Is busing to integrate school still necessary?
July 14, 1998
in this forum:
Shouldn't qualified teachers at all schools end the busing debate? Does busing solve inequities or promote resentment? Can people in racially separated areas still work in a diverse environment? Should schools and students be placed in schools according to merit instead of racial background? Does busing allow kids of different races to learn to work together? Aqueelah Robinson of Philadelphia, PA (age 14) asks: As a kid, I would like to say that adults…put ideas into our heads that we do not need one another just because we are of different races. Is busing a good way for kids of different races to learn to work together?
Bill James, Mecklenburg county commissioner, responds:
It is important for people of all races, creeds and religious beliefs to work together. It is also important to be aware of and know of other cultures so that we can be respectful of them. Most school systems including Charlotte's have such cultural programs to instill a sense of understanding across racial, cultural and ethnic lines.
Busing children from one place to another has never been proven to provide that sort of bridge. Once high school children get to a "racially integrated" school, White kids sit in one part of the cafeteria and Blacks in the other. If busing were some sort of "we are the world" answer to racial and ethnic strife that would not happen.
One of the interesting questions about busing is "why" people of different races don't live together. Today in Charlotte, Black's predominantly live in one area of town. No one says that they have to but 30 years after forced segregation was ended in the South, that is generally the case. This is repeated in other "northern" cities as well. Liberals have been at a loss to explain this phenomenon. Respect for others values and culture does not have to come at the expense of a lousy education or a long bus ride. We can have both diversity and equal educational opportunities simply by insisting that all children attend a school near their home and are taught to respect each other.
Dennis Rash, NationsBank senior vice president, responds:
My daughter and son were bused in Charlotte. The public schools helped them learn that kids of different races could learn and work together. They also leaned that lesson in their neighborhood. Busing and good teachers were both good ways to break down barriers that might have kept them from learning to appreciate other kids regardless of their race.