One heroic schoolteacher has saved hundreds of lives with unconditional love and zero tolerance for rule-breakers.
His students are the worst of the worst—drug addicts, gang members, and violent criminal offenders. They have flunked out or been thrown out of every other school they’ve attended. They may be the children of addicts, of abusers, or even of good parents, but they have one thing in common: they have been rejected by everyone except Paul White. With ten simple rules, he has helped hundreds of kids turn their lives around.
“I can’t remember when I’ve been this happy. Since I came here I’m getting right with my family and friends, I’m off the drugs and staying out of trouble. I’m doing really well in school and I’ve got a job.” —Kathy, fifteen, West Valley student, former crystal meth user
“He never gives up on you.” —Roger, seventeen
Among students, they’re the worst of the worst: chronic truants, drunks, drug addicts, even violent criminals. Some haven’t been to school for months, even years. Some have spent a year or more locked up for gang-related offenses and felony assaults. All of them, it seems, are on the short list of life’s early losers.
Enter Paul White, the teacher whose combination of unconditional love and unbreakable rules has changed, and sometimes saved, the lives of the most troubled students in Detroit, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Los Angeles. When they walk through the door of his one-room high school, the West Valley Leadership Academy in Canoga Park, California, White treats them like his own children: loving them, protecting them, and requiring them to become men and women of moral courage, integrity, and high achievement.
Sometimes it only takes one person to turn the tide. During his twenty-five-year career as a teacher, Paul White has saved hundreds of students from falling through the cracks. Veritable miracles have taken place in his classroom:
?The reading skills of a fourteen-year-old recovering crystal meth addict climbed from a seventh- to a tenth-grade level in six months. She finished high school at age sixteen and went on to complete a nursing program.
A fifteen-year-old girl was flunking out of school—and so violent that the safety of the people around her couldn’t be guaranteed. After joining Paul’s class, she not only brought her grades up enough to graduate from high school at sixteen, but has gone on to finish several semesters at a local community college.
A seventeen-year-old boy who had been a neo-Nazi asked a Holocaust survivor to forgive him for his disrespectful behavior.
White’s Rules is a lesson to parents and educators who can’t control their kids or their classrooms. For Americans who truly want to stop the violence, end the apathy, and improve academic performance, White poses a challenge: Try his rules. The ten-rule list that he developed covers everything from character values to schoolwork, from getting off drugs to learning personal finance skills. By enforcing these rules, parents and educators can attack both the causes and the effects of the crisis in our schools. This is the moving story of how the program evolved and what we can all do to save our youth, one kid at a time.
Paul has cared deeply about children who many of us have forgotten or given up on. The Good Shepherd would be pleased with the work in Paul’s school, and I hope that our nation and our world can learn much from it. We need to learn the value of life, and one way to begin our lesson is by reading this wonderfully simple yet profoundly straightforward book.
—The Honorable Jack Kemp, former U.S. Congressman, former secretary of housing and urban development, and former vice-presidential candidate
“[Teachers like White] are proving every day that even the most troubled kids can change their lives.”
—Darline Robles, superintendent of Los Angeles County’s Office of Education, from a People magazine article on Paul White
“A gripping roller-coaster ride through the lives of vulnerable kids who are careening toward self-destruction or crime. Ron Arias vividly brings to life the genius of Paul White, whose down-to-earth ‘rules’ steer his marginalized students into productive lives. This is an amazing testimony to the difference a teacher can make.”
—Margaret McNamara Pastor, Board of Directors, Reading Is Fundamental