Dropout: How School Is Failing Our Kids (And What We Can Do About It)
One family’s story of coping after their teenage daughter drops out of school, and an examination of the public school system itself. More
One family’s story of coping after their teenage daughter drops out of school, and an examination of the public school system itself.
In the fall of 2000, while in Grade 7, Leslie Gavel’s daughter Avery began what would be a four-year disengagement from school. Avery didn’t fit the stereotype of the “dropout.” Why would a privileged, middle-class adolescent choose this path when dropping out was a social stigma and would complicate her personal life and career choices?
Leslie began to analyze the school system itself, but all of her research led not to answers but to further questions. Did school—its history, structure, practice—play any role in underachievement? Was the problem of marginal or failing grades, chronic student dissatisfaction, and disruptive classroom behaviour always the fault of the student—and, by extension, her parents—or could it be the fault of the school system itself? And did dropping out—an ultimate taboo for teenagers, along with pregnancy and drug abuse—really have to mean the end of the world for child and parent?
Told from the deeply personal perspective of a concerned parent, Dropout is a memoir about one family’s experience in the public school system. It also considers the latest research in alternative approaches to school, and offers suggestions for students who may not fit the educational mould or society’s definition of “success.”
Leslie Gavel, a former social worker, is a Calgary freelance writer. Her work has appeared in Reader’s Digest, Canadian Living, More, Today’s Parent, Avenue and several Canadian and American newspapers, and has been produced for CBC national radio. Born and raised in Regina, she has lived in Calgary for decades.
Advance praise for Dropout:
“In a courageous act of often painful self-disclosure, Leslie Gavel exposes the secret, massive and most crippling bullying that haunts Western educational systems: our abandonment and degradation of students who do not fit our perception of ‘school success.’ Like callous physicians who coldly dismiss patients who have illnesses they don't understand, our schools treat non-achievers as pariahs, as ‘lepers’ confronting us with things we'd rather not see. This bullying is even more damaging than peer abuse for struggling kids like Gavel's daughter since the devastating rejection comes not from teenaged jerks, but from admired and respected adult authorities. This brave book should be required reading for anyone who claims the title of ‘educator’ and will help parents to bind the wounds of these suffering children and nurture them back to life success and happiness." —Dr. Michael J. Bradley, author of Yes, Your Teen Is Crazy! Loving Your Kid Without Losing Your Mind
“Dropout is not only a ruthlessly honest saga of one family's conflict over school, it is also a polemic that rails against a system that cries out for fundamental reform. Through research and storytelling, Leslie Gavel shows the reader what's wrong with school as it's conducted today, which is not unlike how it was conducted one hundred years ago when the goal was to produce workers for factories who'd do as they were told. Gavel warns something must change or our children will continue to be victims of an oppressive, authoritarian institution. The author wrings practical survival lessons out of the trials her daughter and family faced. Her account will be of interest to parents and teachers who sense there's something wrong, but can't quite put their finger on it. I wish I'd read Dropout before my own kids faced off against our one-size-fits-all educational system.” —Robert W. Fuller, Ph.D., former president of Oberlin College
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