The Failure of Busing


LAST WEEK Federal Judge W. Arthur Garrity Jr. ordered even more busing for Boston's schools next year, doubling the number of students to be bused. Unfortunately, Garrity chose to ignore the many sound objections brought against busing during its disastrous trial this past year. Instead, he has maintained a closed-minded position along with those busing advocates who insist on labelling all opponents to busing as racists.

For example, busing advocates have never answered questions like what right does the state have to force someone to be bused against his will, to sacrifice the interests of any individual to a vague social plan, to allocate people among schools like colored tiddlywinks to fulfill some arbitrary quota? This allocation, sacrifice and use of force implies that the lives of the children belong to the state to be used as it determines.

But each person's life belongs to himself, not the state, and the state has no right to force someone to be bused anywhere against his will. Each person has the right to do what he wants with his own life, including the free choice of which school he should attend. In the case of a young child the parent has the right to make this choice. Forced busing is an obvious violation of each person's right to be free from aggression and the initiation of the use of force.

It is really no surprise that a scheme based on force has been confronted with force and violence by its victims. Parents have many understandable reasons for opposing busing. Many have chosen their homes largely on the basis of the quality of the nearby school, taking advantage of a chance to exercise some freedom of choice in their child's education. But busing denies them this opportunity: it denies them their right to choose and seek, the best education possible for their children.

Parents also justifiably fear the effect of busing on their children's education and the harm, discomfort or inconvenience it may cause. They also disapprove of their children being used like laboratory equipment in vague sociological experiments. They send their children to school for an education and don't like to see them used for anything else. After all, to a parent, his child is not easily replaceable like a broken test tube.

It is little wonder, then, that parents, whose consent has never even been asked, sometimes have reacted violently when busing is imposed on them by force. The violence and rebellion that has accompanied busing in Boston is a natural feature of a plan based on force.

It is a shame that busing advocates cannot see what blind support for such a program has caused them to become. In response to the strife caused by busing, many supporters have called for more force. What kind of liberal asks for troops and tanks to impose this plan on an unwilling public? Is busing so important that its advocates are willing to impose a police state to see it enforced?

One wonders also whatever happened to the left's ardent support for democracy. In the Florida presidential primary in March 1972, 74 per cent voted against busing in a referendum included on the ballot. This matches what the public opinion polls have been saying for years. It is clear that the people do not support forced busing. What is becoming more clear is that the people have no control over the state.

Another problem with busing is its use of quotas based on race. It seems a strange cure for racism to make race the basis for assigning children to their schools. The result is not to make racial differences the same as any other individual differences, but to make them the basis for the way people are treated. This seems to be the opposite of the result desired by all opposed to racism. Is it any wonder, then, that busing, which is implicitly racist, has not increased racial acceptance in Boston, but rather increased racial prejudice among some victims?

RACIAL AND ETHNIC quotas are arbitrary. In many cases determining whether someone is a Mexican-American, a white or a black can only be done through arbitrary official definitions. Questions like what is a Spanish surname, and how does the state classify someone who has one white and one black parent, can only have arbitrarily legal answers. The necessity of having legally established racial definitions and assigning these labels to people is another Nazi-like trait of quota systems.

Racial and ethnic quotas are unworkable as well. To be consistent and fair, any quota system should have quotas for each minority group in the population. Why shouldn't the interests of Italians, Buddhists, and short people to be protected as much as those of anyone else? A fair quota system would be unworkable, however, because of the almost infinite number of "minority groups" based on any of thousands of individual characteristics and their combination.

Racial and ethnic quotas are not only arbitrary and unworkable, they are wrong, wrong in school assignments, hiring, or membership in any organization. Quotas cause people to be treated differently on the basis of their race, with the effect of excluding people from many positions because of their race. Furthermore, quotas completely overlook merit where it should be the basis for consideration. If a disproportionate number of Jews study and work enough to become doctors, then a disproportionate number of Jews should be doctors.

Schools should ignore racial distinctions and jobs should be filled by the most qualified people. It certain groups are chronically underqualified. then it is necessary to identify why and change the institutions responsible. Playing around with numbers doesn't solve the problem: it merely puts unqualified people into jobs and discriminates unfairly against those who have earned them.

The effect of busing on education is another problem. The simple economic costs are clearly detrimental. Estimates of this year's busing costs in Boston range from $15 million to $45 million. This money could have gone toward the real improvement of the schools. The remoteness of a more distant school also has many negative effects. It makes it more difficult for students to attend off-hours extra-curricular activities, to stay after school for extra help, and to use special school facilities such as libraries or computers. The local control of parents over education is also weakened by a more distant school. The extended bus ride itself can be at best troublesome and at worst dangerous.

In the Indiana Law Review, vol. 6, 1973. Jeffrey J. Leach reviews the latest evidence on the educational effects of busing. One pro-busing argument is that exposing black and minority students to "middle class culture" creates an environment more conducive to intellectual development. Black student attendance at a predominantly black and lower-class school is supposed to lower self-esteem and confidence and cause inferiority feelings. But their attendance at a predominantly white middle-class school is supposed to improve academic performance and have positive psychological effects.