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The most moving and informed coverage of the US education system I've heard have all been through This American Life

What makes you think it is the most informed coverage? These episodes only give you one side of the argument. If you want the other side try reading The Long Crusade and/or The Burden of Brown by Professor Raymond Wolters. I also myself wrote a long blog post about integration/desegregation as it happened in Boston, a post based on very credible academic histories, which gives a very different take than the NPR/PBS take: https://devinhelton.com/busing-in-boston




This seems well-researched, and there are some reasonable points, but your section #4 and conclusion really discredit the rest of the article.

Section 4 describes how racism (or tribalism or whatever you want to call it) is really natural and healthy, with no references except your own "common sense".

> Now imagine growing up and looking forward to playing on the same football team as your elders in front a cheering hometown crowd. And then that dream is taken away from you by some unelected judge. At his order, another tribe invades, takes your spot on the football team and dates the girl you were wooing. You are not going to like that very much. You might want to join with your tribal brothers and brawl with this opposing tribe in the lunch room. And of course the other tribe is going to fight back.

What the fuck? Why would I want to fight people for being better at football than me? Why would I start a race war because some guy with different skin than me is dating a girl I like? How can you possibly see this as acceptable? You can argue that it's natural, but natural doesn't mean good.

Do you understand that not everybody thinks like this? If a black guy gets promoted over me, I don't get angry at the black tribe for invading my homeland. That line of thinking is, as you say, cartoonishly racist.

And then in your conclusion, you correctly identify racial disparities, and then sort of argue that's the way it should be. The fact that black people do worse than white people in school is a problem worth solving, not a convenient method of grouping students, right? The only way this status quo could be acceptable is if you think black kids are genetically predisposed to be less intelligent. Your article on racism does bring that up, but I can't tell if it's a belief you hold. If you do believe that, you should be more clear about it in this school segregation article, otherwise your conclusions don't make sense.


Section 4 describes how racism (or tribalism or whatever you want to call it) is really natural and healthy, with no references except your own "common sense".

My view on tribalism is similar to my view on "greed" or "personal self-interest." It exists. We are a tribal species, as any survey of human history will show, from the time of the Chimpanzees onward ( https://www.amazon.com/Demonic-Males-Origins-Human-Violence/... ). Specifically, humans form tribes that are some combination of clan/ethnicity based, or are synthetic tribes based on ideology/beliefs/religion/nationalism. Social policy must be made with awareness of this tribal nature, not in defiance of it. Tribalism can be reduced, channeled, defanged, changed in form (to be non-racially based), but only by being aware of it.

What the fuck? Why would I want to fight people for being better at football than me? Why would I start a race war because some guy with different skin than me is dating a girl I like? How can you possibly see this as acceptable? You can argue that it's natural, but natural doesn't mean good. Do you understand that not everybody thinks like this? If a black guy gets promoted over me, I don't get angry at the black tribe for invading my homeland.

One of the main arguments for integration is needed to fix historical problems of bad race relations. My point is simply that large-scale, forced integration made race relation problems much worse. It created problems where little existed. Yeah, maybe working class teenagers should be less tribalistic and shouldn't think that way. But in the 1970s Boston was a city of tribes, it had neighborhoods of Irish ethnics, Italian ethnics, Jews, and blacks. Just adding 400 kids from another tribe to a school, and creating competition for the things that 16 year old male hominids value, was going to create conflict. I am just pointing out that the "solution" to race problems made race problems worse, and for very obvious reasons. Even if you think that forced integration was a necessary way to break the back of tribalism altogether -- there should have been a plan to actually break tribalism. Just throwing the kids together and putting the two groups in competition was not going to accomplish the goal of breaking tribalism.

And then in your conclusion, you correctly identify racial disparities, and then sort of argue that's the way it should be.

I didn't go into the reasons for the disparities because it wasn't really relevant to the point about de facto segregation. For instance, the NY Times has run a bunch of articles blaming academic gaps on stuff like early childhood nutrition [1], or disadvantaged kids having as many high-quality words spoken to them [2] [3], or not as many books in the house [4]. Conservatives sometimes blame single-parent families and poor attitudes towards education. So let's say that those one of those early childhood or home-based reasons are the reasons for the academic achievement gap. The result is that the achievement gap is already in place by the time the kids are at 8th grade or 10th grade. So just merging the black kids who are two grade levels behind into the same classrooms as white kids isn't going to help the black kids at all. It's just going to make it really hard for the teacher to help kids who will need an entirely different lesson plan.

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/16/opinion/16kristof.html?_r=... [2] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/07/nyregion/for-poor-schoolch... [3] https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/17/us/quality-of-words-not-q... [4] http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/05/16/a-book-in-ev...


> My point is simply that large-scale, forced integration made race relation problems much worse. It created problems where little existed.

Are you really arguing that desegregation created these problems? Seems a bit backwards to me. I think it's incredibly obvious that race relation issues existed long before the desegregation of schools.

You could argue that desegregation caused problems for white people where there were none before, but even that I find a bit questionable. There are many disadvantages to growing up in a homogeneous society.

I think everyone agrees that correcting racism, or tribalism if you prefer, is a difficult task, and one that we are still grappling with. Of course, there were other methods of desegregation proposed at the time, but very few were proposed in good faith, and none that I know of were as swift or effective as mass desegregation.


Are you really arguing that desegregation created these problems? Seems a bit backwards to me. I think it's incredibly obvious that race relation issues existed long before the desegregation of schools.

Did you read my post? https://devinhelton.com/busing-in-boston I'm talking mostly about Boston, though I've found the same things when researching other northern cities. I'm not sure about the American south, I haven't studied it enough to either confirm or question the conventional wisdom.

In Boston, there was surely some racial animosity and shit talking before forced busing became a big issue. But it didn't seem to be that bad -- for example there is that quote in my post of the black school teacher who said she never had problems at Southie High before the busing. The busing made relations much worse, and the images we have of people being cartoonishly racist only came after forced busing.

none that I know of were as swift or effective as mass desegregation.

In the northern cities, mass desegregation failed in every single way. It did not improve race relations, it did not make black people better off, it did not result in more integration. Read my post.


>Boston did not have a Jim Crow system – if a black child lived in a white area, he could go to the local mostly white school.

So you are arguing that Boston was so racially tolerant in the 70's that they had no racist policies either explicit or implicit, and that a black kid could go to a white school completely unmolested? That they wouldn't be yelled at or beaten? That they would be welcomed with open arms?


What I wrote is what I wrote, and what argued is what I argued. Boston did not have a Jim Crow system whereby all blacks kids went to black schools and all white kids went to white schools. Schools were assigned by neighborhood, (with some ability for transfers). So if a neighborhood was all white, then you get a very white school. Mixed neighborhoods had more mixed schools. Here is a racial breakdown of the schools, two years before forced busing: https://repository.library.northeastern.edu/downloads/neu:m0...

So what was the experience like of the non-white kids in a majority white school (or vice versa)? That would vary a lot based on the particular school. I certainly do not argue that all schools would "welcome with open arms" outsiders of a different ethnicity. And especially not Charlestown High and South Boston High -- those neighborhood were quite parochial. When Italians started going to Charlestown High for instance, they were called "Wops" and such and there were fights. I don't have any good information on the experience of any black students attending those schools before forced busing. Most black students taking advantage of open enrollment would have gone elsewhere because Charlestown High and South Boston HIgh were crappy and overcrowded.

There was a voluntary busing program in Boston called Project Exodus in the mid 1960s whereby up to 600 black students were bused to mostly white schools. There was a survey of parents, that found ( https://repository.library.northeastern.edu/downloads/neu:m0... ) : "Other findings indicate that the mothers think that grades have improved, the amount of homework the children have to do has increased, their children have more white friends, that there is not a lot of prejudice or discrimination encountered at the new schools. With respect to this last distribution, only seven (or 10%) of the respondents felt that their children encountered a lot of prejudice, fifteen percent thought their children encountered some, while 70 percent thought their children encountered litttle or no prejudice or discrimination"


Your view on tribalism as described here is fine, but the tone of the article is not "tribalism is an unfortunate reality", it's "tribalism is normal and healthy".

> Peace occurs when tribes exist in a stable equilibrium. Peace exists when boundaries are clear, ownership of turf is clear, and when overstepping the boundaries will result in swift and sure retribution, thus making conflict unprofitable.

This worldview has caused so much pain and suffering that I can't really believe you would write it with a straight face. You're basically describing the Cold War as the most stable and peaceful state of geopolitics. You're advocating for all people to define themselves primarily by race, never associate with other races, and violently defend their race when there's an infraction.

> Thus the entire liberal cure for racism, at least in Boston, was actually the cause of the most virulent racism. By forcing these groups together, and putting people in conflict over girls, basketball courts, spots on varsity, etc, the busing created friction and animosity.

Another huge problem with your article, demonstrated here, is that you never once acknowledge a time before 1977. You write as if everything was great, and then those meddling liberals tried to integrate schools and thereby invented racism.

> My point is simply that large-scale, forced integration made race relation problems much worse. It created problems where little existed.

Really, no big problems before desegregation? I know you know this isn't true, why write it? I don't think desegregation is a magic cure any more than you do, and I don't think anyone claims that, although I've never seen Eyes on the Prize. But while segregated schools might have been a nice local minimum of racism, violence, and suffering, they were not anywhere close to the global minimum. Forced integration, while obviously not perfect, was necessary to start solving some big problems, even if it caused some new problems of its own.

> I am just pointing out that the "solution" to race problems made race problems worse, and for very obvious reasons.

No, that's one of your points, but the thesis is much broader. You claim that these beliefs are wrong: "racial segregation was bad, and that efforts to integrate schools were worthy moral crusades."


"Your view on tribalism as described here is fine, but the tone of the article is not "tribalism is an unfortunate reality", it's "tribalism is normal and healthy"."

It's the same thing.

Compare again to greed or selfishness. An excess of selfishness, avarice, is pathological. But having zero regard for self-interest, being altruistic to the extent of self-denial, is also bad. A modest amount of selfishness is natural and healthy.

Traits are healthy when then form a productive, evolutionary stable strategy. If I am ultra-altruistic, that is not stable because those who are more selfish will win out and become dominant. If people are predatory, that is bad because it leads to everyone bringing each other down. If people are modestly selfish, while engaging in reciprocal altruism, and a tit-for-tat (or maybe tit-for-two-tats) strategy against defectors, that is a healthy, productive, and stable strategy.

The same goes with tribalism. Tribalism can generally be defined as forming a tight bond with a group in order to perform coordinated action. If you avoid any form of tribalism as a strategy, then a group that acts tribally will dominate you. Avoiding tribalism is not an ESS. If you are tribal and predate on other tribes, that is also bad, it makes everyone worse off. The healthy strategy is for a tribe to look after its own interest, engage in reciprocal altruism with other tribes, and a tit-for-tat (or maybe tit-for-two-tats) strategy against other tribes that break the peace.


This worldview has caused so much pain and suffering that I can't really believe you would write it with a straight face. You're basically describing the Cold War as the most stable and peaceful state of geopolitics. You're advocating for all people to define themselves primarily by race, never associate with other races, and violently defend their race when there's an infraction.

Oh come on. I clarified that people can be tribal in different ways -- by national identity, by religion, by polis, by clan, etc. You cannot get rid of people being tribal. You can change the type of tribalism (although that is not easy), but you cannot get rid of it. Since tribalism exists, you have peace when borders are clear, and you have war when borders between tribes are unclear, or when one tribe is actively preying upon another.

The Cold War was violent to the extent that boundaries were not clear. There were lots of fighting over third world countries that weren't clearly owned by either sphere (hence the very definition of the word "third world"). There was global conflict between the USSR and USA because both felt the other was predatory, both thought the other was trying to actively extend its territory. That is not a good equilibrium, that is not a good state of affairs.

Also, conversations are better when you make an effort to read with a little bit of charity. By "boundaries are clear" I do not mean that people should never associate with each other. The US and Canada have a clear boundary, with clear rules for coming across the boundary. That doesn't mean we never associate with Canadians. And if a Canadian commits a crime upon an American, they will be arrested by an armed American and suitably punished. And vice versa. That's a stable, good equilibrium.

Another huge problem with your article, demonstrated here, is that you never once acknowledge a time before 1977....Really, no big problems before desegregation? I know you know this isn't true, why write it?

If we just consider problems of racial animosity in Boston, on a scale of 1 to 10, they were maybe at 3 before forced integration and at 8 afterwards. That is my sense from reading the historical accounts. See the example of the black Southie school teacher who did not notice problems before the forced busing.

Obviously racial problems and disparities across the country go much further back. I intend to write more on that. Follow my blog if you are interested. But this post was already at 15,000 words so I just wanted to focus on the direct before and after impacts of busing in Boston.

Forced integration, while obviously not perfect, was necessary to start solving some big problems, even if it caused some new problems of its own.

No, in Boston, it failed in every single way. And there is no reason to think mass forced integration is necessary or even net helpful with regards to fixing problems of racial disparities.


It's definitely well cited, but the issues you lay out are completely orthogonal to my concerns, which aren't primarily about race or integration.

If you are at a failing school and can get to a good school and want to learn, it seems immoral to force you to stay at the failing school.

Your thoughts about race relations or the quality of particular facilities don't really move me on this point.




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