Students need neighborhood schools

Published 10:41 pm Monday, April 7, 2014

By Joseph Bass

We are the only nation attempting to create a society based on Thomas Jefferson’s words in the Declaration of Independence. “…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Where are we with this effort? In some ways we are doing very well. But in many ways we are doing quite poorly.


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The best measure of our lack of success in attempting to have a racially and culturally integrated society is found in areas outside of government control. For example, after more than 50 years of integration efforts only 10 percent of churches are integrated.

Is it possible that we are going about this noble effort in the wrong way? How are we going about it? Have we learned anything from our failures?

During the Jim Crow era in the South, black Americans were restricted to purchasing homes only in black areas. In the rest of the nation, “red lining” was used to accomplish the same results with banks denying mortgages to blacks in white areas.

Although black Americans were poorer and lived in a state of intimidation, there were cohesive communities in both black and white areas. But when housing discrimination was rightfully found unconstitutional, positive and negative social dynamics started that resulted in unstable communities in all areas.

Today, a black family can purchase a home anywhere they want as long as they can pay the mortgage.

Regarding education, we are doing poorly, though we rightly no longer have schools segregated by race. Fifty years ago, schools were safe places where black and white teachers maintained behavioral standards through summary judgment and various types of discipline in black and white schools. These days are long gone.

The federal vision of employment in schools and integration of students involved having black and white teachers and black and white students assigned to each school. Having black and white teachers was not a big problem. Take the previously segregated college-educated teachers and assign them to all the schools. Certainly there were challenges involved but all the teachers were adults, being able to deal in mature ways with life’s changes.

But for children, what we attempted to do, and continue to do, regarding school integration was, and still is, cruel.

We no longer have federal marshals escorting little black girls to school as seen in Norman Rockwell’s painting and documented in John Steinbeck’s nonfiction book “Travels with Charley.”

What we do is divide demographic concentrations of black children into different school attendance areas and bus them to different schools, attempting to have equal representation of black and white students in each school. This practice destroys important, positive, village support of far away teachers and schools. It also requires children to get up earlier and get home later.

Recently our federal government discovered these same children experience behavioral problems in school. Who wouldn’t, considering what the adults are doing to them? Is it possible we need to reconsider our plan for the society envisioned by Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King?

Do we need a new plan that takes into consideration that children need to attend neighborhood schools close to where they live? Do we need a new plan that makes it easier for parents to be involved in neighborhood schools close to where they live?

Joseph L. Bass is the executive director of ABetterSociety.Info Inc., a nonprofit organization in Hobson. Email him at