Banning the Dictionary?

I read a story a few weeks back about a school district in California pulling all copies of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary from its libraries because a parent complained the dictionary was being used to look up "age inappropriate" words by students. When I read this story I literally laughed out loud.

Banning the dictionary? Really?

Let me start by saying, I'm all for keeping things age appropriate. When our kids were younger, we were some of those weird parents who didn't let their kids watch PG movies until the age of 9 and PG-13 movies until they actually were thirteen (and even then some got a thumbs-down vote from us). We currently have filtering software on our computer to block out the creepy porn stuff. And I'm all for parents monitoring book selections for their children. When my daughter's voracious reading appetite moved into chapter books, I reviewed her choices. (Let me tell you this was no easy task with a girl who reads about five times faster than I do. I'm NOT exaggerating!) And yes, there are certain books and authors you'd never catch me reading in a million years. But we live in America!

Being aware of what our children are reading and keeping things age appropriate, sure thing. But to go so far as to ban a book? And the dictionary? Uh-uh.
This story piqued my interest so much, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at other books which have been banned in the U.S.A. I knew about some of them, but several books on the list surprised me! Here's just a sampling…

1984 by George Orwell
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes
From Here to Eternity by James Jones
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Little Red Riding Hood by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
My Friend Flicka by Mary O'Hara
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
Ulysses by James Joyce
Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

So, I guess now we're potentially adding Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary to the list. As a side note, I just shared this story with my 18-year-old daughter. She blinked once, then said, "you know, there's the Internet for looking that stuff up as well."


"The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame."
~ Oscar Wilde ~

Image by: Ian Wilson


Christine Holroyd said...

How ludicrous! I am laughing out loud, too.

Your daughter sums it up beautifully.

I can't really say more than that except it'd be interesting to see what books we have banned here in Australia.

NanaRuth said...

I would love to see a list of who banned these books, what year, and Why? Why? Why? This is ridiculous. As your daughter pointed out the words are avaiable online, and so are many of those books! Thank goodness.

Virginia said...

Banning the dictionary? That is one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard. I understand the concern about them looking up age inappropriate things, but if they're curious, they're going to find out one way or another. And I'd rather they found out the correct definition of whatever that thing might be, that get misinformation from a friend.

Susan R. Mills said...

That's unbelievable! The dictionary???? Wow, what is this world coming to?

Cassandra Frear said...

Great quote by Oscar Wilde.

This is one of the reasons I homeschooled my kids. I wanted them to read the great books.

Sparkle said...

When some grade five students decided to use the huge unabridged dictionary in the school library to look up age inappropriate words (accompanied by much tittering and giggling), the school librarian deemed them too young and immature to use it, and banned them from the library unless accompanied by their teacher or another responsible adult.

Alyice Edrich said...

That is insane! I am so tired of these "lone women" coming in and taking away our constitutional rights just because they are loud and irritating.

redkathy said...

I'm not surprised. This is where the world is headed, thank God my kids are grown!

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

This is unbelievable! Insane! Yes, your daughter did sum it up perfectly, but even still, technology aside, I feel sorry for children, who as a result of such "precautions", eventually become too afraid to ask questions, and then end up being too sheltered from the real world, and as a result, end up having difficulty living in it when they grow up! It's nuts! It's like not letting a baby play in the dirt, to prevent them from getting sick. Babies SHOULD play in the dirt so that they become immune to everyday germs and DON'T end up getting sick. Makes me mad to hear about things like this. Some people take 'protecting' their children so far that they end up doing them harm. Don't you think?

Monica said...

It's funny, because most of the books on that list were our assigned reading in high school back in the day! But...the dictionary?? That's crazy. Maybe they should just start putting a rating system on books - T for teen, A for adults over 21, and C -- for controversial. LOL

Name: Holly Bowne said...

Hmmm, that's actually not bad, Monica. Then maybe I wouldn't have had to try and read so fast where my daughter was concerned! Ha, ha! ;o)

Anonymous said...

I sort of understand with Lord of the Flies...but I wouldn't ever ban a book. Banning things just makes kids want to do more of whatever it is.

You have raised a smart daughter. :) And I love the Wilde quote too.

Meagan Frank said...

I am not sure what I would have taught when I was teaching in a high school ten years ago. Literally my entire sophomore curriculum was listed among those banned books. Personally I think...just out of spite...I am going to put the dictionary on our list of book club books this summer for my oldest. Nevermind that he is a not-yet-old-enough fourth-grader!