- Associated Press - Monday, December 13, 2010

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - The parents of a teenager are asking school officials to stop teachers from using a book that refers to Jesus Christ as a “wine-guzzling vagrant and precocious socialist.”

The 2001 book, “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America,” documents author Barbara Ehrenreich’s attempts to live on minimum wage as she critique’s the nation’s economic system.

Aimee and Dennis Taylor complained about the book when it was assigned to their son’s personal finance class and then pulled him out of Bedford High School. They are asking the school board to remove the book from the curriculum.

The couple planned to bring up the issue at a school board meeting Monday night. The superintendent said Monday that school officials were awaiting the recommendation of a group of teachers before making a decision, but the school board has the final say.

The Associated Press could not reach the couple before the school board meeting. The Taylors have said they object to the book’s foul language, description of how to circumvent a drug test and the author’s characterization of Christianity.

In a passage describing a tent revival meeting she attended, Ehrenreich writes about feeling troubled by its emphasis on Jesus‘ crucifixion and wishing the preacher would focus more on his teachings of social and economic justice.

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,” she wrote.

In a “Q&A” section on her blog, Ehrenreich denies that the passage insults Jesus and points out that the book has won a Christopher Award, given by a Catholic group to recognize books that “affirm the highest values of the human spirit.”

“In the section at issue, I observed that the social teachings of Jesus went utterly unmentioned at the tent revival I attended. The revival preachers clearly preferred the dead and risen Christ to the living Jesus _ who did indeed drink wine and could even make it out of water,” she wrote. “As for the vagrancy charge: that’s what he was, a homeless, itinerant preacher.”

In response to the Taylors’ complaint at the beginning of the school year, the district had a committee that included administrators, a teacher and two parents evaluate the book. The panel decided in October that the book’s educational merit outweighed its shortcomings, but it instructed teachers to offer an alternative to students whose parents objected.

In November, Superintendent Tim Mayes asked teachers to review the course’s curriculum and come up with a better balance of materials to support its objectives.

“I thought we could seek better balance in terms of covering multiple topics in personal finance, and maybe we were spending too much time on the one topic of working as a minimum wage employee,” he said Monday.

The school district’s curriculum committee was expected to make a decision based on the teachers’ recommendations next month, before the next semester starts in late January.

“I’d like to see the process complete itself. That’s why we have the process,” Mayes said.



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