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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Controversial book not part of curriculum

Bedford School Board members voted to approve an alternative curriculum for the high school’s personal finance class, and the much-debated book “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America” was not part of it.

The book has not been placed in any other course curriculum, but it can still be checked out of the library or used in other classes.

“Nickel and Dimed” is a nonfiction account by Barbara Ehrenreich about her struggles to make a living on multiple minimum-wage jobs in America.

It came under fire in Bedford after two parents, Dennis and Aimee Taylor, made a complaint to the School District about the book’s profanity and offensive references to Christianity.

The Taylors’ complaints about the book led the curriculum committee to re-evaluate the personal finance course, a required class for graduation. The committee presented their final decision to the School Board on Tuesday.

The board voted unanimously to accept the new curriculum, but School Board Vice Chairwoman Cindy Chagnon said the choice to remove Ehrenreich’s book had little to do with the Taylors’ objections.

“Their claims caused us to re-evaluate the course, and we decided (the book) is not applicable to personal finance,” she said. “We’re not by any stretch banning the book from the school.”

The curriculum committee found alternatives, as Dean of Humanities Diane Babb recommended other articles and essays at Tuesday’s meeting that could be used in place of the book to show students what it’s like to live on a minimum-wage income.

“We were spending too much on the book and taking time away from other important aspects of the course,” Chagnon said. “I think it’s important to understand what it’s like to live on minimum wage, but we found there are other ways that would be adequate to get that message across.”

Chagnon said she doesn’t expect to hear from the Taylors again because the book has been pulled from the course.

“I think he’s happy now,” she said of Dennis Taylor. “I don’t think (the Taylors) will file a formal appeal to the School Board because the book is no longer in the course.”

Taylor did not immediately respond to requests for comment but told the New Hampshire Union Leader on Tuesday that he wanted the high school to admit they’d made a mistake in choosing the book.

Cameron Kittle can be reached at 594-6523 or