A wonderful friend of mine from my Sun Times days sent me a link to an op-ed piece in our rival newspaper, the Chicago Tribune.
The Trib was always more conservative than the Sun Times. And the column I read reminded me why “working people” and minorities shunned the Trib back when.
The article, by Eric Zorn, is entitled “Say It Was So, Joe! Biden Was Right to Oppose Busing in the 70s.” And it’s as tone deaf as the politician it’s written about.
Wow. This one’s WAY off, I’m afraid. I had to read it quickly, so I could be wrong. But here’s my take.
I spent five years as a staff development specialist in the African American Studies department of one of the country’s largest districts — the massive, Tucson Unified School District — which rejoiced when they got “out from under” court-imposed busing, one part of a district-wide desegregation order, a few years ago.
Until reality reared its ugly head.
The following quote from the Trib column is particularly fallacious:
Dozens of public school districts around the country still use socioeconomic and demographic characteristics in voluntary efforts to desegregate. But, Gadsden (Brett Gadsden, author of “Between North and South,” a book about decades of desegregation efforts in Biden’s home state of Delaware) said, “civil rights activists and educational reformers have shifted their focus toward recruiting teachers of color” to predominantly minority schools, “offering culturally relevant curriculum, correcting disciplinary disparities” and equalizing spending on black and white students.
Yes, people of all “colors” dislike busing. In fact, both the high school where I taught and one of the middle schools I was assistant principal of later were in the “inner city” where parents of color were pissed off for not being able to send their kids to the school “around the way.”
But the minute busing — and the white kids — went away, so did all the funding. And the programs that had been set up to attract them to the “magnet” school began to go away, too.
Sad to say this, but it was in part because some of the teachers who’d once wanted to teach those magnet classes were too “scared” of Black kids to stay. So are the administrators, who are also often admittedly clueless about how to “discipline” children of color.
The African American Studies Department, which I joined in 1990, was established as part of the same court desegregation program. It is now 2019, the order and busing are gone and the local parents are angrier than ever.
Because all those other remedies Gadsden listed — offering culturally relevant curriculum, correcting disciplinary disparities, and equalizing spending on black and white students — districts don’t have the money to do any of it anymore thanks to . . . well, Betsy DeVos is only the latest villain.
Budgets have been cut year after year. On purpose. By people who want all schools to be private, basically.
And of course, there aren’t enough teachers of any color to go around at this point. Lots of kids, most notably kids requiring special assistance, have substitutes the whole year in at least one subject. Maybe more than one . . .
Culturally relevant curriculum? So politically toxic! I would be fired for a lot of the stuff I taught back when. Many were.
In fact, our state, which infamously got rid of “ethnic studies” programs years ago, is only now beginning to reconsider having anything like it, but this time around watered down so much it won’t matter, of course. Or designed so white kids whose parents object can opt out.
This segment on the Colbert Report exposed “thinking” behind all this. It’s a caustic classic that the TUSD is right to still be ashamed of:
Tucson’s Mexican-American Studies Ban — The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (Video Clip) | Comedy…
Al Madrigal travels to Arizona, where the powerful evidence of hearsay convinced the Tucson school board to ban…
Worst of all, it’s the white kids who need to sit next to children of color, not the other way around. And the ones who need it most never will, if they’re not pretty much forced to. Especially now, given Trump et al.
But kids just being around each other for hours every day makes a huge difference over time. They’re kinda forced to “get used to” other cultures, even if they resist. I mean, they at least know about other cultures and aren’t as shocked by them as they would be otherwise.
And that is, of course, one of the things some white parents are still most scared of. That their darlings will fall in love with some brown kid or start “acting Black.”
But like Kamala, I can attest to the value of getting to know kids of other cultures not just as an educator, but as a kid whose mother accidentally moved me to what as then a predominantly white high school back in the ’60s.
A Black child of the Jim Crow South, she was mortified. And terrified. And had trouble adjusting to the whole neighborhood, not just the school.
But it propelled me past even her prejudices. And gave me the gumption to do things like…well, send the Chicago Sun Times some samples of my writing, for one thing. White folks quit being the enemy, or . . . anything special, really.
They were just friends. Friends that I still have and love dearly.
So my mama bused me by accident. And I couldn’t be more grateful.
Poor Joe. He doesn’t have a clue. Neither does the guy who wrote that op-ed piece.