Peace Corps Writers

White's Rules
at Amazon

White’s Rules
Saving Our Youth One Kid at a Time
by Paul D. White with Ron Arias (Peru 1963–64)
Morgan Road Books
March 2007
240 pages

Reviewed by Jon Ebeling (Ethiopia 1962–64)

THE ONLY DIRECT CONNECTION that White’s Rules has with Peace Corps, thisPrinter friendly version reviewer found, is with Ron Arias, who plays an unclear role in the preparation and presentation of the book. Arias is said to have assisted with “. . . format and tone. . ..” Nevertheless, it is clear from the substance of the book that the conditions confronted by the Paul White have some similarity to the types of problems sometimes faced by PCVs.
     The author has been a construction worker, but mostly a teacher, mid-level school administrator and a principal — always in schools that have a multitude of problem kids. The problems range from alcoholism, drug addiction, gang banging and general youthful disengagement with “normal” society. White is very concerned about these students and suggests that they need tough love, close controls, and those who break the rules are “dropped” from his attention.
     Based on his experiences he has developed ten constructs to apply to these types of situations
, and smiliarly has divided up White's Rules into ten chapters addressing: attendance, dressing and speaking properly, working, truthfulness, respectfulness for people and property, cleanliness and sobriety, courage, care for others, learning from life and making a difference. He presents these in an advisory manner for both parents and teachers as the solution to the problems we perceive facing the youth in the U.S. The ten rules for saving our kids represents a set of rules for teaching, but with little evidentiary back-up except for the descriptive incidents which he provides. These incidents are sometimes interesting, but from this reviewer’s view they are not capable of being generalized. He asserts:

“. . . [the] job of any teacher trying to save lost kids is to make the new way so attractive and enriching, they’re not even tempted to look back.” (p. 146)

     This is a very tall order given the social and economic structures of our dual society. The barriers between the haves and the have-nots are so wide, it is hard to believe his recommendations will have much affect on changing the characteristics of these major social problems.
Some of the incidents are quite interesting, however, and heart warming. Typically he suggests that youth should behave in a specific way, and they can be changed in that way by his efforts at “tough love” and intense help. On a descriptive level he clearly has significant experiences in working amongst cross cultural and socio-economic barriers. His experiences and his attention are on those with lower socio-economic living arrangements. He argues that parents must take control and provide positive examples for their children, along with his recommendations for behavior in classroom settings among schools for drop outs.
     White concludes his book of recommendations by suggesting that teaching is a holistic combination of academics and life experiences brought together in school environments. He states:

 “Last night’s shift at McDonald’s, a fight with a younger sister, serving food at a homeless shelter, or helping pitch tents on a class camping trip is just as relevant as every lesson, every exercise, every essay, every math problem, and every reading assignment.” (p.176)

     While these are important attributes of love and care amongst adults and youth, my view is quite different in that after teaching at a University for 32 years, I have seen the problems of youth trying to achieve clarity in writing and mathematics, and I find it difficult to understand his equations indicating that serving food is equivalent to solving a complex math problem. I would, however, recommend that those who intend to go into teaching read this book as it does provide important perspectives on one of the major social problems in our society.

After serving as a Volunteer in the first Peace Corps project in Ethiopia, Jon Ebling returned to Ethiopia as an Associate Peace Corps Director from 1967 to 1969. He earned his Ph.D. in Economic and Social Development from the University of Pittsburgh in 1974. He began teaching statistics and public finance at California State University / Chico in 1971. Having retired from the university several years ago, Jon now runs a small consulting business that focuses on survey research and economic analysis for local governments.

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