Friday, August 6, 2010


A recent post over at That's Why got me to thinking about kids, diversity, and education.  Back when the Younger Daughter was really young, the S.O. got recruited by Lockheed to work as a  prototype product structures development mechanic.  We found ourselves living in the heart of the San Fernando Valley, close to the crosshairs formed by the intersection of Roscoe and Sepulveda boulevards.  We enrolled the kids in school, and thought, cool, they're going to be able to walk to school for the first time ever -- Noble Avenue Elementary was just a couple blocks away so there'd be no spending an hour on the bus as it meandered around the countryside.

Then we got the letter.

Turned out the Los Angeles Metropolitan Unified School District was finally going to comply with court ordered busing for integration.  Big meeting at the elementary school so parents would learn just what the ramifications of the court order were and how it applied to their kids. 

The room was packed solid, of course, with angry parents saying, in essence, Hell, no.  No way is my kid getting on a school bus to be driven across the valley to god's knows where just so "those people*" can be integrated. 

Well, at least the system for determining who got on the bus was fair:  it went by birth month.  Kids born in the odd months (January, March, May, July, September, November) got to stay at Noble Avenue; kids born in the even months (February, April, June, August, October, and December) would ride the bus.  I hit August and December in the dropping babies lottery; my two got on the bus. 

Of course, out on the other end of the line, in the much wealthier and whiter suburb of Canoga Park, the parents reacted not with resignation but with last minute enrolments at private schools.  End result?  See above photo. 

As for my kids, who got bused out from the inner city school with too many minority students to the predominantly white 'burbs in the interest of diversity, the younger one is the only girl in the back row of the photo.  I've always kind of wondered if her first grade spelling lists included "irony."

*upper middle class white suburbanites


  1. First - thank you for the link.
    Second - I never quite understood busing. Where I came from, the rural kids were bused into town to attend the county school. There was only one. So I mean this as a sincere question - was the purpose of busing diversity or was it to make sure that kids of different ethnic groups had the same educational opportunities? I wonder this because I really don't know.

    And wouldn't it have been a hell of a lot easier for all states to get rid of the regressive property tax system for funding schools and gone to some other progressive tax that then wouldn't have ensured that schools in poorer areas had less money?

    Busing seems like a bad solution. If I had my way, we'd go back to community schools - smaller - that kids could walk to. This consolidation business is a bitch.

  2. Purpose of busing? To eliminate separate but not equal schools. To some extent, it worked. Of course, here in the South it spawned both segregation academies and white flight.

    The sad thing about public schools today is it's really obvious there are some easy fixes -- smaller class sizes, for example -- but no one wants to spend the money.

  3. If you're referring to mine, she still is.

  4. I got curious after reading your post and looked at my old class photos from the early 1960's, central California. My class looked a lot like your daughter's class. My little neighborhood was pretty much white, but the school was in an area with quite a bit of diversity.

    I just don't think California has changed all that much as far as people from California are concerned. The minorities have become more visable rather than fading into the background. Less the melting pot and more of the "tossed salad" as Oprah calls it.


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