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Learning in Public

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Learning in Public
Lessons for a Racially Divided America from My Daughter's School
by Courtney E. Martin
Pub Date 03 Aug 2021 |
 Little, Brown and Company 
 Biographies & Memoirs  |  Nonfiction (Adult)  |  Parenting & Families 



I am reviewing a copy of Learning In Public through Little Brown Company and NetGalley:



From the time the author Courtney, E Martin strapped her daughter, Maya, to her chest for long walks, she was curious about Emerson Elementary, a public school down the street from her Oakland home.   Courtney learned  that white families in their gentrifying neighborhood largely avoided Emerson Elementary a a public school down the street from her Oakland home where the majority of the school was Black and the the school was poorly related.  When Courtney asked why a journey of a thousand moral miles began.






Learning in Public is the story, not just Courtney’s journey, but a whole country’s.   Many of us have been newly awakened by the social injustices in society but unsure of how to go beyond hashtags and yard signs to be a part of transforming the country.    Courtney discovers that her public school, the foundation of our fragile democracy, is a powerful place to dig deeper. 




In this book Courtney examines her own fears, assumptions, and conversations with other moms and dads as they navigate school choice. A vivid portrait of integration’s virtues and complexities, and yes, the palpable joy of trying to live differently in a country re-making itself.



I give Learning in Public four out of five stars!


Happy Reading!
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I loved this book, it turned out to be exactly what I had hoped for and am so glad I had the opportunity to read it thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC! The author, Courtney Martin tells the story of deciding which school to enrol her oldest child, Maya, in pre-k. While some people might take this decision lightly and choose the school closest to them or the school they attended as a child, Courtney tours many schools and makes the decision with race and integration in mind. This memoir dives deep into examining the faults of the public education system, both from those working in the system, as well as the families who drive the change within their children’s education. The author gives an honest, and often humorous, commentary as she describes her interactions with students, teachers, principals, parents and community members during her daughter’s first 3 years of school. In the final chapters she also reflects on the changes the pandemic has brought to the education system, which reminds readers that tackling problems within the public education (and any efforts related to social justice) will always be a work in progress, and that no matter where your story ends, there is more work to do to make change in the future. This book is definitely a worthwhile read for any stakeholders in education, including teachers, policy makers, parents and maybe even students!
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Self-serving and self-important. Predictably woke and clueless at the same time. When will white people understand that sending their kids to public school does not make them social justice heroes?
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An open and honest look at schools here in America. I liked the tone it was written in. With an open discussion about the school system and the choices parents have to make.
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I heard about this book from a friend of the author, and that made me a little nervous to trust the rec, but I LOVED this book. I am an educator in the city of Milwaukee, and want to press this into the hands of every single educator, and honestly, non-educator, here and across the country. Courtney Martin has excellent insights and commentary and I will be implementing things I learned from this book directly into this year's professional development.
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LEARNING IN PUBLIC by Courtney E. Martin is a truly thought-provoking book touching on educational opportunities and the values that we espouse as a community and as individuals. She says, "in theory we value diversity, and in practice, we value whiteness." Martin, who has written several other books related to social justice, profiles her own family's difficult decision when selecting an elementary school for her daughter, Maya. Living in Oakland, California, they could opt for their local elementary school – with poor ratings and mostly Black and Brown students – or they could choose more highly rated and better resourced public schools or even an expensive private option. Martin quotes frequently from studies on education and from writers such as Eve Ewing (Ghosts in the Schoolyard) or Nikole Hannah-Jones. Although the text can feel stilted in places, she does not shy away from calling out the difficult racial undertones: "I am reading a handbook written in the invisible ink of obfuscation and maneuvering so that I might get my already deeply advantaged White kid into the best possible school, while kids with less White, less rich, less available parents are not."  

With blurbs from Eric Liu (You’re More Powerful than You Think) and Noliwe Rooks (Cutting School), LEARNING IN PUBLIC is an important update that will hopefully prompt much needed reflection. Sadly, it is hard to believe it has been over 10 years (almost an entire K-12 school "career" for students) since the release of documentaries on education like: Waiting for 'Superman' and Race to Nowhere (Abeles also released BeyondMeasure in 2015). As Martin aptly notes, "Elite parenting is a process of piecing together the unwritten rules about how to advance your child through a broken system. The system itself is rarely considered."

LEARNING IN PUBLIC would make an amazing book group choice and includes suggested questions for discussion or reflection as well as a few pages of notes and list of resources (books, podcasts, organizations) for learning more.
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I've been drawn to non-fiction lately, and despite not being a parent myself yet, I found the premise of this book intriguing. In it, Courtney Martin reflects on her choices as a white mom in Oakland, trying to determine which school would be best to set up not only her kindergarten-aged daughter for success, but also her community at large. Segregation, school-choice, parenting, race and class structures = all major themes. 

I do like a book with that "wraps up" but this one doesn't have a clean bow at the end -- I guess that's to be expected when you're reading a memoir about things that are happening in real time. 

Overall, a good read! Lots of highlights and sections that made me think about how I'd act in if I were in the author's shoes. 

Thanks Little Brown + Netgalley for the ARC!
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I selected this as an advanced review copy offering from NetGalley because I am always on the hunt for good additions to my optional book review list for my Race, Class, and Schools seminar. I will add this book to that list because I can see utility in using memoir as a genre to introduce different ways of living in accessible way to students. It can be useful to ground more empirical research and theoretical concepts. This particular book does cite sociologists and other anti-racist experts. 

At core, the memoir showcases honest and earnest candor from a white mom in Oakland who ends up serving as school site council president at a majority black school in her neighborhood as she balances wanting to do best by her kid and all kids. It's not sociology. It is not a how-to guide. It is simply a window into someone's life.

I hated the random "13 things" or "a poem about" throwaway chapters and in general the book was way too long.
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A well written informative look at education today.The decision on what school your child should attend what you expect of the system and your involvement in your child’s school.The author takes an important look at the divide between wealthy schools that seem to have a Caucasian population and  schools with more of a minority profile,When she decides to send her child to Emerson her neighborhood school which is mostly a minority school in Oakland Ca her child was one of the few white children there and we follow her through the school year and watch her thrive and the authors involvement with other families there Perfect for discussion an excellent read,#netgalley#littlebrown
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This was one of my favorite books in recent memory. A really powerful look at parenting, education, race and progress. Highly recommend for all collections.
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