A case against ‘A case against bussing’ Austin I would like to address myself to the subject of bussing as a method of desegregating our public schools, not only in my home town of Austin but all across the nation in those areas where housing patterns do not permit anything more than token integration of neighborhood schools. I would like to do so by responding to the article that appeared in the June 4 issue of the Observer, a statement by Rep. Curtis Graves entitled “A Case Against Bussing.” If one approaches the problem from Graves’ perspective, one would be obliged to accept his judgment, and his recommended solution would seem appropriate. His argument is the most sophisticated one I have seen against bussing; and the fact that he is himself a member of the largest single minority the fact that he has a rather liberal voting record in the Texas Legislature, tends to support his statement, since it can hardly be argued that he is basically in opposition to equality in our public institutions. LET ME FIRST of all outline Representative Graves’ analysis of the situation and his proposed solution, and then offer my own reasoning which approaches the problem from a different perspective. He argues that the only integration that has been achieved in the south by the 1954 Supreme Court decision has been among poor whites, Mexican-Americans and blacks. Schools in affluent areas in the south are substantially as segregated as ever. The educational experience of the blacks has been hurt rather than helped, because blacks now attend schools in an environment which is less interested in their welfare and where their leadership abilities are ignored or stifled and where they rarely are able to participate in extra-curricula activities. His so that each child must go to the school a principal and permanent supervising personnel which is as close as possible to the racial make-up of that student teachers would rotate to another school every third year so that every school would have 50% new teachers and 50% teachers who had been there one year. My quarrel with Representative Graves is not with his assessment of the situation as it has developed in the public schools. I suspect his analysis is reasonably accurate as far as public education goes, and the situations to which he points may be the rule rather than the exception. My own problem with his argument is the same as my problem with most of the responsible arguments I have heard against bussing. It approaches the situation from too narrow a Communication perspective. Most such arguments, like his, are based on the detrimental effects bussing will have on the quality of education in our public schools. My concern is that “quality education” per se is but one dimension of the problem. It seems to me that the Supreme Court in 1954 was concerned with a broader issue than the poor quality of education received by minority group children. Their decision was aimed at the desegregation of our institutional life, of which public schools are but one aspect. The federal government has also initiated programs in recent years to combat discrimination in employment and labor practices, housing patterns and a host of public facilities. Mr. Graves’ suggestion that students do not learn by osmosis is correct when talking about the three R’s. However, there are some things that are learned by osmosis, or at least by exposure. Not the least of these things learned by osmosis is the proper way to think or feel about persons of another race, class or creed. If there is any truth at all in Marshall McLuhan’s thesis that the “medium is the message,” then segregated schools, like other institutions, are going to perpetuate an attitude of discrimination even if the teachers and principals lecture on brotherhood every day. The churches in our land have preached and taught brotherhood for hours every week for several hundred years, but most of our churches remain segregated because the communicated more persuasively than did the message of the preachers. Some things, like cultural values and social protocol, are learned primarily by the complexion of institutional forms and established patterns SOME WILL ARGUE that “you cannot legislate morality.” I do not believe that. If that were true, women would not be voting today and we would still have public facilities for black and white. A careful study of the history of civilization indicates that frequently governments have not changed social patterns by changing attitudes first. Rather, they have changed the patterns of relating first, and attitudinal changes have followed. Bussing was never intended as a solution to the probleth of quality education. Rather, it is simply the best solution yet offered to deal effectively with the desegregation of one aspect of our institutional life, the public schools. I think it is a lousy solution myself, but until someone comes forward with another one that is equally serious about and effective in the desegregation of our public schools in something more than a token way, I do not see what choice we have –unless, of course, we wish to forcibly integrate our neighborhoods. It seems to me that the primary concern of the Supreme Court in 1954 was that after a full century of procrastination, we could no longer live under our U.S. Constitution and look the rest of the world in the eye if we did not begin immediately to restructure our social institutions so that discriminatory practices toward minority groups were needed. Now, after another 17 years of rationalizations and excuses the government is saying that if a school system cannot come up with a plan which accomplishes desegregation in a comprehensive way, we will assume our responsibility to make sure the school system complies with the spirit of the Constitution. I am not being overly critical of any local school board. Again, I simply think they also see the problem in too narrow a perspective. They are concerned primarily with quality education. That is what a school board is supposed to be concerned with. The federal government is concerned with social desegregation. That is what it is supposed to be concerned with. It seems to amoung to a conflict of values in which we cannot have our cake and eat it too. It is inconceivable to me that in a land where for generations the white community has benefited from institutionalized racism, we can expect to institute inclusive equality without the white community making some sacrifices, and as much as I hate to say it, without the minority groups making some sacrifices also. Perhaps some sacrifice in the quality of how we learn the three R’s is not too much to ask in order that we might finally July 2, 1971 23 ATHENA Leo Nitch, Director MONTESSORI SCHOOL All or Half Day Ages 2-10 SUMMER PROGRAM 7500 Woodrow 454-4239 “. IDA PRESS 504 West 24th Multi copy service. Call 477-8351
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