

To TOTALLY and SHAMELESSLY, I'll admit, rip off Ruth Anne from over at your other place (wherein I reveal myself to be both forgetful and a hypocrite--though I swear that word usage is unusual):

You're "scrotally" welcome.

Hope the column turned out to your satisfaction.

reader_iam said...

Not that you were thanking me specifically--just couldn't resist quoting Ruth Anne.

Bissage said...

Matthew Broderick’s got a sack full of marbles but it’s Kristin Chenoweth who excites the scrotum. She’s a librarian, after all.

P.S. Nice bassoons!

Ruth Anne Adams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ploorian said...

I disagree. I know of too many janitors who have purchased snowmobiles for personal usage with the remainder of their budgets for the year. No, it doesn't count as excess, but it is waste, and the principal lacks firing or salary reduction authority because the janitors are protected by the union and paid by the square footage of the building. Librarians have similar insulation.

And I've known many, many school librarians over many years. I've also known a lot of teachers and people who have worked very closely with school boards. (So, yeah, my "proof" is primarily anecdotal, but yours seems to be too.) Short of budget cuts, the last thing school boards, superintendents, principals, teachers, or librarians want is a group of parents jumping up their asses. If the community of parents makes it plain that they disapprove of something that's happening in a school, they'll see a change in their favor unless there's some sort of real corruption within the system.

I don't think what you're saying about these janitors you know applies in this case. That's corruption--the issue with this book is an issue of ideological differences.

But my argument is not focused on the listener's rights of the students, it is focused on the directness of control the school board and the parents' association have over school policy and the quality of education relative to the tax dollars extracted from the parents in the form of property taxes. I'm talking about getting bang for the buck.

Yeah, I see your complicated economic argument, but the issue of "banning books" as the NYT frames the story, is a free speech issue. How school budgets are applied for buying books, developing curricula, or hiring staff always comes down to a fight over what kind of speech is going on in schools--what books or method of pedagogy are used.

Parents usually feel impotent when it comes to decisions in schools because they tend to passively consume the educational system provided for their children.

Yes, but her anticipation is a subjective determination. As I stated before, the librarian is exercising discretion in line with her beliefs. It is irrelevant whether she expects backlash; the question is whether she correctly expects backlash. She is being paid to get these decisions right.

Part of the job of being a school librarian is understanding community standards to make the right decision when it comes to the mushy issue of "appropriateness". If this particular librarian is wrong in this case, then either she's new to the community, hasn't been paying enough attention, or is faced with an issue which has never come up before. (Did parents all hold a meeting where they declared that the word "scrotum" was perfectly okay by them and she didn't get the meeting minutes?)

The problem is the parents cannot review unreviewable decisions and the decision not to make a purchase is not recorded anywhere.

They could, for example, pay attention to the Newbery Award winners and ask their children if they'd read that scrotum book, if not, then why not?

Teachers' unions get a lot of the blame for failings in the school system, and they deserve a fair amount of that blame, but unless there's a particularly hot-button issue which gets them torqued off, most parents' involvement in their childrens' education is minimal.

It isn't manufactured if parents in tht community get authentically upset about it. And the only way they can find out about it is if the decisions that librarians make are exposed.

The NYT obviously knows about it, but unless I missed it, I didn't see any quotes or descriptions from parents saying that they disapproved of a librarian who didn't buy this book.

So, I see no documentation that anyone other than librarians, the author, and someone from the Newbery Award is upset.

How else would parents find out that librarians are short-changing their kids? The kids don't know what hasn't been bought; the whistleblower librarians do.

They can pay attention to what's out there. If it's so awfully important that their school carries the scrotum book then they can do a little research and find out. But no, more often than not, an issue like this highlights how little effort parents put into finding out about what's going on in their schools, seemingly expecting that educators clear every decision they make beforehand.

You all fired up about finding out what's going on in your school district? Pay attention and ask questions. If educators in your district tell you to bugger off, then you're more than welcome to come back and complain.

One serves exclusively children of certain school districts, the other serves all comers. Both operate under some political pressure, but not much.

And that difference is critical. A school library is going to be under more pressure to comply with community standards. Children are considered a special case requiring greater protection. If you're a random citizen, you're not going to be wandering into a school library to browse the selection and then have a right to complain that the scrotum book isn't there. More likely, unless you're in the school on specific business, you'll be turned away at the door. Public libraries are open to everyone and therefore must serve everyone.

Eric said...

How hard is it to order a book on Amazon? If school librarians ever were some sort of gatekeepers that were censoring, they certainly aren't now.

downtownlad said...

What a silly debate. Children don't read anymore, so the whole point is moot.

Pogo said...

Re: "Books last longer than a year."

Mortimer, it's only called "savings" if the funds can accrue. Public libraries by and large cannot actually save money from one year to the next (except where "Friends of the Libary do it for them, or in the novel way you describe, which is more a creative accounting than actual savings).

We're debating a too-fine point perhaps. My larger concern is that your complaints about librarians are due to their status as unelected state actors who do not represent anyone but themselves (and guess what they think their charges desire). It is the nature of the beast, unaffected by mere rules and regulations.

Amazon, on the other hand, serves at my whim. A school library aims most to conserve its funding and jobs. That is more important than any individual consumer demands, and we shouldn't expect otherwise.

Bissage said...

RAA,

Me too. But I couldn't find a video of them. Nuts.

reader_iam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cedarford said...

Scrotum is part of a long-standing clash between scholars that wish to use obscure latin or polysyllabic words to describe common objects or body parts and the natural evolution of common language - which seeks ease and simplicity for commonly used words.

Thus most of our most commonly used works are one or two syllables. Cranium? No, head. Mandible? No, jaw. Testicles? No, balls. Scrotum? No, sack or ballsack. Vagina? No, c__, pussy is in more common usage.

And this pattern happens in other languages for the most part, except Germans, who delight in bundling descriptors into the same word.

And within specialties, like law, medicine, nuclear power, engineering, media, marine biologist - what are very obscure words to us are used so commonly that workers in those fields naturally shorten, make acrounyms from phrases, substitute code - all to avoid the polysyllabic or "too scientific-sounding" words.

There is nothing vulgar or coarse about the human trait of seeking smaller words that will do where a bigger word is in place.

A kid's book that uses "scrotum" either has the writer pretend his character is a pretentious kid that uses a word like srotum, even in extreme duress, he had some brainless editor consider scrotum the "proper, non-vulgar word" that should be used even if kids don't use it normally, or the writer was ignorant of the conspicuous lack of polysyllabic and "medically appropriate body part terminology" words in a kid's dialect.

Christy said...

Good point Cedarford, I was just thinking about how the word "crap" is used for radioactive contamination both as a noun and a verb.

Peter Palladas said...

downtownlad said...
What a silly debate. Children don't read anymore, so the whole point is moot.


...or is that 'unmoot', as in there's no point in calling a moot to moot a matter beyond mooting?

See Anglo-Saxon Chronicle passim.

PS:

Ruth-Ann, please, as historian of this blog, provide some statistics on which subjects have attracted the most comments. 'Dog Scrotum' is ninety plus and rising.

How does it compare to say great debates on the law, Hillary's chances of scoring with the electorate, Ann's own political and/or social views or other important 'tissues of the day'?

Ann Althouse said...

"Tissues of the day"? You really have been talking scrotum too long.

Ploorian said...

What a silly debate. Children don't read anymore, so the whole point is moot.

They still read, exercise is what they don't do anymore

Mortimer Brezny said...

Mortimer, it's only called "savings" if the funds can accrue.

My point is you're missing that funds can accrue over the year and efficiency gains can accrue over years as a result of more wisely spent funds that otherwise would have been wasted. That the budget line is constant from year to year is irrelevant to the underlying economic analysis. Neither Ploorian nor I are stupid!

Mortimer Brezny said...

It is the nature of the beast, unaffected by mere rules and regulations.

Actually, no. It's a result of union regulations that could be changed.

Mortimer Brezny said...

If the community of parents makes it plain that they disapprove of something that's happening in a school, they'll see a change in their favor unless there's some sort of real corruption within the system.

Okay, we agree here. But part of my argument is that we don't know how much corruption there is because transaprent means of holding the librarians accountable aren't present.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Parents usually feel impotent when it comes to decisions in schools because they tend to passively consume the educational system provided for their children.

Yes, but that's my eocnomic/political market failure argument; not a free speech issue.

Mortimer Brezny said...

most parents' involvement in their childrens' education is minimal.

Yes, but they pay through taxes for education professionals to do the job for them. That's my getting the incentives in line and standards of accountability right matters.

Mortimer Brezny said...

So, I see no documentation that anyone other than librarians, the author, and someone from the Newbery Award is upset.

We'll have to wait for a follow-up article by the Times or attend a PTA meeting.

Ruth Anne Adams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sonicfrog said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sonicfrog said...

Here's some additional dialog for the The Scrotum Dialogs.

Scrotum (to Penis): "Hey. How's your day been?"

Penis: "Eh, kinda up and down. You?"

Scrotum: "I've been feeling bummed and neglected lately. I feel like life's been kickin' me 'round. It's like my life is going nowhere, suspended, if you know what I mean."

Penis: "Just hang in there man. I'm sure you'll get your problems licked soon."

Pogo said...

Re: "Actually, no. It's a result of union regulations that could be changed."

Sorry, Mortimer, that just means you simply don't understand how the government beast works. Union regulations are a component of its nervous system, and taxes are its lifesblood. It's no anomaly, and can't be remedied without destroying the animal.

Which was my point. You might as well bitch about grass growing in sidewalk cracks.

Ploorian said...

Mort, you wanna bust the teacher's union? Fine. But then you'll have to bust all civil service unions.

You want vouchers so you can send your kids to private schools where you'll get "more bang for the buck"? Great. But I demand at least a partial refund on my property taxes. I have no kids and from what I can tell, the little troglodytes around here aren't going to use much they learn beyond the 8th grade anyway. That may reduce the size of your voucher, but hey, it's my money isn't it?

As Pogo points out, the system is the way it is. We all suffer equally from it and that's the whole point--fairness. You want transparency, go and look for it. It's as easy to find in public education as it is in any other part of the government.

sonicfrog said...

Why did the Penis end his friendship with the Scrotum?

He got sick of hanging around with such a sad-sack!

Mortimer Brezny said...

You want transparency, go and look for it. It's as easy to find in public education as it is in any other part of the government.

As an initial matter, if you have to go look, then it isn't transparent, it's hidden by practical obscurity.

On a higher level, we just disagree here. It isn't as transparent as it should be, it's not as transparent as other areas of government, and it is more tightly controlled by the unions than other areas of government and thus more resistant to reform.

I'm also sick of the parents don't care about their kids meme. That's what teachers' unions pump out every election year to crank up their pension benefits (which the unions trade as marketable securities, btw). Frankly, parents do care, they just don't like having to deal with bureacratic red tape, which, exists, by the way, because there are so many union-demanded sinecures.

Mort, you wanna bust the teacher's union? Fine. But then you'll have to bust all civil service unions.

Well, no. That's because there's a law that says all unions are the same. But all unions aren't the same, just as all industries aren't the same. That law is nutty and relying on a nutty law doesn't help your argument. It does no good to conservatism to support an intolerable status quo.

MadisonMan said...

RAA and PP: I believe one of the feministing threads went over 400.

Ploorian said...

As an initial matter, if you have to go look, then it isn't transparent, it's hidden by practical obscurity.

That's really pedantic. "Looking" doesn't mean having to dig, it just means "open your eyes".

On a higher level, we just disagree here. It isn't as transparent as it should be, it's not as transparent as other areas of government, and it is more tightly controlled by the unions than other areas of government and thus more resistant to reform.

That's bull. Frankly, I have no idea where you're getting this from.

I'm also sick of the parents don't care about their kids meme.

I'm not saying that they don't care, I'm saying that beyond a "How was your day at school today?", "Oh, fine," most parents don't look very far into what's going on at their kids' schools. They've got all kinds of other stuff to take up their time.

The only time you ever see a significant number of parents attending a school board meeting is when the media/activists stir the pot. Once the controversy du jour blows over, they can't be bothered to attend. No, they don't have to be uber parents and attend every single board meeting, but it wouldn't hurt to pay attention to issues beyond Intelligent Design or the word "scrotum".

That's what teachers' unions pump out every election year to crank up their pension benefits (which the unions trade as marketable securities, btw).

Oh, yes, those champaign sippin', Cadillac drivin' teachers.

There's a problem with unions, but if you want to use that as a reason why some librarians aren't buying a particular book, you're really stretching.

Frankly, parents do care, they just don't like having to deal with bureacratic red tape, which, exists, by the way, because there are so many union-demanded sinecures.

LOL, oh yeah, the union is keeping parents from talking to teachers, principals, and librarians.

Well, no. That's because there's a law that says all unions are the same. But all unions aren't the same, just as all industries aren't the same. That law is nutty and relying on a nutty law doesn't help your argument. It does no good to conservatism to support an intolerable status quo.

You missed my point. The point is that if you try to bust the teachers' union you're going to be facing resistance from all civil service unions.

I tell you what, you want to treat public education based on economic inputs and outputs, then let's just make all public schools VocEd centers. X children enter, are trained, and X number of doctors, lawyers, tinkers, tailors, and whatever come out.

Peter Palladas said...

"Tissues of the day"? You really have been talking scrotum too long.

An understandable, if mis-guided riposte. I merely can't abide the 'i' word unless in relation to off-spring or bodily fluids.

Matter, problem, concern, concept, difficulty...anything but the 'i' word - including the 't' word :-)

Mortimer Brezny said...

LOL, oh yeah, the union is keeping parents from talking to teachers, principals, and librarians.

No, security is. You can't just walk into the school and demand information just like shareholders can't demand to see corporate books when it's disruptive of business.

But, yes. The official channel for complaints or requesting information is a bureaucratic office staffed with union officials or teachers who have been put on administrative duty because of bad behavior.

The parents association and the school board elections (and the bureaucratic offices) are really the only other means of getting information and acting on it.

You're assuming that teachers talk about more than your kid's grades during parent-teacher conferences; they don't. You're also assuming that failure to show up to parent-teacher conferences where nothing substantive is said proves that parents aren't involved. It doesn't. Teachers make those conferences inconveniently timed so that parents won't show and then the union uses that figure to claim parents don't want information about how schools are administered. Which is bunk.

Mortimer Brezny said...

I tell you what, you want to treat public education based on economic inputs and outputs, then let's just make all public schools VocEd centers. X children enter, are trained, and X number of doctors, lawyers, tinkers, tailors, and whatever come out.

I guess you don't like standardized testing. You like teaching kids arts & crafts and define success by how creatively you paste macaroni to construction paper.

Mortimer Brezny said...

but if you want to use that as a reason why some librarians aren't buying a particular book, you're really stretching

Well, that's an ass backwards way of looking at it. The point is the librarians are free to act, and do so act, a certain way because they're insured against retaliation for it. You can pretend that insurance doesn't pose a risk of moral hazard ... but I would think that makes you a liberal.

Mortimer Brezny said...

No, they don't have to be uber parents and attend every single board meeting

Yes, but there are newsletters, and parents talk to each other. Usually, there is one mother who talks to all the other mothers, etc.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Oh, yes, those champaign sippin', Cadillac drivin' teachers.

No, but the unions certainly make profit off the management of their members' retirement benefits by selling the underlying financial instrument and the obligation to pay to a third-party. You're treating these unions like they aren't functioning as borker-dealers, which, as a matter of fact, they are. You seem to know less about teachers' unions than I do.

sonicfrog said...

The word Scrum phonetically sounds dirty. Sounds like a member of the "naughty bits" family. And if you're in one you usually get dirty. Bit the word itself is not dirty.

chuckR said...

sonicfrog

give it up - they've sucked all the life out of what should have been a fun thread

sonicfrog said...

Yeah, I know.

Sometimes bloggers get so obsessed with making a point they forget to just have fun.

My favorite Thanksgiving quote:

"Oh Balls!!!"

The words that came out of my mothers mouth when she realized she left the now burning rolls in the oven.