Classroom integration wasn’t an entirely positive development for black educational prospects. That argument, completely out of vogue, needs airing amid our reacquaintance with the busing controversy of 50 years ago. When Senator Kamala Harris exposed Vice President Joe Biden’s opposition to federally mandated busing in the early 1970s, progressives congratulated her—and that’s understandable. Busing fostered the integration that many districts resisted even after the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education rejected the “separate but equal” doctrine, which had condemned so many black kids to substandard schooling. Thorough studies have confirmed that busing improved the scholarly performance of countless black kids.
Certainly, the underfunded one-room schoolhouses in the old South had to go. Something else that has to go too, though: the idea that any black student is only being properly served if white kids are studying next to him. That misimpression, fostered by the school-integration movement, has yielded a disturbing by-product: a harmful psychological association between scholastic achievement and whiteness.