Bedford (NH) High School is under siege, if one complaining family that always gets its way counts as a siege.
Back in December, some religious fanatics complained that their son was assigned “Nickel and Dimed” as part of a required personal finance class. Their objection wasn’t that the book ignores any evidence that contradicts the ideology of the author, which it does, but that it calls Jesus a wine-guzzling socialist.
Getting offended by the politics and selective reasoning of “Nickel and Dimed” is one thing, but getting offended by one line is just silly.
They decided to homeschool their son because of it, which should have settled the matter. You don’t want to expose your children to beliefs other than your own, go ahead and warp the child. We’ve got plenty of other children in the country we can raise to be adults capable of ignoring wine-guzzling socialists instead being offended by them.
But then the school removed the book from the class, claiming that the removal had nothing to do with the complaining parents and the controversy they started. Maybe.
The claim was that the book was irrelevant to personal finance. I found the book tedious, but I vaguely recall negative lessons about personal finance. It’s been a long time since I read it, but as I recall the book is full of people who have made bad personal decisions about money and everything else.
While the author implies that socialism is the solution, there are lessons conservatives of the non-evangelical variety should like. Though the author does her best to mute alternative interpretations of the lives of her subjects, it’s not that hard to do.
It sucks to be poor. So work hard in school, get a job, have a strong work ethic, get married, stay married, both of you work, don’t do drugs, don’t gamble, don’t spend more than you make, don’t have children while you’re a teenager or single parent, and guess what? Your chance of being poor is slim. Conservatism is about good sense and good values and personal responsibility.
And now there’s a second book being challenged at the same school, by the same parents! But wait, you say, aren’t they homeschooling the delicate youngster who didn’t like “Nickel and Dimed”? Yes, they are. but they have another son that they dared expose to the atheistic socialism so rampant at BHS, apparently only so they could find something else to complain about.
The book was assigned in a short intersession course their child voluntarily signed up for, which makes it even more bizarre. Unlike “Nickel and Dimed,” this was required reading for no one, and yet the school removed it from the intersession course as well.
This time the book, “Water for Elephants,” was “offensive” because of sexual references, and we all know how offended high school boys get by sexual references. “This book is likely to be a rated-X book, and thus, is totally unsuitable for use by the school,” said the offended parent.
I read the excerpt provided by the Nashua Telegraph, and all I can say is that anyone who thinks this passage is X-rated doesn’t know much about porn. This passage isn’t pornographic. It wouldn’t even pass for erotica. If you want to complain about anything, complain about the quality of the writing. “I want her to melt into me, like butter on toast.” Like butter on toast? Really? That’s the best you can do?
Some might cry censorship, but that’s nonsense. Both books are available at the school library, easily purchased everywhere, and freely available on the Internet if you want to engage in some illegal file-sharing.
There are still questions, though. The biggest one being, why is a public school so easily manipulated by fundamentalist Christians trying to push their own agenda through the school? Separation of church and state, anyone? This is New Hampshire, after all, not Texas. New Hampshire is supposed to be libertarian paradise. Whatever happened to “Live Free or Die”?
It seems they pulled the book from the curriculum because the teachers didn’t want to receive nasty comments from around the country like they did over “Nickel and Dimed.” According to the principal, “the majority were ‘not at the level of respect’ he would hoped [sic] for civil dialogue.” That’s understandable, but depressing.
It’s true that one can’t have a civil dialogue with the hostile and uneducated, but it’s sad that they can have so much power over a school and its school board. If their dialogue isn’t civil, they should be ignored in an educational setting. What will happen next? Someone will complain that the school teaches children about evolution, and science classes will be changed?
This wouldn’t have surprised me in Texas, where the state education board seems to have been taken over by fundamentalists, or Kentucky, where they have a Creation Museum showing humans walking alongside dinosaurs, but it does in New Hampshire. “Live Free or Die” is a great motto, but a hard one to live by.