As a restorative practitioner, much of the last half of my teaching career was dedicated to making restorative justice processes accessible to my students - the students who so often really wanted to do well, who really wanted to be at school, who really wanted to experience success and be seen for their worth and contributions, but were caught in a web of odds stacked against them.
And I saw how time and time again, one foot in the suspension door often led to bodies in court schools and juvenile detention facilities.
And I witnessed how much of the school and district efforts were put toward helping the boys - like special prevention and intervention programs - and I watched as our middle school girls were so often neglected, disregarded, and left to fend for themselves. Some were passionate and energetic while others were quiet and subdued, like they were trying to hide, but all of them were struggling with the pressures of survival, having to take care of themselves and their siblings, while also trying to navigate the complications and changes puberty brought on.
Too many of my girls slept in the park or a friend’s closet. Too many of my girls were left alone to take care of their younger siblings, to figure out how to feed and care for them when there was no money for groceries or the gas/electric bills to cook the food if they had any. Too many of my girls boiled water and drank that for dinner. Too many of my girls were kicked out of their classrooms and their homes. Too many of my girls were hypersexualized by their peers, their families, their teachers and the adults in their lives. Too many of my girls were sexually abused, assaulted and raped.
So yeah, reading Pushout was a no-brainer. And as Mankaprr Contech and Melisa Harris-Perry state in the foreword:
Pushout is not sentimental. It is necessary and inspiring, infuriating and redeeming. And it is a love story.
Filled with narratives and the stories captured in Monique Morris’s research, compiled from years of interviewing girls across the country, Pushout is most definitely a love story.
This book is rich and dense, thoroughly unpacking the messy complexities of race and gender and it’s harsh impact on Black girls that lead to and fortify strategic and structured pathways that both push and pull girls out of school.
For me, there were several themes throughout the book that really resonated, that explained a lot in very clear and evidence-backed ways, and that could be mirrored and reinforced by my own teaching experiences:
All of these themes are intricately woven throughout the book, so thoroughly examined with years of research and evidenced with a national history, that I found myself constantly saying “yes”, “yup”, “that’s right”, and “holy shit” because it is all so prominently evident in our professional experiences as educators. And I had to admit to all the times I was a player in the game, too, validating systems of oppression through something as lame as a dress code.
Basically, Pushout is a must read for any educator or administrative leader, any youth influencer or youth supporter, parent or guardian. And not just if you teach or parent girls. This is a must read for anyone taking those roles for boys, too.
Why you should read this book if you haven’t already:
When you’re done reading it or if you’ve read it already, then hit me up and share with me what your big takeaways are, how you see all these things playing out in your role as an educator and/or parent, and what shifts so you see possible for the girls you serve.