Bioethics Discussion Blog: Anatomy for a 10 Year Old:"What is a Scrotum?"

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Anatomy for a 10 Year Old:"What is a Scrotum?"

The ethical issue for today is whether it is fair and just for school librarians and teachers around the U.S. banning and refusing to purchase and stock a book “The Higher Power of Lucky” by Susan Patron, to be read by 9 to 12 year olds and which was this year's winner of the Newberry Medal, the most prestigious award in children’s literature, simply because the anatomic term “scrotum” was used once in the entire book According to the article in today’s New York Times by Julie Bosman: The book’s heroine, a scrappy 10-year-old orphan named Lucky Trimble, hears the word through a hole in a wall when another character says he saw a rattlesnake bite his dog, Roy, on the scrotum.
“Scrotum sounded to Lucky like something green that comes up when you have the flu and cough too much,” the book continues. “It sounded medical and secret, but also important.”


The issue involves the use of a proper anatomic term in a context that is a straightforward description of an anatomic location and not used in any prurient or pornographic sense. One may argue that if the author did not include a description in the text or a footnote explaining the word scrotum, then the child reader may not be really further educated by the isolated used of the word. However, if not explained by the teachers certainly a child’s question about “what is a scrotum?” should be explained by the parents. Ahh! That may be the reason for pulling the book. Proper anatomic terms are OK to be bantered back and forth by adults to each other but there is a resistance to talk to children due to the uncertainty of how to answer this question and any further questions the child may then ask. Perhaps also there is embarrassment by the parent since the word to the parent may have emotional meaning beyond an anatomy book definition.

As a physician I think anatomy is anatomy and learning anatomical words is part of growing up and is not the prize possession of the medical profession. I would be most interested in reading from my visitors at what age they learned anatomic terms or at what age they are explaining them to their own children. And should an entire book be banned by the single use of a single word? ..Maurice.

3 Comments:

At Monday, February 19, 2007 6:26:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We used the proper anatomical terms for each body part (nose, ears, breasts, labia, etc)always when talking to our children from infancy on up. We avoided terms like "privates", "pud", etc. I figured they needed to learn them some time and there was no sense in making a big deal of any particular anatomical area.

 
At Thursday, February 22, 2007 6:07:00 AM, Anonymous MommaSteph said...

When I first heard about this controversy, I thought it was nonsense. I grew up NOT knowing the proper anatomical terms, and I vowed to raise my kids differently. My two-year-old knows "penis" and "gina". BUT honestly, when I asked myself if I'd want to read my son a book with the word "labia" in it...well, frankly, no! So I'm not sure how I feel about this author's decision to use the word scrotum.

But banning the book? That rankles. Maybe don't read it for storytime, or in class, but certainly make it available for parents and kids to read together. Or yes, read it in class if the parents are OK with it.

 
At Thursday, February 22, 2007 10:44:00 AM, Anonymous MommaSteph said...

Oh wait, I'm sorry, I was not reading carefully...9 to 12 year olds? From all the hoo-ha, I had thought this was a picture book for five-year-olds.

This sounds like much ado about nothing.

 

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