End of Busing? Whatever

I was listening to NPR (KUOW) on my way home from a silent movie I saw at the Paramount Theater — a silent movie accompanied by live The Mighty Wurlitzer and a few chatty girls in the audience. Anyway, bleeding-heart liberal NPR has a local call-in program which discusses Seattle government issues or actually any issue in a local context called "The Conversation". Hitomi laughs about how annoyed the host gets with all the flaky callers who constantly derail things. Loveline, a past favorite show of mine, was co-hosted by Adam Carolla who took joy in making fun of the "world's worst callers" he said, which made the show entertaining for me. Ross Reynolds tolerates the callers a bit more than he should.

Anyway, "The Conversation" focused on how effective the desegregation by-busing program was in Seattle, which I guess started in the late 1970's till about now, and was soliciting experiences and opinions from those who experienced it.

Pretty much everyone who called in was in favor of attending more diverse schools and thought that cultural diversity was important to their education. I agree that being with a variety of cultures and people with different economic status (rich through poor) is nice. But why was it not so good?

I was bussed from my first days of Kindergarten till High School graduation. Mostly I was "convinced" (or my parents were) to travel to far-away schools in depressed neighborhoods (i.e. the Central District) because those schools had the "honors" or "advanced" or "gifted" programs, rather than simply bussed because I was to whiten up a black school. But these programs were no doubt deliberately placed in minority communities to diversify the school. And though I was somehow "diversifying" the school population as a whole, the classes I were in were mostly motivated (smart?) white or Asian and a handful of motivated black students.

I can't say that busing was a success at diversifying the schools I was at. Rather, it never felt like integration would ever work, unless you got rid of any "tiers" in class difficulty. I recall teachers talking about removing "honors" classes. But even in honors I was often bored at school. And I wouldn't learn much in the "regular" classes. How could a teacher lead a class with students with a wide range of interest? Until they can figure that out–perhaps by having more teachers?–classes need to be broken up by student ability.

On the whole, I can't say busing was a success, at least from my perspective. It appeared desegregated on paper but in reality it wasn't.

Perhaps some people would call in with positive experiences? Several of the KUOW callers talked about what specifically was valuable about the experience. What callers I heard brought up "getting to know the Asians" and how that improved their experience. Of course I too met the Asians, because poor or not their parents expect them to study and stay out of trouble. I even had a crush on a few of the Asian girls. Maybe when I saw those Asian girls studying really hard, they'd fall for somebody who was good at math? None of the callers brought of having "African-American" friends, though I knew and talked with several in my honors classes. I felt sorry for them since their fellow blacks treated them like traitors: I guess they got called "Oreos" for being black on the outside, white on the inside.

None of the callers also brought up how cliquish and segregated schools were on the interior. Maybe my experience was unusual? I doubt it and the audience probably was the typical liberal crowd that says they'd feel more at peace having their kid around "other races," but as it turns out don't actually interact with them. I guess there's a certain bit of guilt or duty expected for whitey.

Besides callers sharing stories of busing, it's news that Seattle is in fact ending their busing programs. All schools are, on orders from the Supreme Court. What is the school administration going to do? Maybe the administration is relieved they have a valid excuse to spend so much energy on busing programs or balancing ethnic percentages, etc. Maybe the parents are pleased their kids won't be bussed across town. They're going to focus on "neighborhood schools" which will "hurt" the diversity. Though I didn't hear the end of the radio program, the "hack" seems to be to encourage more economic diversity by keeping seats available at magnet schools for poor kids, i.e. provide busing for those students eligible for "reduced price school lunch".

If (when?) I have children they're probably going to go to Seattle public school. Honestly, I wouldn't care if the neighborhood school population was 100% Blond Kids or 100% Jheri Curl Kids, as long as it was a good place for them to learn.

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About eliasross

Blogging before the word "blog" was invented.
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