Don Rogers: Biden, Harris’ uneducated gotcha
Here’s a curious thing, at least to me, about Biden and busing: It didn’t work.
So is the former senator and vice president a chump for, let’s put this in the worst light, working with racist senators from the South to oppose a federal mandate that school districts integrate via busing?
Maybe. But this effort at desegregating schools came with a host of unintended consequences even worse than the problem. By the way, this has not been solved all these decades after busing collapsed, bearing all the stink of a bad idea from the start.
Students lost time traveling far from home. Parents — the real linchpin in a child’s education — did not make it to these schools across town for parent-teacher conferences or other participation in their children’s schooling. Sadly, white flight took wing.
Kamala Harris should know better, talking points and a withering gotcha to break free from a chorus line of Democrats seeking the presidency aside.
Also, casting an impression of herself as underprivileged or lacking access to education rings false, considering her parents were accomplished academics.
Bluntly, the logic behind busing was simplistic: White schools did a better job of education. So bus the black kids to the white schools and voila, they’d get a better education, too. Right? And then the finer point between Biden and Harris: Make busing compulsory by federal law since obviously it works so well. Only it didn’t.
Desegregation has its own merits, for sure, but the real point, I think, was to improve education for poor city kids, most of them ethnic minorities. Jamming students of different ethnicities together on school days didn’t magically improve race relations, either, another simplistic assumption.
But my kids got an excellent education in their Vail Valley public schools, which have a majority of Hispanic students, many of them poor and not native English speakers.
Thing was, the white kids scored on par with the best in Colorado on the battery of assessment tests states have taken to administering. The poorer kids didn’t hold them back.
And my children did indeed benefit in a real world way through friendships crossing ethnicities and other demographics. Too many richer, whiter neighbors missed out, sending their children to charter, Christian and other private schools.
The community itself was mixed, if not entirely cohesive, and the schools served as important gathering places for parents as well as kids. Busing breaks that apart.
Incidentally, white schools don’t necessarily make for better educations. Color isn’t really the difference maker. What we too easily attribute to ethnicity is really shorthand for wealth or the lack of it. More assumptions.
Education in western Nevada County, the very whitest of communities in the state and perhaps the nation, isn’t the best in the land. The public districts trail the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, which has a good deal more ethnic diversity, closer to the public schools my children attended.
Busing kids to Ghidotti or Truckee by federal law wouldn’t exactly improve things.
What’s needed are better schools. This is kind of a duh. I’m surprised Biden didn’t just say so instead of namby pambying over a semantical difference between busing and compulsory busing, as if busing were a solution.
Busing failed and long ago. This is why almost no school districts do it anymore, not even Berkeley for the past quarter of a century. This is dustbin stuff, an archaic and classic lesson in what not to do.
Biden actually was correct. He just didn’t own it. Perhaps among partisans you don’t dare counter the groupthink of the moment, even with assumptions long gone off a cliff, dead wrong.
The exchange also was emblematic of just how little thought candidates are giving to such a grave issue as education, the prime investment in our country’s future. No wonder so many public schools still suck.
Don Rogers is the publisher of the Sierra Sun and The Union, based in Grass Valley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4299.