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Dave Killion — December 18, 2010

If you are like most people, you probably spend a lot of time wondering, “What do the Victoria Libertarian Book Club members read other than the group-selected books?”  Well, brace yourself, because you’re about to find out –

Ben Chavis, a Native American Lumbee, takes over a failing charter school in Oakland, California and uses a combination of humiliation, cash rewards, punishment, and praise to turn the school into a paragon.  Between explaining the principles upon which the school is run, the book recounts the early days of Chavis’ efforts to repair the school’s physical and academic structure, as well as memories from a childhood as impoverished and violent as any that his students face.  Having succeeded despite his ethnicity and background, he has no tolerance for excuses, and runs a program heavy on discipline, strong academic fundamentals, hard work, and good attendance.  His program has been successfully adopted in other schools, and holds great promise for struggling inner-city schools.

Having read Barbara Erenreich’s Nickel and Dimed, young Adam Shepard conceived a project: having recently completed university, he will head for randomly-selected Charleston, South Carolina.  With only a gym bag, a tarp, a sleeping bag, $25, and the clothes he is wearing, he will attempt to acquire a working vehicle, a furnished apartment, and $2500 in savings within a year.  His story provides an interesting look at the conditions under which the impoverished labour, detailing not only the challenges but also the opportunities and the assistance available.  Applying for work and representing himself as nothing more than a high school graduate, Shepard gives a first-hand demonstration that those who claim poor Americans can no longer get ahead have, at the very least, overstated their case.  His story reminds us of the values of thrift, hard work, self-discipline, and the worth of delayed gratification.

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