At the end of his anti-busing screed, Jeff Jacoby veers off into particularly dangerous territory, calling it a “delusion” to think “that racial composition makes a meaningful difference in student performance” (“Forced busing was a disaster,” Opinion, July 3).
In fact, research has shown time and again that integrated schools bring about a host of educational benefits for all students, helping to close the achievement gap and promoting cross-racial understanding that is critical in our increasingly global society.
Unfortunately, we risk losing these benefits as courts chip away at the gains of the desegregation movement and schools become more racially isolated.
The role of busing in the solution to the problem of segregated schools can be debated. But what should not be questioned is that integration itself is a crucial goal that our country must continue to pursue until it becomes a reality.
Lawyers for Civil Rights
Busing was a colossal failure
As someone who was a victim of forced busing, I applaud Jeff Jacoby for telling the truth about one of liberal Democrats’ colossal failures (“Forced busing was a disaster”).
In 1973, I was a student in high school in Maryland’s Prince George’s County. So crazed were government bureaucrats that forced busing was instituted in the middle of the school year. I had to leave very early in the morning, and after-school activities or sports teams were almost impossible to participate in because of the long distance.
A quarter century later, the county stopped the busing program. Millions of dollars had been wasted. The school system was worse for both black and white children.
This same story was repeated, again and again, across the nation where busing took place.
Joe Biden turned out to be on the right side of history.
Longtime BPS teacher saw the damage up close
Jeff Jacoby’s column on court-ordered busing was true and accurate. My 41-year career as a Boston Public Schools educator, from 1962 to 2003, gave me a front-row seat to the damage that that remedy caused. True, the school committee presided, without budging, over de facto segregation. Yet rather than solve this problem, the court-ordered cure was many times worse than the illness.
The enrollment of BPS dropped rapidly. The memory of rock throwing and racial vitriol remains vivid, as does that of the image of state troopers in the corridors of South Boston High School.
In the years since, many millions of dollars have been spent transporting children, funds that would be better spent improving the instruction in the schools.
I hope that in this election cycle, rather than revise history, we can learn from the mistakes of the past.
Busing taught her a universal truth about the humanity we share
In 1974, the initial busing year, I counseled boys in Southie. Tensions grew as the school year approached. I drove the boys through Roxbury, attempting to show similarities between the neighborhoods and between the kids who lived there. The boys lay on the car’s seat, on the floor, on each other, scared to be seen.
School opened, and chaos erupted. Anger and fear permeated the air.
Yet by spring, my kids experienced reactions they couldn’t confess at home: They liked some of the bused kids in their class. So frightening on that initial ride through Roxbury, they were now just kids who liked baseball and laughter as much as the boys I counseled. What became obvious to me is that when we get the opportunity to see others as humans, without labels or preconceptions, our world shifts and expands.
Recently, I went to Israel and Palestine, and met with a number of peace groups. Again, fear, anger, and preconceptions force groups apart. There were so many examples of people getting to know each other and understanding the similarity of their hopes and dreams, their determination to be safe.
Yes, there were many problems with busing, but an important truth — as applicable in Southie as it is in Hebron — was exposed. The superficialities that are used to separate us fall so short when up against our shared humanity.
Inequity persists, so if not busing, then what?
Given the enormous resistance, over more than two decades, to every proposal to integrate the Boston schools, including what could have been fairly modest redistricting, I would invite Jeff Jacoby to follow his “Forced busing was a disaster” column with a discussion of what he would have recommended as an alternative.