Learning in Public: Lessons for a Racially Divided America from My Daughter’s School

Little, Brown. Aug. 2021. 400p. ISBN 9780316428262. $28. ED
Drawing on firsthand experience, Martin (Do It Anyways) explores the issue of school choice among wealthy white parents in Oakland, CA. She felt torn between sending her children to a local school, where students were mostly Black and brown and standardized test scores were low, and a top-ranked, predominantly white school. Martin, a wealthy white parent herself, begins this book by examining her own internal struggle: Though she wanted to give her children the best opportunities, she also wanted to stay true to her beliefs about the importance of integrated schools. Later, she explores teacher strikes, contentious school mergers, budget cuts, and the impact of COVID-19. She describes members of the Oakland school community in vivid detail, creating an especially interesting cast of characters for a nonfiction work. Martin’s musings sometimes read as self-involved, but the narrative will resonate with like-minded (particularly white) parents in similar economic situations.
VERDICT The author’s choice to share her own story is laudable, and her work effectively unpacks the ways white Americans engage in racist and economically disadvantaging structures. It is, by design, a largely one-sided narrative, but one that many readers, especially parents of young children, will appreciate.
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