Letter to the Editor: Nickel and Dimed and Easton High School

A parent writes that Nickel and Dimed should not be part of Easton curriculum.

Defined as "the courses offered by an educational institution," curriculum seems to be the last priority of the current EASD school board and the current administration under Mrs. McGinley.

At the March 27th regular school board meeting some concerned citizens staged a public reading from one of the most vulgar, politically biased, non-fiction books approved for our children by the McGinley administration.

Excerpts form the book were identified by page number, prefaced for context, and then simply read word for word as printed.

Audible sneers and whisperings against our public reading could be heard from the group sitting directly behind me. Muffled laughter came from the side of the room were a good sized group of high school students sat. Mocking sighs could also be heard from several different areas around the room while our presentation continued.

And the school directors sat silently with no comment at all about the vulgar content of this book, its use in the curriculum, or their personal thoughts on the matter. Only Mrs. Matthews, a former teacher, expressed her proud approval of this book in previous communications with a concerned citizen.

Mrs. Leonard –Ellison, present through a telephone patch, at least suggested this book go to the Education Committee for further discussion and review.

However, by the end of the meeting it still wasn’t clear if the board will take action on this disgusting work of non-fiction or if they will just continue to silently approve and hope the situation goes away so they don’t have to take a position on it publicly either way.

The book was brought up for review two years ago by Eric Adams, a 1988 graduate of , but the board never scheduled a vote on the book after a review was conducted per school district policy #109.

The school board but even the new board has not put this on the agenda for a vote still to this day. The board is so focused on , , and personnel concerns that it seems to have forgotten the main reason we send our kids to school; Education.

Curriculum issues like this should be the priority of every school board established to manage the local public educational system for our children.

One by one other school districts in our area and in other states across the country are removing this book for a variety of different reasons ranging from its biased political ideology, its vulgar content, its pure socialistic view points, and its graphic and braggadocios admissions of illegal drug use and detailed instruction on beating, or cheating, a pre-employment drug test.

For Easton this book is a far cry from meeting the standards set forth for selecting materials as described in policy #109.

The issue most concerning to me is the illegal drug related passages. The Easton Area School District proudly posts “DRUG FREE SCHOOL ZONE” signs near every school district building. We have on-sight police presence in some of the schools to help combat crime and illegal activity and to help create a safe environment for our children.

Gang activity in our schools is closely watched and stopped as soon as it is identified. Because of the close relationship between the illegal drug culture and gang activity, this fact cannot be separated or marginalized in this discussion.

Meanwhile Mrs. McGinley’s administration has condoned the smuggling of explicit illegal drug use instruction directly into our classrooms and into the hands of our children by approving of the book as part of the curriculum.

Arguing to keep the book, one student stood up at the March 27th meeting and reminded everyone in attendance that, “we have Google and we (his generation) can easily get this information on the internet anyway”.

While that is true, instruction on illegal drug use absolutely should not be handed out to our children by their teachers with the blessing of Mrs. McGinley’s administration, while our elected school board simply looks the other way.

It is a gross contradiction for the Easton Area School District to allow curriculum material which contains detailed instruction on the use of illegal drugs and related chemical buffers while at the same time claiming to enforce a “DRUG FREE SCHOOL ZONE” policy.

It is the duty of our elected school board to hold accountable the administrators tasked with the selection of curriculum materials for our children. The school directors are in place to represent the citizens’ interests in the highest quality education possible for our children’s education.

It is their duty to make sure that the selections made meet the strict criteria set forth in policy #109, even though the “weeding” process (or book burning as some like to call it) is delegated to un-elected administrators.

Selecting material that tells our children it’s ok to be dishonest, use illegal drugs, and then teaches them how to cheat on a pre-employment drug test starkly contradicts the standards outlined in policy #109 and sends a strong message in opposition to the very principles which we hope to promote in guiding our children to become honest and upstanding citizens. With the use of this book we are basically telling our children, “Don’t do drugs, and here’s how to lie about it”.

It is my sincere hope that our public reading of the vulgar language and illegal drug activity contained in this book will weigh heavily on the minds of those elected school directors entrusted with our children’s’ education and that they will act swiftly and decisively to overturn Mrs. McGinley’s recommendation to continue the use of Nickel and Dimed.

Ronnie DelBacco
Concerned Citizen


Sam April 01, 2012 at 02:19 PM
It needs to be addressed thart Mr. Delbacco's description of the audience that evening is inaccurate. Being a member of the audience that evening at the school directors meeting I saw how the students in attendance maintained a respectful tone through out the systematically scripted and rehearsed vignette that Mr. Delbacco and his cronies acted out on that evening. The student who spoke to this topic was the only one who behaved adult like, while the crew of nickel and domed speakers made faces, sneered and acted like men on a mission to have their religious beliefs infused into the PUBLIC education system. I doubt that Ronnie could possibly think that people in the audience could have been commenting on how he continues to attempt to find pubic platforms for HIS opinions all while harassing the faculty, staff, administration and school directors of the Easton school district. It is only when he gets and answer that he cant accept that he takes to the public forum. Sadly, he will never realize that he only does a great job of making himself look like the fool that he is and reminds people that parochial instuitiuons were created for a reason.
J. Drew Stefancin April 01, 2012 at 02:23 PM
At the next meeting I'm going to suggest we ban dancing. Like the tiny little town from 'Footloose.'
Pamela Porter April 01, 2012 at 02:45 PM
I am sorry, but I am still mind-boggled that the single most important thing detractors take away from this book (and I hope they've read the ENTIRE thing...not just the "excerpts" mentioned) is that it teaches people how to cheat a drug test.
Jonathan Gerard April 01, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Ronnie DelBacco seems to believe that young adults cannot read a book critically. Because an author engages in illicit or immoral behavior does not determine that a reader will be convinced to do the same thing. Consider "All's Quiet on the Western Front"--an anti-war book that emerged from the First World War and portrayed the horrors of war so profoundly that it is part of the permanent canon of great literature. It did nothing to prevent WW II, to make the UN more effective, or to keep America out of Vietnam or Iraq. The Bible advocates genocide against the Canaanites. It requires a father to respond to his "stubborn and rebellious son" by killing him. It demands that a Jew who lights a fire on Saturday be killed for violating the Sabbath. Would Mr. Delbacco thus prohibit his teenage child from reading the Bible? Honors students are not so easily converted to embrace evil and reject the good. Nor, I would hope, is Mr. Belbacco. The real problem is not a controversial book--or a book that reflects one slice of American life. The real problem is that fewer and fewer youth read ANYTHING. The real problem is that fewer and fewer people are able to feel empathy for those outside their own social circle. Assigning "Nickel and Dimed" seeks to do the former (increase an interest in reading) and has ended up proving the latter (a lack of empathy) for Mr. Delbacco and his minions.
J. Drew Stefancin April 01, 2012 at 05:14 PM
Well said, Mr Gerard. Its hard to believe anyone thinks otherwise. Use your brains, people.
Walt April 01, 2012 at 07:29 PM
Mr. Gerard, I certainly let you know when I disagree with you, which is often. In this case you are 1000% right.
Christina Georgiou April 01, 2012 at 10:13 PM
Mr. DelBacco: I'll leave it to the reader to make their own decisions about your letter, as many have astutely already have. But to call yourself just "a concerned citizen" when you are serving an elected term as a director on the Easton Area School Board is disingenuous. It's disappointing, though not incredibly surprising to find out a bit more of what your agenda really is. However, your real lack of vision becomes most startlingly evident when one realizes you obviously have never troubled yourself to look around Easton and see some of your neighbors' situations (many of who are parents of the students whose scholarly interests you took an oath to defend). "Nickel and Dimed" unfortunately describes their financial situations and the daily difficulties they face as a result to a "T".
Sam April 01, 2012 at 10:25 PM
Last time I checked Ron Delbacco did not win the election against Frank Pintabone into received 80% of the vote. One can only imagine how chaotic things would be if Mr. Delbacco were to be elected to ANY position, let alone school director! Maybe he should stick to intramural activities with his cronies!
Ronnie DelBacco April 02, 2012 at 11:07 AM
Frank, I didn't forget to mention that...read the article. Paragraph 8. Furthermore, your statement is misleading in that the committee assembled did not identify any of the participants as "parents". They may well have had children in the district, but the meeting minutes DO NOT identify any of them as simply being chosen because they were parents. They were chosen for their professional credentials. You were not on the board at the time, but you were one of the board members who sat there silent while the vulgar passages were read on Tuesday. You did NOT speak out about the contradiction between the district's drug free policies and the fact that N&D gives instruction on the same. THAT is my biggest concern. So, step up and lead. Stop making excuses for a committee and a board you were not part of. Do your job now and represent the citizens of region 2. If you approve of handing illegal drug related instruction to our children through the curriculum as a school director then just say so. Stop beating around the bush. Be an adult and pick a side. Attacking a concerned citizen isn't leadership. The problem is in the text, not the presenters.
Ronnie DelBacco April 02, 2012 at 11:22 AM
Sam is somewhat correct. Frank won in a 3 to 1 democratic town by just about that same margin. (&4%-26%) Take a look at the voter registration. Bygones. I am not an elected official and do remain a concerned citizen unlike many candidates who just disappear when they loose. I can take the name calling, insults, and misunderstandings. What I can't abide is the lack of comprehension obvious in some of these comments. I am not pushing my religious beliefs on the curriculum at all. I did not suggest the Bible as a replacement. I do not think our kids should be completely sheltered. I have no problem with discussion on controversial subjects in school so long as an equal opposing view is also presented. In this case there is NO opposing text to refute the editorial claims in N&D. There are other books on the very same topic which do not contradict the district's drug policies. Choose a better selection. The simple point everyone of you missed is the contradiction between school district drug free policy and the book's blatant instruction related to the use and cover up of illegal drugs regardless of the course and grade level in which it is presented.
J. Drew Stefancin April 02, 2012 at 12:35 PM
I feel that opinion is the one that simply misses the point.
Amanda April 02, 2012 at 03:53 PM
I am one of the AP students given this book to read and the idea that this is a brainwashing, agenda ridden curriculum is so far from the truth. In class we explored not only Nickel and Dimed but opposite viewpoints like Scratch Beginnings. It wasn't as if the class didn't argue the matter and presents every viewpoint possible. Also remember we are Advanced Placement students and most of us are fairly confident in our opinions and intelligence. What is most interesting about this article is that nowhere does anyone recognize above that you can request an alternative assignment. The teacher teaching this class is excellent and has a good record with getting students through the AP exam and it is absolutely ludicrous that this curriculum should be being questioned. The topic of welfare and humanity's different conditions are necessary for high-school students to learn in school because they are controversial and allow students to voice their opinions and hear everyone else's. In class this year, if anything, the majority did not like the book nor did they agree with Barbara Ehrenreich.
Christina Georgiou April 02, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Apologies for the error above, as is pointed out below. I've mostly been off the EASD beat for a bit, but that's no excuse. However, the rest of my comment still stands.
Sue Corbett April 02, 2012 at 05:45 PM
I support Ronnie DelBacco in his effort to clean up the curriculum. A lot of people seem to think that controversy, in itself, is a good value we should seek for the education of our children. But I disagree. Controversy for its own sake is not necessarily good for education. At the very least if we are to use a controversial book (for the sake of controversy itself) the book should be well written and of good quality. Instead of dumbing down our childrens' education they should be reading the classics and works that inspire virture, and not glorify decadence. I believe this book, Nickel and Dimed is used for an English AP class, and the kids reading it will be going to college. The future of our community and our country depends on our future leaders being educated to make the right decisions. I don't believe this book will help in that regard. Furthermore, I think it's obvious that this book is being purposely marketed for use in the public school classroom. Out of all the books out there that could be used in high school, this particular book seems to show up time and time again in several school districts. And I stress that it is not of quality writing at an AP high school level (my 8 year old daughter could read and understand the book if I gave it to her). There is something sinister about the marketing of this book to our schoolchildren...and it brings to mind...brainwashing.
Hank Reardon April 02, 2012 at 11:35 PM
I read the book in question about a year ago. It's a light, entertaining, occasionally vulgar work written by a woman attempting to highlight the plight of the lower classes in the US. What I can't understand is how this book qualifies as study material in a high school english class. Wouldn't a political or social science course be more appropriate? I attended EAHS in the early 80's and remember my AP English class with Ms. Janet Heller. I also remember the precursor class with Ms. Jean McClay. I can't imagine either of these fine educators analyzing "Nickel and Dimed" as though it were a serious piece of literature when they have only nine months to teach 600 years of the classics beginning with Geoffrey Chaucer. You could spend nine months on Shakespeare's works alone, for heaven's sake. Does anyone seriously think this book is in the same league as MacBeth or Hamlet? Ms. McClay and Ms. Heller, if you are reading this message, I mourn the retirement of your generation. The spoiled, self-indulgent 60's "hippie" generation has taken over public education, and the result will be a new generation of morons to replace them. Hank Reardon Fairfax, VA
DOCurmudgeon April 03, 2012 at 12:31 AM
Well said, Hank, you've nailed it. The book is not literature. I am not violently opposed to it, but I just don't think that this should be required reading for a high school. Especially not a lit class! Ronnie has been villified as book burner and he responds that the "weeding" process hasn't worked here....and he's right. So many good books have passed over to include this one in the curriculum. And the obviously socialist leaning and just plain stupid "chemical indiscretion" annoy me in a book in a literature curriculum.
J. Drew Stefancin April 03, 2012 at 02:09 AM
I don't think anyone not upset by the book being taught thinks it is controversial. So, that's where your argument falters. And brainwashing is more about controlling what people are allowed to learn. Which is was people who ban books do. So, your argument falters there too.
Droopy Dog April 03, 2012 at 03:04 AM
From my understanding, this book is read in the AP course in order to analyze the use of rhetorical devices. The students read and analyze writings from Glenn Beck for the same reason. It's not read as a work of fine literature, or as a study of politics or sociology. It's read to discover effective (and in some cases, ineffective) persuasion techniques. Perhaps some of you with bees in your bonnets should first speak to the students in the course to find out under what context the book is actually discussed. The reality is that you're not concerned with the students. You are using this topic to further your own political aspirations. As a side note, I would think that if you're so concerned about the young, impressionable minds at EAHS, you would consider this book to be an excellent "cautionary tale", demonstrating what the students should NOT want their lives to become. Goodness knows, if I read this book at the age of 16, I would have taken my education much more seriously!
Barbara Walters April 03, 2012 at 11:46 AM
My first comment must be to Mr. Geeting. Who better than a parent to decide what their child should be taught in the schools and how it is to be taught. Our kids are inundated with garbage in the media, do they need to have it in their face in the school system too? We decry the fact that parents are not more involved in their children's education and we then villify them for their involvement and won't even listen to their point of view. This book is not appropriate for inclusion in any school curriculum but left to be read at a later time in someon's life if they so desire. I'm sure there is a more appropriate book that can be selected in order "to analyze the use of rhetorical devices."
Sue Corbett April 03, 2012 at 11:53 AM
J. Drew Stefancin (to your comment below): It was the very first comment on this discussion thread: "Seems to me that the very fact that this book is so controversial is what makes it an excellent classroom tool." And according the Morning Call article on March 30: "Following the board's adjournment 'Nickel and Dimed' continued to be talked about in the meeting room and down the hall, and board member Robert Arnts was overheard saying of the book, 'It did what it's supposed to do — promote discussion.' That's what we want". So YOUR argument falters. Furthermore, brainwashing includes the use of systematic indoctrination through propaganda. Even TV commercials have been considered brainwashing. And if they didn't work, why would companies spend money on commercials. But let's not split hairs on the definition of "brainwashing" please.
OMG April 03, 2012 at 01:15 PM
This is a recommended book for the new nationalized common cores standards curriculum. This is curriculum, not a random book in the library. The students are forced to read this book; it is not something they choose. Book banning has nothing to do with required curriculum, once a book is on the curriculum; this becomes a much different issue. This is indoctrination of a culture. If parents disapprove, then this book should be pulled. This article shows that this is a controversial book, which indicates to me that it should be pulled from the REQUIRED CURRICULUM. if a parent wants their child to read it then they can buy it for them, using their own money. Taxpayers should not have to flip the bill for this. When a school district tries to take the role of a parent, they will always get it wrong; they will not be able to please everyone. Therefore pull the book, and let the parents who approve allow their kids to read it outside of school.
OMG April 03, 2012 at 01:16 PM
Freedom of choice and parental rights. The schools should not have this type of power. The school board has the right to approve curriculum that indicates the voice of the community. Allow the community to vote on spending money for this book, see what they say. School districts have gained too much power over decisions regarding our children. The parent's voice is being negated. If a parent wants to "shelter” their own children, that is their right as a parent. I am also very tired of hearing that parents need to leave these decisions to the "professional". I am a professional and a parent, and i believe the parent has final say over any school district. The so called professionals had made many poor choices for my kids. School boards were established that that the community would have a say in how their kids are being educated. We are reversing the roles, teachers playing the role as caregiver and parents re teaching at home, with hours of homework because the kids are being pulled out of core classes for social engineering assemblies. Now they want to introduce social engineering into curriculum.
Ronnie DelBacco April 03, 2012 at 01:19 PM
J. Drew, "banning books" is actually done by the administration when they "select" materials for the curriculum. The process is actually called "weeding", no pun intended. Droopy, I love Glenn's books, but I would never suggest even his books for classroom use. My favorite author is Ann Coulter, but her books are also inappropriate for the classroom. Let's not stray TOO far from educational literature regardless of the course and class level. Anyone can hit the library or book store to expand his or her personal reading. The school district can use universal, A-political, non-fiction for almost all educational purposes in k-12. I would suggest a book like "The Summer of 1776" in place of N&D. No illegal drugs, No religious belittling, just good old fashioned constitution building. And imagine the added benefit of a history lesson as an aside to English. Barb, Hooray for engaged parents! Thank you.
Sue Corbett April 03, 2012 at 06:24 PM
John Geeting writes: "I also think the idea of parents trying to impose their political views on school curriculum should be out of bounds. Curriculum decisions should be left to professional educators, not parents or politicians." If curriculum decisions were meant to be left to professional educators alone then we wouldn't have Policy 109, Citizens Request For Reconsideration of a Work. The fact is that not only parents but our elected school board directors are also involved. They have a sworn obligation to review the curriculum and not just be a rubber stamp on the decisions of the school administration. I'd also like to add that the first step towards indoctrination of our children by our government (yes, public schools are government schools) is to separate the parents from the education of their own children.
J. Drew Stefancin April 03, 2012 at 08:19 PM
"My favorite author is Ann Coulter." Love that. I feel like we just won.
Hank Reardon April 03, 2012 at 10:13 PM
So the "rhetorical devices" employed by popular chattering heads like Ehrenreich and Glenn Beck compare favorably with Bacon, Hobbes or Milton? Yeah, I'd say you should have taken your education more seriously. Hank
Hank Reardon April 03, 2012 at 10:36 PM
I gather from the sophomoric pose in your photo that you are one of the student victims of this baby-boomer imposed curriculum. At your age, you're nothing more than an ignoramus with potential, just as I was at eighteen. So wise up kid - nobody really cares about your opinion about english literature, or any other subject.
Christina Georgiou April 04, 2012 at 02:17 AM
(The Summer of) "1776"? As in, the Broadway play and then a movie? Surely you jest. If you mean another piece, it appears you are mistaken about the name, as there is NO book in the ISBN database, nor Google books, nor Amazon with that exact title, either in or out of print. I did several searches to be sure. If you do mean the script for the play or movie, I can't imagine too many worse choices, for either an English or a history class. It's rather far from the truth of the time, which was written about extensively by the people who were actually there, (though few ever bother to read them). Many more people seem to want to read rewritten histories about what the founding fathers said and did that match their preconceived notions to justify their political belief systems (with the intent of imposing them on their neighbors), rather than the somewhat inconvenient truths published by the actual participants. Additionally, I don't remember anything about that "1776" that recommends it for literary value. From someone who has spent more than two decades as a student and re-enactor of Revolutionary War era history, "Common Sense" by Thomas Paine, an actual piece of historical literature and best-selling book of its time, would be a far better choice, if indeed imparting the history of our nation and the values and morals upon which it was founded is your goal. However, I am becoming more & more convinced by your posts, that isn't your actual intent. At all.
Ronnie DelBacco April 04, 2012 at 01:41 PM
Christina, "The Summer of 1787". Sorry. Many dates running through my head right now. I'm currently reading up on George Washington and the events are jumping around. 1787.
Ronnie DelBacco April 04, 2012 at 01:46 PM
PS - I agree that Common Sense" by Thomas Paine would be a great substitution.


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