Friday, June 29, 2007

The "B" word

Let's see, who was that god to whom the Canaanites sacrificed children? Moloch? Well, his modern descendants, who have sacrificed children to the idols of egalitarianism and diversity, have now been slapped down by the U. S. Supreme Court, which struck down Jefferson County's desegregation policy in a split 5-4 decision. That does not mean, of course, that the district won't find other means to accomplish these purposes that are equally irrelevant to education.

Prize for the best sound bite goes to Chief Justice John Roberts: "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race." Amen to that.

Has any one noticed how the coverage of this issue is studiously avoiding the "B" word? Why is the media scared to utter the unutterable word: busing. No, we prefer the much more abstract and sterile expression "desegregation policies." That way, we don't have to think about all the time and money being wasted on what they are actually practically really doing: putting kids on buses when they would otherwise be at home in their own communities.

So from now, let's use the word (busing) as often as possible. Let me repeat that, what I just said about busing, which was to say the word busing as much as possible. Because that's what they're doing. Busing.

Of course, the proponents of this social engineering scheme (another expression the proponents don't like, just like busing) continue to maintain that these schemes (the ones that involve busing) improve academic performance--a position that has everything going for it except the evidence.


Richard Day said...

Dear Martin,

Access to quality education – who gets taught, and the quality of that teaching – is the central issue in the history of education in America.

Our Constitution said that all men were created equal. But in America’s earliest days, with few exceptions, it was the sons of white male landowners who received instruction. Why is that?

Racism? Well, yes…slavery was America’s original sin - but also economics.

Poor children were not thought to be worth the effort. After all, how much schooling is necessary to work a plow? An adequate education in the 19th century didn’t have to meet a high standard – just the 3 R’s (at about a 3rd grade level) would do. This - while children of means learned the classics. Millions of poor white and black children were denied equal opportunities. It was about class and economics – one’s station in life.

As a youngster in all-white Ludlow, Kentucky, I knew what it meant to have low expectations. I believe I was one of two Ludlow graduates in 1969 that went right on to college. That was not the story at the upscale Beechwood School. As bad as it could be for poor white children, being black was an additional burden. Why is that?

Neither group found it easy to get to a high quality school. It was doubly tough in Appalachia.

But, future economic success demands a competitive workforce. That means a 21st century education for all Kentucky children – something I suspect you fully support.

So we have to get the kids to school.

Every day school folks put millions of kids (who can’t drive themselves) on buses. We bus them...all over the place. We bus them from wherever they live. Big yellow busses. Flashing lights but no seat belts. And the wheels on the bus go ‘round.

It would have been nice if we never had to bus kids for reasons of racial desegregation. The best solution is always the presence of a high quality school in every neighborhood. But it didn’t work out that way. Why is that?

I assume nobody is arguing in favor of a return to the separate and very unequal days of Plessy v Ferguson. But when the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v Board of Education I, in 1954, that separate schools for African-American children were unconstitutional the Court was largely ignored. The following year the Court in Brown II ordered schools to begin desegregating. But they didn’t. Instead over 100 southern legislators decried the Court’s “intrusion,” asserted local control, and signed the Southern Manifesto vowing to obstruct where they could.

It was not until the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the decision in Green v. County Board of Education in 1968 that school districts made any real attempt to comply with the court’s 1954 ruling, and then only under threat of losing federal funds. In the 1963-64 school year barely 1% of black children attended school with white children. By 1972 that percentage had grown to better than 75%.

Social engineering? You bet. Let’s say it together. Social engineering.

It would have been better if the Court had never had to intervene. But I think one can argue that the Court in Brown upheld unpopular principles of the Constitution on Christian moral grounds. As I read the Bible, I have trouble finding any place where Jesus did not gravitate toward the poorest, lowest class, downtrodden, sick, or otherwise despised individual and lift them up. Correct me if I’m wrong. Should we not do likewise?

Of course, the present Court’s ruling was predictable – signaled during oral arguments last March. There is even a rational legal basis for the decision. It is notable that civil rights advocates who argued the need for federal protection in Brown, were now arguing for local control in the Louisville case, Meredith. Legally, what else did they have to argue? It is fairly well understood that today’s residual racial segregation is the result of housing patterns in our cities – not the result of any intentional efforts by school districts to keep the races apart. This under lays Chief Justice Robert’s snappy retort.

So what now?

Is the Court inviting local school districts to return to the days of Jim Crow? Of course not.

I suspect what you will see now is a shift toward economics as a basis for future busing schemes. Since African Americans are overrepresented among the poor, the real impact of the Court’s decision may be limited in some places. In other places, probably in most places, it will result in a racial resegregation. The extent to which communities have built diverse neighborhoods will determine the extent of the impact.

Is this social engineering? You bet. Social engineering and busing. Different ideology, perhaps. Different set of kids maybe. Same buses.

What you won’t see: school districts ignoring the Court.

The solution today is the same as in the beginning. We must have high quality schools in every neighborhood, but the requirements of an adequate education today are much more substantial than in the past. If the citizens of Kentucky will support this effort we will all be better off and the courts won't have to do anything. Actually, our children will all be better off. We need a gainfully employed citizenry – with more employer supported healthcare and a much lower Medicare burden on the state budget. We need to care for the poor – not by giving them a handout, but by giving their children an opportunity to do better.

What would Jesus do?

With respect,


solarity said...

>>But I think one can argue that the Court in Brown upheld unpopular principles of the Constitution on Christian moral grounds. As I read the Bible, I have trouble finding any place where Jesus did not gravitate toward the poorest, lowest class, downtrodden, sick, or otherwise despised individual and lift them up. Correct me if I’m wrong. Should we not do likewise? >>

Well, Principal, yep, you are wrong. The liberal policymakers behind the busing "fad" that swept through the nation in the 70's would be more than a little insulted at your suggestion that Biblical teachings were their true motivation!

No need to over-complicate the matter - they were simply liberal "do-gooders" who cloaked their half-baked theories in the vernacular of social virtue. This sanctimonious verbiage (largely constructed of “diversity”, “multiculturalism”, “pluralism”, “self-esteem”, et al) is a deferential language that signals our virtue by its mere utterance. It’s a language of compensatory deference that essentially defines political correctness. That the federal judiciary would, in city after city, fall prey to these vacuous ideas and, in so doing, essentially destroy the concept of “neighborhood schools”, should enter the history books as perhaps the greatest acts of judicial malpractice in American history. Since the textbooks that are selected for classroom use are invariably authored by liberals, the truth of the busing fad that resulted in one federal judge after another usurping control of local school districts for purposes of implementing a disastrous social experiment, will be thoroughly whitewashed.

>>I assume nobody is arguing in favor of a return to the separate and very unequal days of Plessy v Ferguson.>>

You have used the traditional template in the comment above – as though it represents the only possible alternative to busing. How about trying a little “outside the box” thinking – such as moving money and educators to underperforming schools instead of moving underperforming students to schools where they and their families find it impossibly difficult to engage in sports and other extra-curricular activities because of distance and lack of neighborhood support. The phrase “shamelessly shallow” barely begins to describe the idea that simply uprooting children from their local communities and inserting them into some distant school is really going to bring any meaningful improvement in academic performance. But then, academic performance wasn’t the real goal, was it? Integrating our community was the real goal and the public schools were only the chosen vehicle.

For better or worse, the vast majority of people will always choose to live, work and play with people of similar nature. Left to there own choices, re-segregation is inevitable. This aspect of human nature irks the hell out of the social engineers who feel compelled to use the power of government to “improve” the living arrangements of the races. Busing has proven to be an absolutely execrable policy and those responsible for its origin and implementation should forever be banned from further influence on public policy.

PS: As a 1970 graduate of Beechwood, we may well have sent more kids to college (about 2/3d’s as I recall) but Ludlow almost always beat the crap out of us in sports!