This is a non fictional report of the school systems in the state of California. Betsy Rymes voices her concerns toward the schools in the city of L.A. Many of these schools are adjacent to downtrodden drug infested neighborhoods that fail to implement and encourage academic excellence. She interviews high school drop outs and gives the readers a chance to see the mindsets of those who fail to finish their secondary education. Rhymes has a chapter entitled “dropping in”, which refers to students who quit but then returned to school after a brief hiatus. She conducts interviews from this group and questions them about why they decided to return. Rhymes attempts to know everything she can about these teenagers including their vocabulary. The “language of dropping out” is an analysis of why these students felt that they could no longer succeed in the school system. Rhymes uses the term “Reframing Dropping Out Narratives”, to signify the various stories she heard from the students who had the hardest time attending school and successfully succeding in the system. Most of the students interviewed are gang members and their government and gang names are documented in the text. The section entitled, “When Friends Aren’t Friends”, uncovers the nature of the comradship which exists in the underworld. Many gang members felt that their “friendships” were based solely on gang affiliation. Everything was for the love of the gang. There were times that affiliates had to do bad things to those who were their friends because they were told to do so by their superiors. School closure’s were common in many areas and many students were frustrated. They would come to school only to get to the door and not be able to get inside. She also talks about teaching reforms and the many ways in which society can better improve its city schools.
Rhymes reported that in the city of L.A., 25-30% of students drop out of high school. This is a major reason why Charter Schools had become so popular in the last two decades. Many people were hoping that Charter Schools could alleviate some of the problems which plagued inner city school students. Charter schools were also funded by the state and California had passed a law in the early 1990’s to open 100 charter’s. One of the goals of charter schools were to help create more educational opportunities for underserved minority students. Rhymes talks about a section in L.A. county called the Pacific Palisades. The parents who lived in this area began sending their kids to private schools once the overpopulated inner city schools started busing kids to the suburbs.
There are many reasons that kids had for dropping out; all of which do not pertain to the difficulty of academics. In a section called “Knife Story”,one student admits that a fellow student turned a knife on him because he was a member of a different gang. There was a story from another student who admitted to being stabbed in the bathroom. Many kids had reported being attacked in hallways and classrooms.
Rhymes decided to have a conversational group and the worst students participated because they could receive money for summer programs. She had seminar’s for students who dropped out as well as students who “dropped in”. She gathered her information by receiving feedback from everyone. There was one student named “Gracie” who admitted dropping out because she was a gang member but “dropped in” because she wanted to be a good example for her son. Rhymes says, “Dropping out and dropping in perspectives need not be so mutually exclusive” (91). She also had discussions with group leaders. These were usually gang members, taggers, and other students who were considered “role models” to others. So they could become affiliates, these kids had to be “jumped in” (beat visciously) before they could become gang members. They looked at their gang leaders as not only role models but father figures since many of them lacked having positive strong men at home. She was shocked to learn that many of these students thought going to jail was honorable.
Many teachers felt they had a lot in common with these students because they shared the similar ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds. However, Rhymes says that they were still worlds apart from what these students encountered on a daily basis. The most relevant issue here is that students had a difficult time distinguishing themselves as students and this is a major reason why they could so easily walk away from school. Rhymes hoped that through her seminars and conversational groups, she could change the way students viewed themselves and motivate them to finish their education.
Many students can learn from this text by realizing not only how good some of their schools may be but the despair that many students deal with (in this country) in regards to educational attainment. If they can acknowlege it, then maybe the next generation can fix the problem.