nonfiction, reviews

Push Has Come to Shove by Dr. Steve Perry

Push Has Come to Shove: Getting Our Kids the Education They Deserve (Even if it Means Picking a Fight)

Dr. Steve Perry

288 pages

Published in 2011 by Crown Publishing

Source: Public Library

As a former teacher and now principal of the school he founded, Capital Prep Magnet School in Hartford, Connecticut, Dr. Steve Perry has a good idea of what needs to change. From the grip that teacher unions have to the need for school vouchers to how parents should audit their homes, Perry holds nothing back about all that he thinks is wrong with the public school system. Push Has Come to Shove is a must-read for parents and a book that left me taking pages of notes.

I picked this book up because Perry is a contributor on the morning show that I listen to, The Steve Harvey Morning Show. After hearing him speak a few times, Perry’s book was mentioned and I knew that it was something I wanted to read. As a mother of three kids in elementary school and caregiver to two kids in middle school, I’m the perfect audience for this book. I’m also part of that audience because after years of being dissatisfied with high school, I dropped out in my senior year. I earned my high school diploma years later before going on to college. As someone who’s always loved to learn, I understand how hard that can be when school gets in the way. I also know how rewarding school can be when you have a teacher who believes in you.

Graduation is more than just a ceremony. It’s a public declaration that my staff, my teachers, and I have done our jobs to educate. It’s my job−not the job of the student, his parents, politicians, society, or anybody else−to make sure my teachers teach him, to make sure he can read, write, and compute at a level that will allow him to go to college or work. Only after the student has demonstrated that he can meet the requirements am I authorized to present him with a high school diploma.

I love how Perry tells readers exactly what his job and all its responsibilities are throughout this book. As the principal of Capital Prep, a school that has a 100% graduation rate with all students going to a four-year college after high school, the author knows what he’s talking about. Perry walks readers through the hiring process at Capital Prep, what he’s looking for when it comes to good teachers, and why lesson plans are important. He also shows how he’s not perfect, having made plenty of mistakes when it came to hiring teachers who seem like they were right for the job. The good thing is that unlike at most schools, Perry can fire any teacher that he hires.

Perry urges parents to take no excuses from principals or teachers. “I tried” is not good enough when it comes to our children’s education. Either children learn or they don’t. There’s nothing in-between especially when Perry discusses how so many freshmen in college have to take remedial classes once they’re admitted to college or the dropout rate in communities like Hartford. The author also writes that if principals aren’t doing their jobs, then they need to be fired too along with bad teachers. If that’s not enough and schools are still failing their students, it’s time for bad schools to be closed altogether.

What I love the most about this book is all the great advice that Perry gives parents such as

  • Audit our homes to ensure that our kids know that books and educational tools are more important than Wiis and iPods
  • Figure out our parenting style and play up to our strengths
  • Meet your child’s principal and know what to look for in a leader
  • Learn how to organize with other parents to change what we hate about our schools

One of the great things about this book is that there’s this back-and-forth between readers and the author. While I agreed with most of what he said, I did disagree with a few things like the stereotype of immigrant children being such great students. Many immigrant children know the value of a good education but there’s also some who know that value but refuse to even try.

I also wished that Perry talked more about homeschooling when he’s discussing the different types of schools. He discusses charter, magnet, and traditional schools, mentions homeschooling but never really discusses it. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t have any experience in that section. I thought about homeschooling my own children in the past and I know that Carrie from Books and Movies is a homeschooling mom. This is a very minor disagreement compared to all the good that Perry writes about especially when he states repeatedly that he supports any type of school that works.

I really enjoyed this book and it’s definitely on my best of 2011 list. Whether you’re a parent or don’t have any children of your own, Push Has Come to Shove is a book that you should read. My rating: 5 out of 5 stars


12 thoughts on “Push Has Come to Shove by Dr. Steve Perry”

  1. I am constantly surprised by what passes for education in my children’s school, and have a problem when I drive by to pick them up and see clots of police officers surrounding students who should be banished from the premises for violence against other students. There is bullying, and stealing, and just general acting out all over the place, and my kids suffer for it. I definitely need to read this book. I need to make sure that my kids are getting the best education possible, even if it means being a pain in the butt. Great and very passionate review today!

  2. Sounds like an interesting book, I’m interested to see he talks about the need for vouchers – I’m always wary of that because it seems like it would make bad schools worse, and leave those who can’t afford other options with no other choice, ya know? I’ll have to check this out I think.

  3. I have this feeling that our current education process is broke or at least only catches half the kids in a productive way, but I have no idea what would work better. This topic fascinates me.

  4. This sounds like a fascinating book. Parents cannot give up until our children are educated, we need to fight for their best. I like where you wrote parents need to figure out their parenting style and play up to their strengths.

  5. I’m adding this one to my Goodreads TBR list right now. It sounds like something that I really, really would want to read. Thanks for sharing about it!

  6. I think this book covers a very important subject. Education is a lot like politics, though. There will always be people complaining about how things are done, but they are no where to be found when it comes time to fix things…

  7. This sounds like a really good book. So many things are wrong with our education system and everyone contributes to those errors (parents, educators, society, etc). If only there was a way to fix it.

  8. There is so much to change when it comes to education and so many ideas on how to do it. If only these that are well written could get to those parents and educators who really need to be inspired about what to do to start transforming education! I hope to add this to my school library.

  9. This is one I wish I would have read when my son was starting his school years. I am blessed to have had my son in a really great, private Christian school for his entire school life. That being said I have learned that I have to be very engaged and not hesitate to speak up if I see something that doesn’t seem right. I’m lucky that the teachers and staff are so helpful and responsive. I tell my son all the time how lucky he is to have had this education but of course with nothing to compare it to, he doesn’t really get it. This would make a great book gift to my niece who is just starting to think about how best to educate her two boys!

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