Learning in Public
Lessons for a Racially Divided America from My Daughter's School
by Courtney E. Martin
Pub Date 03 Aug 2021 | Archive Date 03 Nov 2021
One mother’s story of enrolling her daughter in a local public school, and the surprising, necessary lessons she learned with her neighbors.
From the time 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. She learned that White families in their gentrifying neighborhood largely avoided the majority-Black, poorly-rated school. As she began asking 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 are newly awakened to the continuing racial injustice all around us, 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.
Courtney E. Martin 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. Learning in Public might also set your family’s life on a different course forever.
A Note From the Publisher
A Lit Hub Nonfiction Books You Should Read this Summer One of the Top Five Books I Want to Read This Year for CEO of TEDWomen Pat Mitchell
"In a vivid, meticulously-reported and unflinchingly honest way, Martin describes choosing a school for her eldest daughter in progressive Oakland and navigating both unconscious and explicit biases that force her to confront her privileges and fight against them. In the end, she concludes that the main barriers to true integration in public schools are well-meaning white mothers—without finger-pointing or absolving herself as a white savior." — Oprah Daily
“Writing with equal passion as a journalist and a mother, Courtney Martin interrogates the history and the moral contradictions of “elite parenting,” gentrification, and school choice. She lives the question of how to chart a new way forward with her daughter in their neighborhood. This is a kind of modeling our society needs – as openly messy as the work of remaking our world.” — Krista Tippett, host of On Being and author of Becoming Wise
“White parents want to be instruments of change, yet don’t want our own children to 'suffer.' We want to raise anti racists, yet segregate our kids in 'good' schools dominated by families that look like us. Courtney Martin wrestles with all of these hopes and conundrums in ways that are personal, heartfelt and, especially now, profoundly necessary.” — Peggy Orenstein, author of Girls & Sex and Boys & Sex
“This is the story of what school segregation, a nationally important issue, looks like through the lens of one family’s experience.” — Lit Hub
“There is so much love in these pages. Courtney’s capacity to empathize with and challenge White parents’ notions of what is best for our children and our communities is what makes this book so compelling and necessary right now. She’s a master at calling out our bullshit while still calling us together.” — Whitney Kimball Coe, Vice President at Center for Rural Strategies
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 9 members
Learning in Public: Lessons for a Racially Divided America from My Daughter's School by Courtney E. Martin is a powerful, eye opening book about the inequities in education and schools that still exist today. This book is a very well researched one, but it is also a personal story based on Martin's own experience of enrolling her daughter in kindergarten after a move to Oakland, California. Emerson was the closest elementary school to their home, but it was a predominantly black school that scored a 1 out of a 10 on the school rankings on greatschools.org and was considered to be a "failing" school on every ratings chart. The Martin family is white and had the means to send their daughter to a private school, as did most of the families in the surrounding neighborhood, but they decided to take a chance on Emerson. Martin's approach of "I'm not here to be right. I'm here to get it right." borrowed from Brene Brown, is a good one and one we all benefit from. It is an honest book that is reflective but also serves as a call for others to strive for positive educational outcomes for all, regardless of race. I highly recommend it. Thank you to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for providing me with a digital copy of this book prior to publication in exchange for my review. This review is being posted immediately to my GoodReads account and will be posted on Amazon and Barnes and Noble upon the book's publication.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.