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Going Against the Grain

Going Against the Grain / Going Against the Grain:
When Professionals in Hawaii Choose Public Schools Instead of Private Schools
Ann Shea Bayer
University of Hawaii Press

294 pages, $26

Say one thing for University of Hawaii at Manoa professor Ann Shea Bayer: she’s got good timing. While at first blush, 2009 might seem a nightmare year in which to release a qualitative look at why some parents who could afford to do otherwise nevertheless send their children to public school, Going Against the Grain probably couldn’t have showed up at a better moment. After untold years of idle talk, the community seems to be rallying around our public schools, and Bayer’s book stands as a thoughtful and persuasive testament to the many reasons we need them so.

The book centers around the author’s interviews with 51 parents, and while their reasons for choosing public schools vary somewhat, the clear theme is a simple yet abiding commitment to the egalitarian mission of public schools and the educational opportunties afforded by their diversity.

Along the way, Bayer explores the mythology of local school choice she calls the “constant conversation”–and exposes the myth of universal educational failure in Hawaii’s public schools.

Going Against the Grain feels more like a mini oral history than an academic study, and while it’s conclusions may be narrow, there’s never been a more important time to consider them.