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Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Here we go again. A far right fanatic objecting to the curriculum in a public high school personal finance class because some of the materials do not conform to the family's views. This time, its Barbara Ehrenreich's award winning book, "Nickled and Dimed."

"We had almost PhD people letting this fumble through their fingers, and they all said it was grand," said Dennis Taylor, a conservative Christian. "I think there should be a review of these individuals and perhaps some firing done."

The Taylor's don't like anything about the book, but but much of their ire seems focused on a single paragraph:

"Jesus makes his appearance here only as a corpse; the living man, the wine-guzzling vagrant and precocious socialist, is never once mentioned, nor anything he ever had to say," Ehrenreich writes.

From a theological standpoint, that's hardly controversial. There's more:

The author is a known social Marxist, hates everything American, everything that America stands for or was built on," Aimee Taylor said. "I mean when you read the book you see that strongly in this woman's agenda. It's horrible."

Marxist? Hates everything American? Ehrenreich is certainly a member of the Democratic Socialist party, and certainly has a message in her book, the overriding one being that it is next to impossible to make a living at a low wage job, and that the minimum wage should be raised, but that doesn't make her a hater of all things American.

From the Amazon review:

Essayist and cultural critic Barbara Ehrenreich has always specialized in turning received wisdom on its head with intelligence, clarity, and verve. With some 12 million women being pushed into the labor market by welfare reform, she decided to do some good old-fashioned journalism and find out just how they were going to survive on the wages of the unskilled--at $6 to $7 an hour, only half of what is considered a living wage. So she did what millions of Americans do, she looked for a job and a place to live, worked that job, and tried to make ends meet.

I read this book shortly after it was published, and from the standpoint of a personal finance class, it has its place. Ehrenreich details her income, expenses, working conditions, etc, and if anything, students reading it should be impressed with the need for a good education so they don't have to rely on low paying service jobs, as they get to experience through Ehrenreich's words the experience of trying to keep your head above water at 6 bucks an hour (events in the book take place from 1998-2000, when the minimum wage was $5.15). Wikipedia's entry on the book is pretty good, as far as Wikipedia goes.

That said, there are some controversial (in a school setting way) parts to the book, mainly, in my opinion, dealing with recreational drug use, but still, its a good insight into the lives of the working poor. If this were the only printed material offered by the course, I'd say there was a problem, but I find that highly unlikely.

The real "controversy" is that the book conflicts with the economic worldview of a right-wing, conservative christianist family, and we just cannot have anything in school that might challenge their narrowly held views.

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