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Tompkins Cortland Community College Professor Honored for Book on High School Dropouts

June 14, 2013

A new book authored by Tompkins Cortland Community College professor Jeanne Cameron has won two national awards. Canaries Reflect on the Mine: Dropouts’ Stories of Schooling has won the 2013 Outstanding Publication Award from the Narrative Research Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association and the 2013 Book Award of The Society of Professors of Education.

Canaries Reflect on the Mine: Dropouts’ Stories of Schooling is about high school dropouts from the Cortland City School District, based on interviews with 12 such dropouts. Cameron, a two-time SUNY Chancellor’s Award-winning sociology professor, was inspired to research this topic based on personal experience. “Two of my son’s friends dropped out of school,” she said. “These two didn’t fit the stereotype of a high school dropout, and I became interested in what would cause kids that aren’t what we traditionally consider ‘at risk’ to drop out.”

Cameron began working on the project in 2008, and used a sabbatical from the College in 2009 to do in-depth follow ups with seven of the original 12 young people. The stories of those seven individuals became the heart of the book.

“I found themes that were consistent with each of the young people,” said Cameron, noting each felt like they weren’t known well by the people at the school and that certain categories of students were treated differently. She said they also did not feel any meaningful purpose to going to school. “They weren’t interested in what they were required to learn and didn’t see a use for what they were being taught. They felt like school was waste of time.”

Interestingly, these same themes were shared by students Cameron spoke to who completed their high school degrees. “We shouldn’t just be worried about dropouts,” Cameron said. “High school graduates are also getting short changed, and the problems identified are in no way unique to Cortland High School. They are a result of ‘reforms’ that have mandated a one-size-fits-all educational experience and that have robbed teachers and administrators of the flexibility needed to be responsive to individual students.”

Canaries Reflect on the Mine: Dropouts’ Stories of Schooling is written in a conversational style designed for a wide audience. It’s published by Information Age Publishing, and the cover was designed by John Sinsabaugh, a graduate of Tompkins Cortland’s graphic design program.

The book is available through Amazon.

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