How America abandoned the only policy that consistently closes the black-white educational gap

Originally published at:


late-stage capitalism

Christ, what a (bunch of) asshole(s)



Was the law on de-accredited school districts designed to be sabotaged in that way?


Bussing is a classic example of how The Right Thing To Do died when it was also The Hard Thing To Do.

And this ladies, gentlemen, and everyone in between or nether, is why we cannot have nice things.


It’s best that we don’t bus these kids to whiter schools. Now, before you people get all up in a dander, hear me out. Imagine the taxpayer savings, after the police no longer have to pull over all those school busses for “having a taillight out” or “running a stop sign”. Plus it would free the police to concentrate on greater threats, like the far more dangerous predatory urban thugs who freely roam our neighborhoods armed with Skittles and hoodies.


The system is rigged for failure, and pretty much always has been; this is nothing new, sadly.


And we know that adequately funding all the schools is never going to happen, either.

I went to grade school in a Boston suburb in the early 1970s, and I remember the Metco buses coming in with kids from Roxbury and Dorchester. I don’t remember any issues with the kids–they came in, went to classes and so on with everyone else, went home again. But I do remember seeing the news videos from South Boston, of the Irish kids throwing rocks at the buses. I couldn’t understand why they would be so mean to kids who just wanted to go to school.


Depends on whether your country ever bites the bullet hard enough to start bussing again. If it does, at least part of the problem resulted from white families moving out of mixed districts when bussing stopped, so you need some truly equal treatment: don’t just send the inner city kids to the 'burbs, bring white kids from the wealthier 'burbs into the inner city schools. I pretty much guarantee that funding problems will become a thing of the past.


A good recent article on how and why New York (and other large cities) are now more segregated than ever.

Legally and culturally, we’ve come to accept segregation once again. Today, across the country, black children are more segregated than they have been at any point in nearly half a century. Except for a few remaining court-ordered desegregation programs, intentional integration almost never occurs unless it’s in the interests of white students.

But in the spring of 2015, as Najya’s first year was nearing its end, we read in the news that another elementary school, P.S. 8, less than a mile from P.S. 307 in affluent Brooklyn Heights, was plagued by overcrowding. Some students zoned for that school might be rerouted to ours. This made geographic sense. […]

In early spring 2015, the city’s Department of Education sent out notices telling 50 families that had applied to kindergarten at P.S. 8 that their children would be placed on the waiting list and instead guaranteed admission to P.S. 307. Distraught parents dashed off letters to school administrators and to their elected officials. They pleaded their case to the press. […]

That May, as I sat at a meeting that P.S. 8 parents arranged with school officials, I was struck by the sheer power these parents had drawn into that auditorium. This meeting about the overcrowding at P.S. 8, which involved 50 children in a system of more than one million, had summoned a state senator, a state assemblywoman, a City Council member, the city comptroller and the staff members of several other elected officials. It had rarely been clearer to me how segregation and integration, at their core, are about power and who gets access to it.

As the politicians looked on, two white fathers gave an impassioned PowerPoint presentation in which they asked the Department of Education to place more children into already-teeming classrooms rather than send kids zoned to P.S. 8 to P.S. 307. Another speaker, whose child had been wait-listed, choked up as he talked about having to break it to his kindergarten-age son that he would not be able to go to school with the children with whom he’d shared play dates and Sunday dinners. “We haven’t told him yet” that he didn’t get into P.S. 8, the father said, as eyes in the crowd grew misty. “We hope to never have to tell him.”

It’s one of the great liberal failures, I think, that our big cities — otherwise lauded as liberal paradises (progressive, walkable, efficient) — are among the most segregated areas of the country. Rich white families, who would think of themselves as utterly un-racist, just want “the best for their families,” and end up perpetuating the sins of redlining and segregated schools.


this was a great show, well worth listening to

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Is anybody else around here old enough to have lived through the forced bussing era? Because this BoingBoing discussion of the original article obscures far more than it illuminates.

I applaud the researchers for solid work that moves the conversation forward, but using this study as a sole focus is like saying “kerosene lanterns are safe for home illumination because here are many wonderful examples of it working.”

True, but a kerosene lantern can also burn your house down.

Which is what forced bussing did to many, many communities.

Do you know why so many white kids were switched to “christian” schools in the 70s? Or so many “alternative” schools appeared in affluent communities in Southern California at about the same time? Forced bussing was a major (though not sole) driver.

I always found it curious how regularly I would hear something like “I want Lisa to have more experiential learning environment” when poorer kids started turning up in their kids’ class.

You don’t need to go the South or working class ethnic communities to find well documented examples: Pasadena, CA provides a wonderful case study. In the 60’s Pasadena had a thriving, if socially segregated, public school system. By the late 70s, Pasadena had a thriving network of over 100 private schools. Bussing probably did help the first few kids bussed over the higher SES schools, but the legacy was a public school system stripped of the public support that had made it work. The resulting Pasadena public school system is now a textbook case for schools that are a trap door for the working poor rather than stairway up.

Did the Pasadena schools need to change? Absolutely.

Did bussing help some kids? almost certainly.

Was the outcome of forced bussing ultimately better for, well, anyone? Not that I can see.


So what would have been your alternative, then?


Unicorns and Chocolate, of course.

Seriously, the first step to improving the situation is not repeating a known mistake. The partial view of the 70’s desegregation efforts presented in much of this discussion thread seemed to be veering dangerously close to unlearning some painful lessons from our past, so I posted.

The most important point is that this is a big, complicated problem, so it’s unlikely to have a single, simple solution.

Happily, Social Scientists have been working on this in many contexts for three generations. My one sentence summary would be “to effect change, you need the ‘buy in’ of the community.” That’s true if one is trying to achieve a high vaccination rate in Nigeria, fight Aids in Thailand, reduced tensions in Israel/Palestine, or improve educational outcomes at your local high school.

Bussing, even where it “worked” (as it sorta did in my hometown) cuts directly against that principle: it was a top-down solution formulaically forced on many communities, complete with formulas. It’s was going to meet huge resistance even in the best of circumstances.

To get the “buy in” of the community, the community itself needs to be involved, which means every community will probably need a somewhat different solution.

In the case of my hometown, that community “buy in” involved football. (Yes, I am from a small town in Texas.) When the segregated Black high school won the state high school football championship, many white community leaders saw real value in integrating the school system on their own terms. However, I doubt football could have played the same role in the Pasadena public schools :wink:

This stuff ain’t easy. To come together and make a better future for our children we need to honestly assess past efforts, both successful and failed.


If only.


And therein lies the problem, methinks.

Americans often have a very hard time reconciling our national image with our actual reality.


Anyone seen the film ‘The Blind side’?

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Yes, actually, I am old enough to have experienced a desegregation system, though mine was white/Latinx. I entered Mesa Public Schools in third grade, in 1984, when my parents moved there. They didn’t really do a lot of research before picking a school district/house – it was much harder then – and the neighborhood school I walked to was an integration school. My parents considered this bad luck – if they’d had more foresight, they wouldn’t have put us in integrated schools because my parents are terrible people. When we moved again a couple years later, to Yuma, I was again in a desegregated system, from fifth grade through my freshman year. We moved a third time after that, to a non-integrated district about which the less said, the better. My education there did not suffer, but only because I fought to get the classes and education I needed. (It was deeply sexist, racist, and generally awful, and if the place burned, I’d hold an Irish Coffee bash on the ashes to flip the bird to the dominant culture who made it hell for outsiders.)

Personally, it was great. I got a stellar public education, and I am absolutely a Third Culture Kid. I speak Norteño with decent fluency (better when I follow a telenovela and keep in practice; it erodes if I neglect it) and since my friends were Latinx, I was immunized against my parents’ racism. I got admitted to two Ivy Leagues and two Seven Sisters and didn’t go mostly because even with scholarships, I just couldn’t swing the money (this was mostly due to my parents being shite with money). I took the state scholarship offer instead and escaped my parents’ destructive patterns. In my integrated schools, I was always competing with a diverse and brilliant group of peers who brought strong, challenging perspectives to our core group of nerds. (I was one of two white girls in a group of twenty, all with 4.0+ GPAs.) In my non-integrated school, I could coast and that wasn’t good for me. I loved my integrated schools and my classmates. I hated the ones that weren’t.

Those cracker parents in the TAL episode make me ashamed to share a skin tone with them. Integrated schools help every student in their halls. Segregated schools just hurt everyone, but most especially the students with the fewest resources to defend against the harm done to them.


Maybe we should bus white kids to black schools.


I’m pretty sure that’ll go over even worse than black bussing with the Citizens’ Councils.


Yes. I remember it very well. Shattered glass and blood on my typewriter, even.

This was also the outcome where I live.

Basically the discrimination shifted to an economic basis, rather than a color line. And since the poor in this area are disproportionately people of color, this resulted in a small proportion of people of color getting a better deal, but overall more people being shafted.

If I go to a High School ball game, the parents of the kids being bussed in from the inner city won’t be there. Because just to get the kids themselves in and out of the city (that is, the kids that don’t have to work to support their families) takes all the resources and cooperation the school and the coaches and the more privileged parents can muster. Back when those kids went to the inner city crap school, their parents were involved more than they can be now.

Something had to be done. What was done, was not even close to optimal.