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The Answer Blog

The “N” Word

Most people around the world—a lot of children, too, no doubt—know by now what the Rev. Jesse Jackson recently said about what he wanted to do to two important, private body parts that belong to Senator Barack Obama.

The Times ran a recent column on the reasons why the paper did not use Jackson’s “n” word (for “nuts”) when first reporting the story. I was concerned with the column’s quote from a Washington state reader, who said that the paper is edited by “prudish kindergarten teachers.”

I beg to differ; most early childhood teachers are not prudish. The kindergarten and early childhood teachers I have trained are very familiar with young children’s body parts, particularly those that have to do with “peeing” and “pooping.” Many have to answer such questions as: Did her penis fall off? Will mine? What hole does poop come out of?

Not only are these teachers not prudish about body parts, many are comfortable talking about birth and babies. Kids in the early grades want to know: How did I get out of Mommy’s tummy? How do Mommy and Daddy make a baby?

And most don’t blink about masturbation. A teacher once told me how she dealt with it: “Since almost all of my five-year-olds would masturbate during rest hour, I would say, ‘Put your hands on top of the covers.’ They did.”

Good family life education training for teachers makes answering questions about bodies, birth and babies much easier. I liked to use a brainstorming exercise on slang words with teachers to break the ice about using proper names for sexual body parts. Using proper words with children as young as five demystifies the body part. Children giggle less if they use the word “penis” rather than “wee-wee,” “wiener” or “ding-a-ling.”

Somewhere along the line the Rev. Jackson missed the lesson about calling those particular body parts by their proper name: “testicles.”

Kindergarten teachers of the world, unite. First, get the training you need to be able to use words like “testicles” in your classroom. Next, order and use our Learning about Family Life curriculum, with its early-grade lessons.

If you take these simple steps, your students will grow up and realize that you weren’t prudish at all, but, instead, wise. They will also understand why it isn’t smart to use the “n” word over an open microphone.

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