The Kids on the Bus
I agree with my colleague Steven Bernstetter that helping children escape the failing St. Louis Public Schools is imperative. But I beg to differ about the success of the busing program. My experience during a semester at Parkway Central High School was that racial integration happened only on paper. In real life, the suburbanites were segregated in all-white "honors" classes, rarely seeing the city kids during the day. I had a little more interaction with students who were bused in, but only because of a glitch in my schedule that put me in Remedial Computer Skills 100.
The program put pressure on minority students who lived in the suburbs, because teachers expected them to act just like the students from the city. And the bused-in students were inevitably made to feel like unwelcome guests who might be bused back out if they didn’t behave.
Those who participate in the busing program have higher graduation rates than those who don’t, but I imagine they would graduate at the higher rates even in the absence of busing. Only students who are already very motivated would get up early in the morning and spend long hours on the bus for a chance to navigate a tense day at a racially divided school.
Of course, implementation of the program varies between districts, and my brief experience at Parkway might be anomalous. Still, I can’t help but notice the contrast between Parkway and the private schools I’ve attended and worked in, where even students on scholarships are treated like they belong there.