Nickel and Dimed Ten Years Later

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Christopher Carr

Christopher Carr does stuff and writes about stuff.

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  1. Avatar Elias Isquith
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    says:

    One of the more unpleasant days of my high school life was when we, in my civics class, turned to discussing Nickel and Dimed (assigned that summer as mandatory grade-wide reading). Spending the next hour and 20 minutes listening to middle and upper-middle class suburban white kids whine about how Ehrenreich whined too much was really not much of a treat. Then again, it probably was better than when my English class got into Savage Inequalities (another summer assignment), and proceeded to use the allotted time to complain that our school did not have iMacs in the library, while a neighboring public school (with a vastly less well-off population and much-lower levels of achievement) did.

    This is why I am a radical black nationalist, third world, weather underground, Bill Ayers apologist, people.Report

    • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Elias Isquith
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      says:

      However, I believe that the probably with Ehrenreich is indeed that she “whines” too much. She’s not wrong, or at least she’s mostly right, but the tone of her writing throws people off–or at least throws me off–when I would otherwise side with her. There’s too much melodrama to tell the reader that things are bad when the facts should suffice to show the reader that things are bad.

      Does the fault lie with me or with her? Mostly with me. The facts are the facts whether I find her tone congenial or not.Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Elias Isquith
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      says:

      Elias, did they give you any right-wing propaganda to balance this out? Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington, that sort of thing?

      http://www.personal.psu.edu/faculty/c/a/caw43/ENGL419/nickelcritique.htmlReport

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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        says:

        Facts are propaganda now?Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Jesse Ewiak
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          says:

          I’ll take that as a no: they taught Barbara Eisenreich but not Booker T. Washington.

          It is no wonder you feel the way you do about things. That you also assert the book as fact and not acknowledging it as opinion as well is part of our epistemological crisis.

          I’m told it’s not as bad as David Horowitz says, but I’m beginning to wonder. RufusT is the only one that gives me hope.Report

          • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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            says:

            TVD, do you deny the problems Ehrenreich identifies exist, or do you disagree with her solutions?Report

            • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Christopher Carr
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              says:

              Mr. Carr, I agree with Booker T. Washington’s solutions. As for the Eisenreich, it’s advocacy or polemic, take your pick, non-peer reviewed amateur sociology. No wonder our kids are terminally pissed off.Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                says:

                Would peer-review make it legitimate? Even in the radical leftist academy?Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Christopher Carr
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                says:

                Mr. Carr: Eisenreich’s is amateur sociology, beyond and below peer-review. I prefer Booker T. Washington if we’re to go to personal anecdote. That I was obliged to refer to his autobiography as “right-wing propaganda” illustrates the absurdity of this joust.Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                says:

                Why would you refer to Booker T.’s autobiography as “right-wing propaganda” unless you were posturing then? Also, I never figured you as a credentialing and proper-procedure pendant. Are peer-review and/or being paid for one’s efforts really essential criteria to be taken serious in your world? Why are you here then, at the League, a den of shameless amateurs, instead of over at NRO or Matt Yglesias’s digs or diligently combing the Daily Dish?

                I’ll offer that many leftists whine about poverty without offering any real workable solutions. I’ve said above that I prefer libertarian solutions. And I do. But here’s the thing. When my first daughter was born in Japan, I was working in another city and only seeing my wife on the weekends. I knew I wanted to be a part of my daughter’s life, so I left my job in that other city and started my own business. It took me nine or ten months to work up to a living wage, but during that time I benefited from some of the best public infrastructure in the world, quality health care for cheap (which was important since I am/was an asthmatic), and a farm culture which values barter. The result is that to maintain what we might agree is a “middle-class” lifestyle, it took a lot less than it does in the U.S. This was all because what people pay in taxes goes towards programs which benefit all equally, and the culture values sharing.

                On the other hand, being unemployed in the U.S., I see everyday that I am totally dependent on my upper-middle-class parents, and what work my wife and I have been able to get – translating and babysitting – comes from the Duke alumni networking group on LinkedIn and having grown up in a town full of millionaires. My kids can go to the doctor because we live in Massachusetts, but I have to borrow my parents’s or sister’s car to drive there or to any job interviews. Food is absurdly expensive, unless we’re talking about the kind of “food” that is really just heavily-processed nutrients sold in bulk and remixed spiked with salt and sugar. Knowing what I do about medical science and the epidemics of metabolic disease sweeping this broken country, I cannot, in good conscious, allow my children to eat that. I couldn’t imagine how messed up my life would be right now were I not born into relative privilege, because I see how that privilege is the only thing between me and the kind of life Ehrenreich lives in Nickel and Dimed.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Christopher Carr
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                says:

                “I don’t want to make this personal”

                Then don’t?Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                says:

                Teaching the amateur sociology and political cant of Barbara Eisenreich in high school is unprofessional and unacceptable. It is political inculcation designed not to create productive citizens, but left-leaning voters.

                As to you bringing in your autobiography, what you refuse to feed your children would sound absurd to anyone who’s genuinely hungry and is what really speaks of privilege and entitlement. As to your work situation and whatever work you might fine suitable to your station [a lawyer friend of mine delivered for Domino’s in between law firms], I don’t want this to get personal—I responded to your bleg with honest and may I say expert advice about your cover letter. It came off as long-winded and thoroughly self-centric. As I said, I don’t want to make this personal, but if you’re going to put your autobiography on the table, then come what may. You sound exactly like the type of young person and voter that I submit teaching Eisenreich in our public schools is designed to create: discontented, entitled, dismissive of everything about this country except the progressive vision of remaking it.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                says:

                Howevermuch you may not have intended it, this does come across as hypercritical in a personal way. In many ways, Christopher isn’t talking about how difficult he has it but that he considers himself fortunate to have been born into relative privilege. At least that’s how I read it.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                says:

                “Teaching the amateur sociology and political cant of Barbara Eisenreich in high school is unprofessional and unacceptable. It is political inculcation designed not to create productive citizens, but left-leaning voters.”

                Tom: I’m not challenging you so much as not sure I’m understanding you. Is it that you don’t think school kids should read something that has a political view to it? Or is it this book in particular that is out of bounds – and if so why?

                (Really not a challenge, I haven’t read N&D.)Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                says:

                RTod, I simply asked if something like Booker T. Washington’s Up From Slavery was taught as well. Here was a great man, with a vision of dignity and self-realization that was unfortunately buried by DuBois and the progressives.

                And yes, Eisenreich’s is without scholarly rigor and is not knowledge, it is anecdote and cant. It’s along the lines of the propaganda and scholarly malfeasance of the Al Gore movie, which is also stuffed down our kids’ throats.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                says:

                I have also never read Up From Slavery – but thought it was an anecdotal autobiography, not a scholarly work.

                Still, this thread and your point has me thinking…Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                says:

                TVD, I neither believe in nor participate in the radical left wing conspiracy. If anything the left is marginalized and discredited in this country far more than their counterparts on the right.

                I do however openly participate in the vast libertarian conspiracy. Have you heard of it? We want to take over the government and then leave you alone. Wakka wakka.

                I’m not really sure where your stereotype of me comes from, since I am neither a progressive nor a liberal. I actually voted for Bush in 2004. I didn’t vote in 2008. I’ll probably vote for Obama in 2012. So even though your personal attacks are not about me, I will respond to them one-by-one and as succinctly as possible.

                1. As to you bringing in your autobiography, what you refuse to feed your children would sound absurd to anyone who’s genuinely hungry and is what really speaks of privilege and entitlement.

                I don’t think eating healthy should be a luxury for the upper classes. That this makes me entitled is profoundly Orwellian.

                2. As to your work situation and whatever work you might fine suitable to your station [a lawyer friend of mine delivered for Domino’s in between law firms], I don’t want this to get personal—I responded to your bleg with honest and may I say expert advice about your cover letter. It came off as long-winded and thoroughly self-centric

                The post in question was not a bleg; it was a satire. The Center for Biomedical Science Journalism doesn’t exist. The position title Junior Digital Video Production Assistant II is quite obviously a satire, as are the phrases “duplication and distribution of internal documents”, “facilitation of delivery of caffeinated potables”, “Remote work possible 13.5% of the time.” The entire post is a work of fiction. I neglected to expressly mention this at the time, since I felt your cover letter advice was actually very good and deserved to stand on its own. And yes, the cover letter was “long-winded and thoroughly self-centric”.

                3. If you’re going to put your autobiography on the table, then come what may.

                I agree. I’m not particularly offended that you’ve attacked what you’ve imagined to be my personal character.

                4. You sound exactly like the type of young person and voter that I submit teaching Eisenreich in our public schools is designed to create: discontented, entitled, dismissive of everything about this country except the progressive vision of remaking it.

                This is just ridiculous on several levels. Are you saying that someone somewhere is conspiring to create a class of angsty youngsters in order to remake America? And that Ehrenreich is a pawn in some great ideological chess game? I’m not “discontented”. I think America is pretty fucking awesome in a lot of respects, and I’d love to participate more actively in that awesome, which is why I’m applying for jobs here. To get back to the Orwellian spin you’ve put on everything here, recognizing that everything I have right now comes from the station into which I was born makes me the opposite of “entitled”. As I’ve mentioned above and in countless threads across the League, I have no affinity for the progressive vision of remaking America. I do think the problems Ehrenreich illustrates are real problems; despite the fact that I do not share her political leanings, I’m not going to simply shout her down with love-it-or-leave-it type arguments.

                Unless you’re just trolling me, in which case, I admit, I lose.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Tom Van Dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                Um, Tom, if all it takes to get students to become little left-wing robots is to tell them true stories about how crappy life is for the working class in the country, shouldn’t that tell you conservatives needs a better prescription for said working class than, “work harder?”Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tom Van Dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                Well, Mr. Carr, I was speaking to Elias, and you inserted yrself. I gave you the courtesy of a reply; ’twas not I who trolled. Eisenreich’s work is below any scholarly standard. If such polemic is to be foisted on our children, I thought that Booker T. Washington would represent some balance, as his vision was antithetical to Eisenreich’s blaming of society or the system or whatever she’s up to. [Neither is it clear she’s even accurate, since we have plenty of programs for the working poor.]

                As for your vision of “nutrition rights” or whatever, I have difficulty squaring that with your self-appellation of “libertarian.” As for your sympathy for Eisenreich’s polemic, I would think Booker T. Washington squares much better with libertarianism as well.

                As for your cover letter parody, I see far more absurd things hereabouts and so didn’t catch the joke. I tried to reach out and help, as you have appeared to be a good fellow.

                “Conspiracy” isn’t how I’d put it, as it makes me an easy target for marginalization, but yes, I do think Eisenreich is being foisted on our kids for explicitly partisan and political purposes.

                I hope that squares us up and I look forward to future exchanges, as they have proven worthy of my time. Peace.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                says:

                Jesse, if you’re going to maintain that Eisenreich meets even minimal scholarly standards, or is anything more a left-wing polemicist, what more can I say?

                I don’t think her work meets any standard for our public high schools.

                As for the rest, the current discussion re Britain and Theodore Dalrymple is what I’m getting at and perhaps you’ll take it up there. I would not say that Dalrymple’s “Life at the Bottom” deserves a place in the schools but

                a) It belongs there as much as Eisenreich
                b) It would do a helluva lot more good.

                http://www.newcriterion.com/articles.cfm/dalrymple-derbyshire-2059Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                says:

                One of the interesting things I noticed was that the really bent stuff wasn’t in social studies, government, or economics. It was in English and Reading classes. Hey, they have to read something. Why not a tribute to Jesse Jackson, opinion pieces by Helen Thomas, or testimony after testimony of people that America has done wrong?Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                says:

                It certainly doesn’t square us up, but I’ll avoid scorching the earth. I agree that Booker T. Washington might serve as an interesting “counterpoint” to Ehrenreich and that having a high school class read Ehrenreich alone might be irresponsible teaching if the teacher presents Ehrenreich’s opinions as fact.

                The market for food is anything but free. There is widespread regulatory capture and fraud. The FDA does a half-assed job and lulls consumers into a false sense of security.Report

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