The Overdose


by Christopher Paslay

The following memoir was cut from the final version of The Village Proposal: Education as a Shared Responsibility.  The book, which is part memoir, part education commentary, will be published by Rowman & Littlefield this September. (Note: Names have been changed to protect privacy.)

In November of 1998, I learned that one of my students was living with his father in the apartment below mine.  I was in the lobby of the building getting my mail one Saturday afternoon when I glanced up and saw Kevin, a boy in my sixth period class, carrying his bicycle down the steps.  We made eye contact but neither of us said anything.  I stood there, holding my mailbox key in my hand, not sure how to react.  I wasn’t proud to be living in this particular apartment complex, so the first thing I felt was embarrassment.  I’d moved in the first of the month, not even two weeks before, because the college buddy I was rooming with in my old apartment had gotten a new job and relocated.  I couldn’t afford the rent on my own so I was forced to move.

Kevin turned and disappeared out the front door with his bike under his arm.  I don’t believe this, I thought, wanting to hide.  I was on the first month of a one year lease and already I knew I’d made a mistake, that I’d made my decision in haste.  Sure, my new apartment was cheap, but money wasn’t everything.  The complex was cramped and musty, and the tenants were mainly elderly people on fixed incomes.  And the place smelled.  Not all the time, but once or twice a week an odor came from the basement that I figured was a bad sewer line.  It was totally disgusting.  I called maintenance and complained, but nothing was done.                 

The place also had roaches.  I didn’t see any for the first two weeks, so when I was unloading groceries from my car one day in the parking lot and my neighbor asked me about them, I didn’t know what he was talking about. 

“Have you seen the roaches?” he said to me.  The man’s name was Bruce, and he happened to be the father of my student, Kevin, but at the time I didn’t know this.  He lived in the apartment right below mine.   

“Roaches?” I said.

“Yeah, this place’s loaded with them.  You’ll see ‘em sooner or later, believe me.”  He was standing on the front steps smoking a cigarette and he flicked an ash.  “So how do you like the place?”

“It’s fine,” I said, not wanting to offend him. 

“It’s a shit hole,” he said, “but it’s cheap.  You won’t find any place cheaper in the entire Northeast.”

It was true.  I’d shopped around for two whole weeks and this place had the lowest rent by far.  At the time, it was $375 a month for a one bedroom. 

“Okay, so take it easy now,” Bruce said, tossed his cigarette in the grass and went inside. 

I brought my groceries up to my apartment on the third floor and put them on the counter in the kitchen.  As I was putting them away, to my horror, I saw a big fat black roach crawl across the cabinet.  For a moment I felt panicky, like my entire life was falling apart right in front of my eyes.  How was I going to live like this for another eleven months?  How was I going to do it?

Get a grip, I said to myself, standing in the middle of the shoebox-sized kitchen and staring into space.  It’s no big deal.  It’s all how you look at it.  Anyway, what are your options?  Move somewhere else?  You can’t, you signed a one year lease.  Are you going to call mom and dad to come and help you?  Forget that, you need to become a man.  So you’d better suck it up there, Christopher.  You’d better suck it up and stay strong.

I calmed down a bit.  I was only 26 at the time, so I had thick skin.  At college I’d lived in fraternity houses almost as bad, so I knew how to make due.  The whole situation was a test, like my first year freshmen students, and I was going to pass it.  I’d get tough and stay focused.  Put my nose to the grindstone.  If one of my students could live here, so could I. 

I put away the groceries and made my dinner.

*          *          *

By the end of the month, I’d settled in.  I paid an exterminator to bug bomb the place so the roach problem went away for a while.  Every so often I’d run into Kevin, but these situations were awkward so we never had much to say to each other. 

Then, out of nowhere, tragedy struck.  It was a Saturday night around midnight, and I was sitting in my living room playing with the new iMac computer I recently purchased, checking out that new phenomenon called the “internet”.  I was on a chat-room website writing back-and-forth with a woman who claimed to be single and an elementary school teacher from Tennessee, when I heard screaming coming from the apartment below me.  My adrenaline started pumping immediately, and I turned from my computer to stop and listen more closely.  Then I heard the sound again, what I thought was screaming.  Or was it someone laughing and horsing around? 

It stopped so I went back to talking with the woman on-line.  We began flirting, and the woman invited me into another chat-room that was for “adults only”.  Before I could decide how to respond, I heard a loud crash below me, making the apartment shake.  I ran and looked out the window.  Nothing was out there.  I walked back to my computer and felt more thumping and banging below.  I began to get scared.  Something didn’t feel right and I wondered if I should call the police. 

I didn’t.  Instead I explained to the woman on-line what was happening and asked what she thought I should do about it.  Before she could answer I heard glass shattering.  It was extremely loud and there was no mistaking it.  I picked up the phone to call the police but then heard a siren outside and saw flashing red lights reflecting off my apartment walls.  I ran to the window and saw an ambulance pulling in front of the apartment building. 

I hung up the phone.  Someone had already made the call.  Freaked out, I signed-off with the woman on the internet and went to bed.  It took me an hour to fall asleep.  The next morning I got up and went to the gym.  When I got outside I saw the remains of some broken glass on the sidewalk, and a block of cardboard in the window of the apartment below me—the apartment Kevin lived in with his father.  This freaked me out even more.  What the hell happened last night?

When I got back from the gym, on the way up the steps to my apartment, I ran into a group of people on the second floor.  They were coming out of the unit Kevin lived in. 

“What happened last night?” I asked one of them.

“Bruce passed away,” a man told me.  He shut the apartment door, locked it, and walked passed me.  “Excuse me,” he said.

He’s dead? I thought, stunned.  My worst fears had come true.  As I lay awake the night before my mind came up with all kinds of crazy scenarios—murder being one of them—but I never thought it would be true.  That’s if he were murdered; I still didn’t know the details. 

The whole incident ate at me for days.  Freaked the shit out of me.  Kevin was absent from school but I’d heard nothing official about his father, not from the principal, not from the counselor.  I was too spooked to ask. 

Then one day I got my answer.  About a week after the tragedy I came home from school and parked my car in the lot behind the apartment.  As I got out of my car I saw Kevin with another one of my freshmen students named Joe.  They were both on bicycles, cruising around the parking lot.

“Hey Mr. Paslay,” Joe called to me.  They rode over to me and stopped.  I waved to them, and remember staring at Kevin curiously, wondering what a teen who just lost his dad would look like; I know if I lost my father at age 14 I would have been a traumatized wreck.  But Kevin didn’t look any different than he always did. 

“You live here?” Joe asked me. 

“Yeah,” I said, embarrassed.

Joe nodded.  “That’s cool.” He could sense my unease.  “You don’t have to worry, Mr. Paslay, we won’t say anything.  We won’t tell anybody where you live.”

“Okay,” I said.

“Did you see the ambulance here last Saturday night?” Kevin spoke up.

I told him I had.

“Well that was for my dad,” he said.  “He overdosed.  I came home that night and found him.” 

“I’m sorry,” I said, floored. 

“It’s okay.  I’m probably going to go to live with my mom in New Jersey.  I might be transferring out of Swenson soon.”  Kevin popped a wheelie.  “You ready Joe?”

“Yeah, I’m ready.”  Joe waved.  “See you Mr. Paslay.”

“Bye,” I said.

The two rode away.  

A month later, after Kevin moved to Jersey with his mom, Joe told me the details from the night Kevin’s dad died.  He said Kevin came home around midnight, an hour past his curfew, and found his father hunched over the dining room table with a needle in his arm.  He knew he was dead because he had turned blue.  After Kevin called 911, he lost his temper and started screaming and smashing things in the house.

“Oh my God,” I said to Joe.

But the tragedy didn’t end there.  A year later, when I asked Joe how Kevin was doing with his mom in Jersey, Joe would inform me that Kevin had been killed riding a dirt bike on a back road in Toms River.

Tough Love

by Christopher Paslay

The following memoir was cut from the final version of The Village Proposal: Education as a Shared Responsibility.  The book, which is part memoir, part education commentary, will be published by Rowman & Littlefield this September.     

I’ve met teachers over the years who don’t believe in an overabundance of structure.  They feel too much emphasis on rules and discipline makes things ridged and stifles learning and creativity.  Personally, I disagree.  It’s been my experience that students crave discipline, especially the ones that have chaos in their lives.  If you put up a fence in the backyard, a kid doesn’t have to think about the boundaries anymore, he can run free within the limits.  Without a fence, a kid might forget himself and get hurt.  Wander off and get lost, fall down a well, get hit by a car.

Growing up, I knew all about fences.  I went to 12 years of Catholic school.  In sixth grade, during the 1983-84 school year, I had a nun for a teacher named Sister Dominica.  She was about 70 years old at the time, which meant she had cultivated her teaching and disciplinary techniques in the 1940’s and 50’s, a time when Catholic school nuns were known for outrageous behavior, like closing a door on a student’s head or slapping him smartly across the face.  I had a run-in with Sister Dominica during the first quarter of the school year.  Apparently, she considered me to be what she called an R.C.I.—a person who was rude, crude and ignorant.  She even had me recite this back to her.  She’d say, Mr. Paslay, what are you?  And I’d have to say, Rude, crude and ignorant, Sister Dominica.  In reality, I was just an 11-year-old boy who was a bit silly and hyperactive. 

I hung around with two other boys who were silly and hyperactive as well.  In class we talked too much and weren’t as respectful as we should have been.  When Sister Dominica told us to jump, we hesitated—and ripped the occasional fart—before we asked how high.  Of course, this didn’t sit well with this old school nun who in her heyday ate elementary school children for dinner. 

So in the beginning of November, when report cards were issued during parent teacher conferences, Sister Dominica met with my mother in her classroom and tore me a new asshole; thankfully I wasn’t there to see it.  Sister Dominica carefully articulated my disrespectful behavior—the fact that I would fart in class and not even say excuse me.  She went into detail about my silliness and tom-foolery, my propensity to distract other students and not always follow directions.  She said this and a half-dozen other things that horrified my mother.  She also noted that I’d received two C’s on my report card—in spelling and grammar, ironically enough.  In 10 minutes Sister Dominica got two months frustration off her big-bosomed chest.     

After the conference was over, my mother left the classroom and to her embarrassment walked out into the hallway where she was greeted by the stares of all the other mothers who’d overheard the entire episode while waiting their turn.   

My mother was fuming. 

I was playing football with some friends on the front lawn of our house when she pulled up in the car after the conference. 

“You’re in big trouble, buster,” she said to me, got out of the car and slammed the door.  My friends snickered over the word buster, but when she gave them a scolding look they took the football and left.  My mom was so angry that she had trouble getting the key in the front door. 

“Get inside,” she said.  “When dad gets home, you’re going to get a beating.”  I asked why, and then she recapped the whole incident—how Sister Dominica said I was misbehaving and screwing around in class, not following directions, acting like a real jackass. 

“And the worst part,” my mother said, “was that you embarrassed me!  All the other mothers were waiting in the hall and overhead everything!”

When my father got home there was a gigantic blowout.  My parents lectured me for a half an hour about respecting the teacher and following the rules, and informed me that I wasn’t allowed out the following weekend. 

“And no television, either,” they said.

As it turned out, this wasn’t enough to get through my thick head.  The next morning, when I was getting ready for school, I started arguing in the kitchen with my mom about school work and about the things we talked about the afternoon before.  This meant only one thing: it was time for a spanking.

My father stormed downstairs, anger in his eyes, wrinkles forming on his forehead.  “Go upstairs.  You’re getting a beating.”

“But dad—”

 “Go upstairs now!” 

I knew the drill.  I went up to my bedroom, removed my pants and underwear, and lay down on my stomach on my bed.  Several minutes later my father came into the room, belt in hand, and proceeded to whip my backside, hard, three times.  He left three welts that would fade within the hour, but it hurt like hell and I cried at the top of my lungs.  Spankings were agonizing and put the fear of God into me, which is why my father only used them as a last resort in very serious situations.        

Afterwards, it was time to go to school.  My father dropped me off like he always did. 

“Chris,” he said to me before I got out of the car, reaching over and putting his hand on my shoulder, “I hope you know that me and mom love you.  We only do this because we care, and want to see you become a good person.  Do you understand this?”

“Yes,” I said to him, and sniffled. 

My father hugged me and I went inside to school.  I went through the normal morning routine in Sister Dominica’s class, diagramming sentences, defining vocabulary words, still shaken from the spanking.  At one point I started quietly crying again, ducking down behind the boy in front of me so no one would notice.  Sister Dominica came over several times to give me some Kleenex, revealing a rare soft spot in her heart, and this simple act changed our relationship profoundly.  She was impressed I was taking my medicine like a man, and looking back it’s clear she was struggling with something close to guilt.  Had she overreacted with my mother? she wondered.  Maybe

But now I was awakeAware.  My head had been officially removed from my ass.  I eventually became Sister Dominica’s favorite student.  She was able to help me channel my energy into my class work, and I finished the sixth grade with straight A’s.  My behavior grade went from a U (unsatisfactory) to an O (outstanding). 

Did I believe in fences?  Boundaries?  Rules?  Most definitely.  As long as they were reasonable and anchored in love.

Game Maker Should Pull the Plug on ‘School Shooter’ Video Game

by Christopher Paslay

Disgruntled teenagers who fantasize about shooting their classmates need not worry about increased security in America’s public schools.  A new video game, “School Shooter: North American Tour 2012,” provides adolescents with all the opportunity to gun down teachers and students in the comfort of their own homes.

The video game, developed by Checkerboarded Studios, allows players to arm themselves with the same weapons used by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the teen duo who killed 13 people at Columbine High School in 1999, and Seung-Hui Cho, the college undergraduate who murdered 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007., the website for Checkerboarded Studios, explains that “you play as a disgruntled student fed up with something or other (We’re not exactly sure), who after researching multiple school shooting martyrs, decides to become the best school shooter ever.”

Players of “School Shooter” not only score points by blasting teachers and classmates full of holes in simulated school settings, but are given the option of committing suicide at the end of each level.

The video game is not without its critics.  Pennsylvania state Rep. Lawrence Curry has objected to the video game’s content, as has Cornwall-Lebanon School District Superintendent Joe Kristobak.   

As a high school teacher, I too am taken aback by the game’s concept.  Although supporters of such games insist they are protected by the First Amendment, this does not stop them from having a negative impact on education.  Research continues to show that violent video games not only contribute to an increase in violent behavior, but also shorten attentions spans.        

Worse still, they desensitize children to murder and death, and even help them cultivate a healthy taste for it.  My students’ fascination with blood and guts at times can be quite troubling.  This fascination is not limited to video games, of course.  It stretches into the realm of music, film, television, and the internet.           

Over the years, I’ve heard kids in my homeroom passionately discuss the scene in the film American History X where the skinhead makes the black guy bite down on the curb and then stomps on the back of his head, killing him (this, by the way, has become known in the urban lexicon as a curb stomp). 

I’ve heard them proudly recite the lyrics to their favorite songs that talk about killing someone or smashing-in their face with the butt of a pistol because they didn’t act right.  I’ve seen them huddle together in their desks and talk about the crazy internet sites they visit, the ones that show actual footage of real war, real murder, real suicides.

In light of the fascination young people have with violence in the 21st century, how should schools proceed with education?  How do teachers compete with the adrenaline rush of blood and guts and death when it comes to classroom instruction?  How do they continue to get on a student’s radar?

This is a dilemma I’ve recently faced.  Over the years, lessons of mine that were once spicy and provocative have slowly become mundane. 

Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 film Romeo + Juliet is a perfect example.  Ten years ago, my students sat captivated by the opening scene, which depicted a full scale gun battle at a gas station between the Motagues and the Capulets.  Today when I show the film to my freshmen, too often they are less than enthused.

This lack of enthusiasm carries over to the literature in our textbooks.  There’s only so much I can do to make Henry David Thoreau’s 1849 essay “Civil Disobedience,” which is part of the Philadelphia School District’s 2010-11 eleventh grade curriculum, fun and interesting.  There’s only so much I can do to get 16 year old inner-city teenagers excited about The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas, even when I focus on the bloody fist fight between Douglas and Mr. Covey, the slave master.

And video games like “School Shooter” are not helping matters.  Checkerboarded Studios should consider pulling the plug on the project, if not out of respect for the victims of the Columbine and Virginia Tech massacres, than out of respect for public education.

Inquirer Writer Kristen Graham Blogs About My Glenn Beck Experience

“Christopher Paslay, a teacher at Swenson Arts and Technology High in Northeast Philadelphia, recently appeared on a Glenn Beck show about “teachers who love their jobs but are frustrated with the education system.”  (In my experience, that describes a good percentage of all teachers, no?)

Paslay describes himself as someone who agrees with much of what Beck believes, though he diverges from Beck on some educational issues.  (“Glenn, like most journalists and talking-heads, has a more superficial understanding of public schools…”, Paslay wrote.) Hmmm…”

To read Kristen’s entire blog post, please click here

Thank you for reading.

Christopher Paslay

My Experience on the Glenn Beck Show

by Christopher Paslay

When it comes to Glenn Beck, adjectives like “kook,” “nut-job,” and “right-wing radical” have a tendency to get thrown around.  At least these descriptors are used in more liberal circles—places like Philadelphia where 85 percent of the population is registered democrat.

My colleagues at Swenson Arts and Technology High School have used similar terms to describe Mr. Beck, so when I told them that I was going to be on the Glenn Beck show on Friday, May 6th, I received mixed reactions (I’ll get to my experience on the show in a moment). 

Personally, I am a fan of Glenn Beck.  Although I disagree with some of his views on education (Glenn, like most journalists and talking-heads, has a more superficial understanding of public schools), I do agree with much of what he preaches otherwise—that our country must rediscover its traditional values; that personal responsibility is the key to change; that too much reliance on government and social programs is killing America’s entrepreneurial spirit; that both the Republicans and Democrats are corrupt; and that in order to restore honor in our country we must become more principle-centered.

Interestingly, there are many people (like my mother and father) who are fans of Glenn Beck as well.  His show has dominated its time slot for nearly two years, coming in at #1 on the Neilson Ratings for most of that time and never falling below #3; for the first three months of 2011, the Glenn Beck show had an audience of almost 2 million viewers. 

So he has a sizable following.  And the core of this following is made up of well-educated, well-informed people such as my parents and myself, people with diverse experiences and opinions; we’re hardly the right-wing radical Neanderthal “nut-jobs” we’re made out to be (to those name-callers who try to pigeon-hole Beck and his supporters I offer this challenge: watch his show every day for one week and then you can sling your mud.  I mean really watch the show, watch and listen and try to see all sides of the issue).

Now back to my experience on Beck’s show.  The theme of the show was “teachers who love their jobs but are frustrated with the education system.”  It was an audience-participation show that featured 40 teachers from the tri-state area, myself and my father (who taught 37 years in the Philadelphia School District) included. 

Before the show was taped we were each given a questionnaire to complete.  It asked us, among other things, to describe the things about education that frustrated us.  It also asked our opinions about teachers’ unions, and directed us to pose questions to Glenn Beck himself. 

Here were two of my responses. 

Concerning my frustration, I wrote: Education is one of the few professions in America in which policies are written and decisions are made by governing bodies outside the field. Doctors, lawyers, and engineers all govern themselves. Their panels and boards of directors are made up of other doctors, lawyers, and engineers. Not teachers, though. Politicians make the decisions when it comes to education in K-12 schools. So do researchers, think tanks, and lobbyists. Does it matter that most of these people have little to no experience teaching in a K-12 classroom? No, because they have the data and the power.   

When it came to teachers’ unions, I wrote: Teachers unions, like everything, have pros and cons.  The pros are that they protect the rights of workers and ensure teachers don’t get exploited or taken advantage of by school administrators or politicians (which was the case many years ago).  Another positive is that they serve as a teacher’s voice—something that isn’t given much value in American society.  On the other hand, in an effort to protect rights and maintain solidarity, unions do in some cases allow bad teachers to keep their jobs.  Also, they are too heavily rooted in politics.  Teachers need unions that police themselves and are more balanced politically.

When the show began (you can watch the show below), Glenn listed our concerns and frustrations with education.  Some of them were:

  • eliminate teachers’ tenure
  • teachers unions equal political machines
  • frustration with the NEA
  • huge retirement packages
  • teachers pensions are a problem

I must admit my gut reaction to this was anger; I felt like I’d been duped.  Which teacher in the audience, I wondered, wanted tenure eliminated?  Which teacher didn’t want the pension they’d been paying into their whole career?  Which teacher wanted no union representation? 

At this point I felt that Glenn and his producers had spun a few things, to put it lightly.  Our supposed “frustrations” sounded too scripted, too much like Glenn’s preset agenda.  In fact, by the end of the show, after 40 minutes of a town-hall style discussion, I felt like the whole thing was a bait-and-switch; I left the studio more frustrated than ever. 

That was my initial perception.  The funny thing about perceptions, however, is that they are not always accurate. 

After watching the show air Friday at 5:00 pm, (after a good night’s sleep to clear my head) my overall opinion changed.  Although Glenn did steer the conversation towards promoting school vouchers and reeling-in out-of-control unions, he did keep an open mind.  In fact, he both welcomed and respected the push-back he received from many teachers in the audience, myself included. 

In retrospect, I thought the show ended up being pretty well balanced.  Even Glenn himself admitted that he supported unions (and that his mother-in-law marched with Jesse Jackson).  It was the abuse of power and corruption, he noted, that he stood against, a point I must admit is valid. 

In the end, my experience on Glenn Beck was a positive one.  I was happy to have a discussion with such an influencial man, and to represent the concerns and issues of teachers from Philadelphia as well as the rest of America.             

Please click on the video below to watch the entire episode, commercial free (my father’s comment comes at 11:58 of the tape, and my two comments come at 13:15 and 25:58).

Why Renaming a ‘Dropout’ a ‘Pushout’ Will Save No One

by Christopher Paslay

Recently, there has been a grassroots movement by progressives in education to rename a school “dropout” a “pushout.”  Groups such as Youth United for Change, the Philadelphia Public School Notebook, and most recently the blog Voice of Philadelphia, have all been throwing around the term “pushout” with the clear purpose of hoping it will catch hold and grow roots in the world of education as well as the popular culture; tragically, it appears the term has started to take root, as is evidenced by its frequent mention in the media and on the internet (google the term “pushout” and you can see for yourself).

A closer look at the two terms reveals that although their denotation is the same—they both define children who leave school and fail to graduate—their connotations are quite different.  A dropout connotes an individual who knowingly quits school of his own freewill and accord.  A pushout, on the other hand, defines someone who is forced out of school by forces beyond their control.  More simply put, dropouts are drivers while pushouts are passengers; the latter is active, the former is passive.          

There are several reasons why progressives are fighting to rename a dropout a pushout.  The most obvious is to bring about school reform—to blame poor graduation rates on schools in an effort to improve them.  This indeed has merit.  In the 21st century, no student can afford to be left behind without a solid education. 

To quote Arthur Levine, former president of Teachers College at Columbia University, in his 2006 report, Educating School Teachers, “The fact that all students are expected to achieve these outcomes means that drop-outs, once viewed as the cost of doing business in schools, can no longer be tolerated. The low skilled jobs once available to them have moved abroad. So teachers must now be able to educate every child in the class to achieve the same learning outcomes at a time in which the student body has changed economically, racially, geographically, linguistically, and academically.”

In addition to reforming schools, however, progressives have other reasons for renaming dropouts pushouts.  At the heart of the movement is the notion of victimhood and the liberal left’s obsession with it.  Put another way, coining a dropout a pushout fits their classic mode of operandi: the existence of oppressors and oppressed.  It is within this structure that social responsibility can be promoted over personal responsibility, that children can be programmed to be lifelong passengers who are always acted upon rather than drivers who do the acting; this in turn translates to their reliance on social programs as opposed to private enterprise.

This is a great philosophy if you believe in socialism and government regulation over capitalism and competition.  The only problem is, of course, is that teaching children that they are victims is doing nothing to empower them to take control of their educations; the fact that a large graduation gap between urban and suburban students exists is proof that preaching victimhood is not the answer.

Instead of teaching students to blame their failures on the system, education advocates should be encouraging children to make intrinsic paradigm shifts that will help them live principle-centered lives that will keep them on the path to graduation; they must be taught change starts from within.

The lessons taught in Bill Cosby’s 2007 book, Come on People: On the Path from Victims to Victors would be a great place to start.  In it Cosby and his longtime friend Dr. Alvin F. Poussaint discuss ways families and children can turn around their lives and make the most of their educations. 

With subchapters named “Acknowledge the problem,” “Face the Facts,” “Tone Down the Culture,” “Give Fatherhood a Second Chance,” “Reject Victimhood,” “Replace Victimhood with Neighborhood,” “Talk to the Police,” “Turn Off the TV,” “Back Off the Rap,” “Respect Our Elders,” “Overcome the Past,” “Lose the Guns and the Rage,” “Get All the School You Can Get,” “Help the Poor Help Themselves,” “Take Care of Our Own,” and “Break the Chains,” among many others, the book replaces excuses with traditional values that urban youth can use to stay in school and remain on the path to achieving a better quality of life.        

Renaming a dropout a pushout will save no one.  In the end, the only viable way for a student to get an education is for him or her to actively pursue one.