Out of America: Blacks give low marks to busing

ST LOUIS - To the visitor, it sounds akin to heresy, the betrayal of all that was fought for. The first-ever black mayor of one of America's most racially divided cities is sitting in his vast, softly lit office, half a mile or so from the Mississippi waterfront. Calmly he explains why he wants to scrap a legendary achievement of America's epic struggle for civil rights: the busing of black students to white schools to implement the Supreme Court ruling of almost 40 years ago aimed at desegregating the US school system.

But Freeman Bosley Jr is unrepentant. At 39, he belongs to a new generation of black politicians, not even alive on that May day in 1954 when, in its historic Brown v Board of Education decision, the nine Court justices unanimously concluded that the doctrine of 'separate but equal' schooling for the two races was a hollow sham.

It took nearly three decades for a federal court to force compliance here. But since 1982, the state of Missouri has spent dollars 1bn (pounds 670m) on the city, including the daily transfer of 14,000 black pupils to white schools in suburban St Louis County. Statistically it adds up to the largest, most expensive desegregation programme in the country. But what gains, Mayor Bosley asks, has busing really brought? And at what price?

Out of 50 public schools in the city, 47 are still all-black, starved of resources now spent on officially desegregated schools. Tests, he claims, show no measurable scholastic improvement for children who are bused.

'We're losing some of our best young minds to the suburbs; we're never going to trust our own schools and our own neighbourhoods as long as we keep sending our kids off to the suburbs every morning.' Far better, he says, to spend the money on providing good schools where people actually live, to help restore a sense of community and identity to the battered inner cities.

But for all his self-assurance and political acumen, Mr Bosley is treading on perilous ground. In its late 19th-century heyday this old river metropolis was the gateway to the American West, the geographic hub of a continent. But a tidy Germanic facade always masked one of the most segregated cities in the country. Although nearly half its population is black, until Mr Bosley was elected early this year St Louis had never had a black mayor.

The achievement of the past 11 years has been colossal. A dollars 355m school improvement project is three-quarters complete; the number of black children who travel each day to schools outside the city limits is not far short of the stipulated target of 16,000. New 'magnet schools' designed to attract blacks and whites alike are thriving; their pupil-teacher ratio is close to the required 20 to 1, their teaching staffs are more or less fully integrated. And all this is, technically, on a 'voluntary' basis, whereby the white schools have co-operated without a court order forcing them to do so. 'We're really satisfied with what's been done,' said Eddie Davis, president of the St Louis Board of Education.

So why not proclaim victory, declare that St Louis has attained the 'unitary' education system demanded by the courts and end the formal desegregation programme? For one thing, says Mr Davis, the conditions imposed in 1982 will not be fully met until 1995 at the earliest.

But an older generation of blacks has a deeper fear: that to end mandatory desegregation would merely play into the hands of a white-dominated state government, at heart still racist. Missouri's attorney-general has already applied for the court order to be lifted, saying it has done more than enough. De facto if not de jure, 'separate but equal' would again become education's guiding principle. By suggesting that blacks, too, are fed up with desegregation, Mr Bosley risks giving aid and comfort to the very enemies of civil rights.

News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
News
people
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features playground gun massacre
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Financial Control Manager - Regulatory Reporting

£400 - £550 per day: Orgtel: Financial Control Manager - Regulatory Reporting ...

Lead Application Developer

£80000 - £90000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I am current...

Senior Networks Architect

£65000 per annum + 15% Pension, Health, Travel & Bonus: Progressive Recruitmen...

SAP BW/BO Consultant

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: SAP BW/BO CONSU...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices