Book Talk: The Dropout: How a Lost Kid Found his Dream, with Joseph Matthews

| March 29, 2017

Joseph Matthews’ ‘The Dropout’ is written from his perspective as a teenager in jail trying to reinvent himself and gather the resources and determination to build a new life. Matthews discusses the discouragement that students of color face in the school system and how it shapes their attitude towards themselves, their future, and contributes to developing a path of self destruction.

Teachers are given the responsibility and opportunity to help a student see who they are and who they have the potential to be, how to recognize their strengths and weaknesses, how to learn from failures and how to focus on accomplishing their goals. One teacher can make all the difference. As for Matthews, being placed in the back of the classroom, rarely being called on to participate despite his enthusiasm, and eventually being moved to Special Education classes due to ‘behavioral problems’ brought him from the top of his class to the bottom. Instead of serving as a tool for growth and development, school and academia was a reminder of pain, anger, and low self esteem. Being labeled, punished and misunderstood caused Matthews to fall behind in school, and eventually these patterns contributed to a life of violence and crime.
Determined to inspire young people of color to never accept ”No you can’t” for an answer, and to use intelligence and hard work to overcome the disadvantages of a flawed system, Matthews insists that his story is not just his own, but everyone’s. He discusses the need for educators to show students what options exist and how to expand upon their passions instead of cutting down their worldview. ‘The Dropout’ is a story about how to use forgiveness,  and your dreams- even if they’re the only thing you have left- to pursue a successful life.


Joseph Mathews has conducted many professional development workshops for teachers that focus on student and family engagement. Joseph has a M.A. in Family and Community Education, and he is pursuing now a Ph.D in Interdisciplinary Studies, also at Teachers College, Columbia University.